Running as a Couple: Highs & Lows and 5 Tips To Make it Work

July 17th, 2014 | Posted by Erica House in Life

So, I’m dating this guy I really like.

2014-07-06 10.29.20

And together we sometimes do this thing I really like.

Double Bridge

You’d think that if I could combine the two things I really like into one activity that it would be awesome all the time, right?

No.

Wrong. Actually, so wrong that I snapped at Travis for the very first time on our run together Sunday.

Awwww.

A bit of history on us. Travis has been running for a few years, so he’s been at it longer than I have, but he’s never been competitive about it or trained specifically for anything other then Army PT tests. I’ve been running for two years and from the beginning I wanted to run all the races and be the best I could be. I’ve been busting my butt trying to get faster. My first 5k race was 31 minutes, and my most recent was 25:30. I took my half marathon time down from 2:21 to 2:10, and now I’m working on marathon #3 and hoping to get the 4:30 finish I trained for last year.

Travis just ran his first half marathon, for fun, with zero formal training (I think we did an 8 mile run together the weekend before) and finished in 1:52.

SERIOUSLY?

Back to my first snap-attack. We’ve been running together almost since we started dating a few months ago. My everyday pace is about a 10:30 and Travis can comfortable run under 9 minute miles. So, he’s been slowing down to stay with me and I’ve been pushing it a bit so I feel like I’m not holding him back as much (even though he constantly reminds me that he doesn’t care about pace.) This past weekend I had two really, really difficult runs. I did my first trail run on Saturday and it tore up my legs. Not to mention it’s usually 85 degrees out and 90% humidity by 6 a.m. so trying to maintain anything under an 11 minute pace is virtually impossible for me, even with the stops I take after 3-4 miles now. Travis is starting to see how hard I am on myself. It is SO frustrating not to be able to make my body do what I want it to, especially when I was just able to run certain paces with no problems a few months ago in cooler weather.

I’m huffing, puffing, and genuinely feeling like if I don’t take a walk break I may die, and Travis is literally skipping around and chewing gum.

There’s a part of me that wants to trip him (love you honey.)

He can see how frustrated I’m getting and tries to tell me to relax (no helping.) Or, he’ll try to be nice and motivate me saying I’m doing a great job (I don’t want to hear it.) It’s basically a lose-lose situation for the poor guy. He tries to preach to me about ‘intuitive running’ which is his idea that he runs fast when he feels like it, and runs slower when his body tells him to take a break. I don’t operate like that. I like plans, and goal paces, and schedules I can stick to.

So, after a rough run Saturday we go out for a 5 miler on Sunday. He says something to me, jokingly, as I’ve stopped again and am kind of hating my life. I don’t even remember what he said but before I could even think about it I gave him a swift, “eff you” and ran off. Since he’s so damn fast he caught up to me in no time and couldn’t believe I didn’t see how clearly he was being sarcastic with whatever he said. Looking back my judgement was obviously clouded by the death heat rays and trying not to vomit. I realized then that if we wanted to continue running together we’d have to formulate a new plan.

Tips For Running With Your Significant Other

1. Don’t do it. I’m kind of serious. Unless you both are going into it with the same positive attitude and viewing it as a time to just have fun and hang out togeher then skip the run and go for a walk or hike instead.

2. Let go of the resentment. Travis is naturally faster than I am, for many reasons. He’s a guy (sorry ladies but they are faster in general, look at Boston qualifying times to see the differences in gender!) He’s been running longer than I have. He’s just – faster. It can be depressing to constantly be running 5 feet behind someone. But, it’s depressing only because I let it get to me. I have to let it go. I can’t look at him and get frustrated with my own legs because they can’t move faster. In a way I need to pretend like I’m out there on my own again and just run for me.

3. Plan to run together, separately. If Travis decides to really train for a race he’ll have to stick to a different pace schedule then me. In that case we would start our runs together, but break apart and know when/where we will meet up again. Finding an area with a nice loop would be perfect for this. There is a park by Travis’s house that he loves to run at where we could run our own paces but constantly pass each other.

4. My tempo runs will be his everyday runs. On the rare occasion where we run together during the week we can plan for my tempo runs to be his everyday or recovery runs. Often when we do weekday runs I’ll chug along at my 10:30 pace and every 5-10 minutes he’ll sprint ahead about .10 miles and back to me so he’s getting more of a workout in. He did that last weekend on our run so I ended with 8 miles at a 10:52 pace and he did 8 miles in about 10:15.

5. It can be amazing. I know I’ve been pretty negative toward it but running with Travis has been incredible. It’s great to be dating someone who gets my desire to go to bed by 10 so I can wake up early and run. He doesn’t mind waking up at 5 a.m. with me on a Saturday, my ugly runners feet, or my constant talk of 400’s and training plans. I love being able to share a huge part of my life with him. He’s reminding me that running should be fun, and I shouldn’t beat myself up over arbitrary paces as long as I’m doing my best.

Further Reading:

Can Love and Running Coexist? by Runners World

Training/Running with Your Spouse Great insights in this Runner’s World Forum

How to Run with our Spouse by Another Mother Runner (the pace chart is SPOT ON.)

Have you ever ran with your significant other?
If you have any tips/advice please share!

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47 Responses

  • I can related from both ends, since during our 8 years together my husband and is have been in various degrees of running shape, but since I started up after our 3 year old was born I have been the faster one. I know he can relate to the 5 steps ahead thing. Because of the kids we don’t run together often, and if we do get a chance to for me it has to be a really easy day and for him a tempo. I actually turned him down to run today but he’s fine with it. I wrote a post on this a week or 2 ago :)

    • Erica House says:

      I bet if I was the faster one Travis would feel just as …. lovingly irritated with my pace as I do toward his! How do you guys handle running with the kids (like, how do you decide who gets to run/watch them?) That’s something I wonder how I’d handle down the road.

      • It was hard when the kids were babies. I wound up taking a double jogger on my runs and he wouldn’t do that…my revenge is that now I’m stronger and faster than him because of it! I have been the one to make the bigger sacrifices but I also prioritized it much higher than him. After kids priorities shift and for him running went down and for me up.

        • Erica House says:

          I know I would use running as serious destress/therapy time, so I would do my best to find a way to make it work. The women who run with strollers are BEASTS. Travis said he’d run with it just to be a stronger runner :) I can’t fathom pushing two kiddo’s in one though!

          • I don’t think I’ll ever be as fit as I was pushing two toddlers in a jogger. I had no clue at the time! I would be running up hills with that thing at a 9 min pace but since I was never without it, I didn’t know how fast I really was. He’s smart to want to do that, so it’s a win win!

  • SuzLyfe says:

    I’ve run with Alex a few times, and it has been ok, but only because I am the more in shape one! Haha. And usually I’m just proud of him for doing it. He is also not a natural or habitual runner, so it really is a “go you, honey!” moment

    • Erica House says:

      See – I wish we could be sweet like that running! I was proud of myself for not complaining, cursing at him, or getting irritated at all on our run today :)

  • briwifruit says:

    My ex used to be like that, no training and would run a 1:45 half. It was so frustrating, but you’re right, guys (and athletic ones at that) are naturally faster. I’m also competitive, and made it my secret goal to be faster than him one day. Two years ago I finally beat his half time and 10 k time (we broke up 3 years ago but I still made sure he knew about it!). I’ve been running for 7 years now, so it took that long to get there… So don’t worry! You can and will get faster.

  • Lindsay says:

    So…I’ve got no real comment other than Travis wins at life for having a Mario Brothers tattoo.

    I’m not a runner, but I know that I can’t exercise with other people. For some, exercising with others is motivating because it pushes them harder. For me, it makes me resent them/me/my body and I find myself giving up – or, taking it easier on myself because obviously I’m “just not one of those people”.

    Then again, I’ve always been one of those people who enjoys group projects at school if I can do all of the work myself. :-)

    • Erica House says:

      Haha – I passed along the comment to Travis. People stop him constantly when we are out in public it’s pretty funny. I love it when a Mom was standing in line behind us at Target the other day and started pointing it out to her son. So cute!

      I used to NEVER want to work out with other people. The only thing that got me over it was signing up for the group marathon training last year. I am so glad I did that as I realized running (and huffing, puffing, sweating) wasn’t nearly as traumatic in front of others as I thought it would be.

  • It gets better, but hey…the fact that it’s tough right now to run together is a GOOD thing. It gives you the opportunity to work on some relationship dynamics! It’s a positive kind of stress that you can certainly handle and can make you a stronger couple. :-D

    J and I started running together just a few months after we started dating. Yes, he is faster than me, will always be faster than me, even though he cares about it a lot less than me and even knows less than me. But you know what? I got over it. I realized the only reason it bothered me so much was because I was comparing myself and his natural running ability should not be cause for me to feel bad about myself. His natural running ability wasn’t about me.

    I learned to accept what I have to work with and then just be happy for him. I’m glad for him that he can run well and enjoy it without putting any negative pressure on himself to be the best he can be. He doesn’t love running, but he enjoys it enough that it is something he supports me in and we can do it together when possible. He lets me jabber on and on about it. Better that than be with a non-runner who doesn’t support me!

    Running together was incredibly important to our relationship early on. We finished our first marathons together and I like to say that’s how I knew I could marry him. We have ground rules, though, to keep things civil. Nothing wrong with establishing some ground rules in a relationship. I want him to push me, pace me to run faster, that is…until I don’t. He’s learned when I’m just whining and when I’m serious because something doesn’t feel right. He isn’t allowed to run one or two steps in front of me the whole time because, yes, it irks me, but also because he’ll start pushing the pace beyond what I can sustain. If he’s going to run ahead for a bit and come back to me, we discuss that beforehand. But by now it’s discussed on the run because I’ve stopped caring about that as much.

    If he doesn’t have goals and isn’t competitive about it, I think finding a way to run together is part of working out how you communicate about stressful things. It’s a good situation to be in, though frustrating in the moment. You can learn how to help/handle each other on the run. I do know many couples though who are both competitive and don’t run together because they have separate goals and that’s a whole different thing.

    Some time ago I wrote about about Marriage and Marathons:
    http://runninghutch.com/course-of-action/running/marathons-and-marriage-an-ode-to-partner-running/

    • Erica House says:

      “It gives you the opportunity to work on some relationship dynamics!” LOVE that perspective! Travis and I are just getting to the point where we are starting to have disagreements over things, and I actually really enjoy seeing how we react and work through stuff like that together. ANY couple can make it through good/easy times, but it’s so important to see how you work together under stress. Running is just another exercise in relationship security!

      I actually thought about you when I wrote this post because I remembered you telling me at Fitbloggin last year about finishing a marathon with your then boyfriend. I thought it was SO sweet and something I would never have in my own life! I like the rule about not running too far ahead. We ran 6 miles together today and had a MUCH Better run (thanks in part to beautiful weather) and Travis was diligent about staying at my side or behind me to make sure I set the pace.

  • My husband isn’t a runner but what works for us is for him to meet me at a park near our house after I run for a walk. It’s a great way for me to cool down and for us to get some quiet time.

  • Oh man oh man – my husband got me into running in the first. place 6 years ago. He did triathlons and was fairly competitive. He was definitely way faster than me and I felt like I was always just doing my best to keep up. I hated it. But then I started doing more solo runs and became comfortable with running period, finding my own pace and rhythm. Since then we would run just a couple of times together, now it’s rare b/c he’s hardly running at all. My pace is significantly faster now and I want to choke him when his just dilly dallying slowly. Like not even trying gah! So I snapped at him just this morning and ended up taking a right and letting him go on straight so I could cool my jets for a mile LOL.

    • Erica House says:

      LOL. At least you can recognize when you just need to run off some steam! It will be interesting to see how Travis and I evolve in sports. I’d love to get into Tri’s, and he also enjoys biking. Maybe if we started developing our own individual athletic interests we’d value running together more since we wouldn’t be working out as often as a couple.

  • cbalbi85 says:

    I think you should give the guy a break. He is clearly just trying to support you. I know it may be frustrating but it is nice to have a partner who is there for you. I was once in a relationship with someone who was very unsupportive of my running and snapped at me for things. It made things so much more difficult than they had to be.

    By being hard on yourself you are negatively impacting your relationship. It may be ok for him now to be treated this way, but long term this sort of behavior could cause issues. I would just look at it as him trying to help you out and maybe not be as hard on yourself as you are. I am all for achieving personal goals, and working hard, but is it worth it if you are negatively impacting the relationships with people you care about?

  • Lisa says:

    My husband was a runner years ago, but he prefers more low impact cardio & strength training now. We walk together, which is nice, but we don’t do our more hard core exercise together. I cycle, run & do yoga & he’s never learned how to ride a bike & thus doesn’t have one, so I go solo on all of that stuff. I kind of prefer it- it’s nice to have the alone time.

    I completely relate to running with a guy, though. I enlisted a good friend of mine earlier this year to help me with my long runs when I was training for a half marathon. I don’t really aim to be fast, I just want to be able to keep going. I run a 12 min mile on a good day! I never, ever caught up with him, but that was okay. He enjoyed looping back around & getting “junk miles” picking me up. Even if I had aspirations of being fast, I’d never be as fast as my friend, whose run the Chicago Marathon twice. He claimed he was “out of condition” when he was training me. Whatever, dude. He still kicked my ass every time. It was a good motivator for me! :)

    • Erica House says:

      HA. Ohhh I don’t know how I’d feel if someone I was running with used the term ‘junk miles’ ;) I think it’s great to have something to share with your husband (walking) but so many other interests you can do on your own. It was nice running 6 with Travis today and then I did some core work at home while he got ready for work.

  • getmyhealthyon says:

    This is wonderful. I run with my boyfriend, and he’s WAY faster than me. Most of the time I end up hating him at some point during our runs because he’s also basically “skipping around and chewing gum.” I just preface every run with, “This isn’t going to be a workout for you,” while I’m over there dying. As horrible as it can be, I’m also so thankful I have a boyfriend I can run with. Yay active couples!

    • Erica House says:

      Lol – you guys definitely sound like us! I think Travis and I both needed to readjust our mentalities toward running together. He made a comment the other day that me running with him at a 10:30 pace would be like him running with someone at an 8:30 pace (his ‘everyday’ pace.) I think after he realized that he understood why I was struggling so much with uneven terrain, hills & horrific heat.

  • Jenny says:

    I can relate to this a bit. From a lifting standpoint vs. Running. I know myself enough to know I don’t want to run with anyone. Ever. Period. :-)

    But it was my highschool sweetheart (and Kenzer’s dad) who got me in to lifting when I was 16. I was thankful for all he taught me, but once I was comfortable enough, I couldn’t wait to be by my damn self! Lol the grunting and excessive man sweat, and having to take a billion plates off the bar to do my set- no thank you.

    Had I had to endure much more of it I probably would have made my way to Curves instead. Lol

    • Erica House says:

      Ha. I love me some ladies only gym’s! I like sharing some runs with him, and having some on my own. I don’t ever listen to music so running is very meditative/therapeutic for me. Having him there makes it more of a social thing which is fine, but I definitely need my solo runs!

  • My ex used to drive me NUTS when we ran. Probably why he’s my ex. J wants to run a half… we were actually going to do one next weekend until he got mono :/ We’ve been fine on runs together because he isn’t crazy serious about it. But seriously… tip number one… just don’t do it! Also I like to run because I like to be by myself :)

    • Erica House says:

      Ewww I hope he feels better soon! I got mono a day or so before a hurricane hit years ago and it was the opposite of fun. I hesitated putting tip #1 up there since it’s not really a legitimate tip, but I still think it’s something most couples should consider before trying to run together!

  • My husband is faster but I was able to work up to a pace that was closer to his over time. As my pregnancy progressed, I only slowed down, which was more frustrating to me than to him. Being so close to the end, I had to stop running due to the pain of the added weight. Our goal after the little guy comes (any day now!) is that my husband will push the little dude in the awesome jogging stroller we got until I can build by speed back up to where it was. :)

    BTW I am dang proud of the two 5K races I did in the last 2 months of pregnancy. Not my fastest times but I did it!!!! Bring on the baby boy so mamma can get back into running. :)

    • Erica House says:

      Congrats on the soon-to-be-baby! I’m amazed you were able to run that far into your pregnancy. From what I’ve seen of other bloggers it can be really, really difficult to (1) have the energy and (2) keep your balance! If I have kids I’m hoping to run as much as possible during the pregnancy, and I’m sure I’ll be itching to get back into it as soon as I can1

  • 3. Plan to run together, separately.

    This this this. I LOVE running with Josh. but not actually running with him.He’s so chill when he runs and would talk and chat when we run next to each other while I’m breathing heavy and trying not to die. Us running the same route but at our own pace gives us the ability to support each other but also have our own space to run our own runs.

    • Erica House says:

      I think we may try a bit of that this weekend on one of our runs. He has a course he loves to do that’s a loop that we could go in opposite directions and just plan to meet back at the car when we are done. That way he can go further/faster and I can stop and cry on the side of the trail without him seeing.

  • Sorry if I’m laughing, but this brings back so many memories. I met my husband at a race (and married him there a few years later), and we’ve been running “together” ever since. He is faster than me, and after the first few months of our relationship, I had to come to terms that he would always run ahead of me. I too would get frustrated at first. Mad at him because he had to run ahead, mad at myself for running slower AND for being mad! Now, it is just the way it is. He always waits for me, or comes back for me (extra credit on his workout :-) ). Even now I get a little annoyed from time to time, but I just let it go. There are so many other good things, that it’s not worth it.

    Also, about the heat. I deal with it here in the desert too, and every year I get so frustrated and downright pissed off because I feel so slow when I run during the summer. Then, every year like magic, the weather cools, and suddenly I am running faster again. It will happen for you too.

    • Erica House says:

      Thank you so much for showing me that I’m not the only one that feels this way (toward the guy and the heat!) The weather was ridiculously nice out this morning (like 65 degrees!) so we had a great run. I know I need to just re-frame how I look at running with him. It sucks because he’s SO sweet about it, like he said this morning it’s just one more hour we get to spend together (awww.) I need to start thinking more like he does.

      But, deep down, I’m planning on getting super super fast so he can see what it feels like someday ;)

  • Erin M says:

    I can’t run with my boyfriend. Like your situation, he is just naturally faster than me and I can’t keep up and then get frustrated. It takes something I enjoy doing (and something I generally enjoy doing alone) and turns it into a painful and frustrating experience.

    • Erica House says:

      Reading you say ‘painful and frustrating’ reminded me of the exact moment I realized I needed to change how I viewed running with him. At one point I was huffing and puffing and complaining and he looked at me and said something along the lines of “why do you run if you hate it so much.” CRAP. I realized I really hadn’t been enjoying it and wth’s the point in running so much if you hate it? So, I need to loosen up a bit on my pace expectations and enjoy my solo runs, but be grateful I have someone willing to run with me and listen to me gripe most of the time :)

  • Coco says:

    My fiance pushes me to run faster and farther. He has to consider it a “fun run” to run with me, though, because he is so much faster and has more endurance than I do. So, we basically agree to the terms (distance, pace, etc) before leaving the house. Sometimes, we do a loop where he can drop me back off at home and continue his run if he wants it to be more intense. It actually really works for us and it is some of our favorite bonding time! On the weekends, sometimes we just make it into a 5 mile walk and talk, and have some of the best conversations when we are both relaxed and walking side by side!

    • Erica House says:

      I’m sure running has helped Travis and I get to know each other much quicker than normal. I’m also convinced that running with him will help me improve my pace times, whether I like it or not!

  • Girl you are reading my mind!!!! I just started dating a guy who I met through running. He’s a speedy one – did his first half in 1:42…my first half was 2:36. We are training for our first marathon together (we have been friends for awhile now, just crossed out of the friendzone recently) — and it’s been a bit of a struggle trying to plan training runs. You make great points here! I love it!

    • Erica House says:

      Yep – you guys sound just like us! Congrats on crossing out of the friend zone :) Runners make the best partners (and I’m not at all biased!)

  • Krista says:

    I trained for my first (and only) marathon with my then boyfriend (in 2003). He had run 4 marathons before, but the one we ran together ended up being his fastest time. Not because I was a fast runner, but because I’m awesome at pacing…and he sucked at pacing. So, even though he could probably kick my butt in a 5k, when it came to long distances, sticking with my slow ‘n’ steady pace helped him get a PR! We had a lot of good conversations during training runs together–there’s something so great about sharing a healthy, sweaty, endorphin-filled activity together (I’m referring to running. hee hee). I guess I never compared myself to him though and figured he could always run ahead of me if he wanted to…but he never did because he was there for the company more than the running. These days, I have a hard time running with someone else simply because I’ve grown so used to having music fuel my runs.

    • Erica House says:

      It’s great to hear someone who’s had the opposite experience of mine! I can’t imagine ever pacing Travis (although I’m wondering how perky he’s really going to feel once he hits miles 17-20.) I’m the BOMB at pacing slow and steady. My last half I ran with every mile being between 9:55 and 10:05. My goal is to be that on point with the marathon. Hopefully, Travis never bonks and will be there to motivate me to keep plugging along the last miserable hour.

  • Julie says:

    You should be grateful you can run and just enjoy the time together. Sounds like you are complaining for trivial reasons.

  • Madeline @ Food, Fitness, and Family says:

    BAHAHAHA I love this!! Chris and I have run into SO many problems trying to run together but all your tips are spot on!

  • Great tips guys I was just looking for something like this..

  • This is hilarious. And I completely understand. The husband and I tried running together all of three times earlier this year and it was a complete failure. The problem? I’m a runner and he’s not. So I’d get really frustrated when he wanted to stop and walk before we’d even run a mile! And then, when I’d push him to keep going, he’d get really mad at me and say that wasn’t the way to get him to like running. Needless to say, we gave that up and bought bikes. Now he gets to be in the lead and everyone’s happy. And I get to run at my pace and on my schedule.

    • Erica House says:

      Haha – that sounds like us, but roles reversed :) I’m hoping to finally get a bike later this year and be able to ride with him, but I have no doubt he wills till be 10x faster at that than I am! Hey, at least I can say I’m always giving 100%!