This was originally published in 2016 by Pimento.
Most competitive women runners train with men at least some of the time. If you took running out of the equation, there would be no argument from me that spending hours sweating half-naked with heterosexual members of the opposite sex is at best odd, or at worst, inappropriate.
Hey honey, I’m getting up at 4:30 tomorrow morning to hang out and talk with Bill, Fred, and Tom for three hours.
That would be weird, but for some reason when it comes to running we think of it as completely normal.
But what about all of our running buddies’ significant others, especially those who don’t run? How do they feel about their partners spending so much time with other women and then texting them at all hours of the day and night? Do they have anything to worry about from their men’s female running friends?
To the wives and girlfriends of my male running buddies, I say this: it really is only about the running (and even if it wasn’t, no offense, but I wouldn’t hit that, anyway).
Platonic relationships. Friends of opposite genders where there is no sexual interest. That can happen, right? Perhaps. In a recent study, researchers found that the majority of men and women believe that most platonic friendships actually have some kernel of secret romantic attraction (63%), and both genders agree that it’s the man that is more likely to attempt to act on on it. Yikes. While that may stand for the majority of society, I believe the results might be different among runners, where I believe platonic relationships can truly exist.
One thing that I have noticed being part of a larger running community is that a particular dichotomy, where the runner’s significant other isn’t a runner, is very common. I’ve also observed how this can lead to tension caused by the non-running partner’s concerns her man is one of the 63% in the study I cited above. Jealousy, it seems, that often leads to a male running buddy suddenly disappearing off the face of the planet.
I consider myself so very lucky to have an incredibly tight, core group of running friends who challenge and support me. They are always willing to talk about running strategy, the best workouts, which race we should pick next, what to eat, how we’re cross-training, where to poop, whether random pains are actually injuries, who is chafing where this week, who we really want to beat at the 4th of July 10k this summer, or … You get the point.
My running buddies love running just like me and they have the kind of crazy one-track (pun intended) mindedness that goes along with it. Unlike my husband, whose eyes glaze over as I start talking paces, VO2 max, and negative-cut-down tempo runs, my running buddies listen intently, excitedly, and give their opinion. I do the same for them. Many of my running buddies are men, as is often the case in running cliques I’ve observed. And most of our significant others don’t run like crazy like we do.
On a run last week with a new running friend, he asked if my husband runs, too. “Yes, but like a normal person,” I replied, “You know, just for fitness. I don’t think our marriage would survive two runners with habits like mine!”
Because I love my male running buddies and I don’t want to miss out on their company, I’ve tried various ways to combat any potential jealousy head-on. I try hard to get to know the wives at running get-togethers, and talk non-running stuff with them, even though I am admittedly bad at small talk. If that can’t happen, I’ll friend them on Facebook so I can comment on how cute their kids are while displaying my husband and adorable kids right back. See?? I am happily married, and running is just a part of a larger ME.
Unfortunately, sometimes trying as hard as I can to be nice just doesn’t work. I’ve felt the stares freeze my soul at finish lines and at parties. I am not alone in this; several other Saltines spoke up as we chatted about this conundrum of having opposite gendered running buddies. I asked a good, long-term running buddy why his wife didn’t ever get jealous or nervous about him training with us ladies so much. He replied that he was such a horrible dater and took so long to ask her out, so she had no doubt that he could never muster that amount of courage again. Ha!
Now, I won’t be a total pollyanna and pretend that in the history of running buddies that there have never been indiscretions. Come on! I’m sure it happens. And perhaps the time spent together high on endorphins creates some slippery slopes. In those cases, though, I’d imagine it wouldn’t matter what activity was going on, the seed for that cheating was already present. However, speaking for myself and the vast majority of runners I know, significant others of our running buddies have nothing to worry about.
But besides it being about the running, we female running buddies are so much more than some temptation. Give us some credit. Because, seriously, I would never hit that. Your husband is my friend, who I connect with about running, but I actually have this whole life that I love that is separate from running. And, being that I want to get faster, I am actually strategically using your husband to challenge me and help me reach my running goals (maybe don’t tell him that because it sounds bad).
And if you’re still not convinced, know this. I spit, cuss, snot rocket, and swear like a sailor when I run. I sweat and smell and show up unshaved, un-showered, un-made-up, and really at my worst as far as sexy goes. Don’t even get me started about what a sports bra does to boobs. Yes, we talk about all kinds of things during the miles, and sometimes we even get heavy, personal stuff off our chests, but at the end of those runs we are lighter, refreshed, and feel ready to take on our non-running lives with a renewed and more positive attitude. I do, at least.
Lastly, your partner is one of my best friends and please know that I know that who he is is due in large part to YOU. I recognize that, so thank you. In return and to show my gratitude, I’ll even listen to his running statistic dumps, his workout play-by-plays, and all the excuses he makes when his races don’t go his way. You’re welcome.
Have you ever felt the ice stare from a running buddy’s significant other?