Readers Roundtable: Do Runners Make Good or Bad Partners?

Cinnamon's picture on the dartboardWelp, I did it again. I broke up with the dude I was dating after just a few months. Why? When I explained that I didn’t want to go out late Saturday because of marathon training, he balked. “Can’t you just run later?”

Yeah, sure, I’ll just do that 14 miles by myself at the end of my day on the dark, icy streets I run all week instead of doing it in the morning with my sister and other friends on beautiful, wooded trails and enjoying the rest of my day without a two hour long run looming ahead. It’s okay, babe, sitting in a bar followed by a drunk sleepover in your dorm-room-furnished apartment with one pillow between us is worth it!

Or not.

But this begs the question, is it him or me? Are we runners being unreasonable by asking a partner to adjust his expectations of a good weekend to accommodate marathon training? Is it asking too much to say, “Sorry, you won’t be seeing me speed day, tempo day, long run day or the night before long run day. Oh, and when you do see me I’m going to eat more than you, need more sleep, probably not always smell great and mostly wear spandex.”

And it’s not just that I’m set in my single runner ways, I see this with my coupled friends. And whoa, when they have kids the demands are even bigger. Do we runners ask too much of our partners without giving enough in return? Are we giving up better relationships by prioritizing our training? Are our cries of health and mental well-being just lame excuses?

Do runners make bad partners, or good ones? How come?

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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16 comments

  1. I think we all have our quirks, runner or not. Part of finding a “sole-mate” (see what I did there?) is finding someone who understands and fits with you. If it wasn’t this, it would be something else they can’t deal with. Running is part of us. It’s important to find someone who accepts everything. However, that person should also take some priority. I would probably mention your running hobby (addiction?) to him early, and if he can’t cope, he’s not the one for you.

    There are plenty of other men who run and understand. You’ll find someone ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. You know what runners make? Great selves. And you know who make the best romantic partners? People who know who they are and what they want in life. So … make of that what you will ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. For me having dated runners and non-runners- I think the hardest part is to set expectations early on, so that way they understand that sometimes your schedule might be a little different because of running. I also think, that once you see a relationship may be more serious- that is when you may start making a few more compromises. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, because in the long run anyways you’ll need to do so if things will last. BUT, if you are dating someone who always wants you to compromise but they never do, or someone who clearly doesn’t respect/support something that is obviously important to you- probably won’t work out (and it’s more about them than you).

    1. You know, this brings to mind that I tend to find a person way more likely to ask me to compromise my running for him if he doesn’t have something he’s equally passionate about. Babe you’re great, but I need my space. Go get a hobby!

  4. I’m lucky that my husband is a marathoner/Ironman, so he understands the demands of training and is often in the thick of it himself. But, we like to run at different times and not usually together, which can mean we don’t see each other much on the weekends! I do think it’s important to find someone who has a passion for … something. Bonus points if it’s something athletic, even if it’s not something you all do together all the time.

    1. YES a passion for SOMETHING! I once was in a serious relationship with another athlete. He ran and did triathlons- but always did the bare minimum (if that) and I never really felt he had a passion for it. As time went on I realized he LIKED a lot of things, but really didn’t love or have a passion for anything(including me- but that’s a whole other issue).Now being with Brian who doesn’t run, but he does have a passion for things- and hobbies and he understands that desire to pour yourself into something even if he doesn’t choose to do it through marathons.

  5. I became a runner after I had been married for awhile and we already had two kids. I got more “serious” about it a few years after that. So my poor husband has had to grapple with a wife who gradually wanted to get up earlier, on more days a week, and now is also gone at least one weekend morning and sometimes two, and yes, goes to bed earlier, etc. He is not sporty, but he’s a very good sport. In turn, his job takes him out of town overnight one day a week and I manage the kids while he’s gone. He’s also a musician so band practice takes him away on another night. I suspect in a long-term committed relationship, these rhythms evolve in response to lots of things: jobs and kids being the areas where change can be most dramatic and hardest to compromise on. Working together to find a reasonable balance is key to keeping everyone happy, regardless of what exactly that balance looks like or how it changes over time.

    1. Yes! With kids, both partners need to make lots of compromises with their time and energy. I’ve known of relationships where one partner refused to back off of the running intensity after kids. While I wouldn’t say it CAN’T be done, unless you’re a pro it’s really hard to keep running competitively and trying to perform at a super high level without being incredibly selfish. I’ve seen several break-ups of marriages along these lines, but more often people having to back off from running a bit at least temporarily while parenting young kids.

  6. Guy answer there. I was in the runner mind months ago, starting with 5K to finished a 100 miles ultra. I dated runners for a while and obviously, my life was only focused on running: the circle of friends (going out with people from the running club), vacations (going for a marathon/ultra), discussions (where to do the long run this week-end), etc. I realized that I missed many things: different discussions and perspectives (somebody that is not a runner), enjoying great shows (things I did not go to prepare for my long runs: theater, musical, etc.) and having other goals in life other than finish my next race.

    I do not think we are terrible partners but the key is flexibility and mutual respect. I never run more than 6 to 7 miles in the morning so that I can be back quick and share the day with my significant other, do something together (hike, go for coffee, museum, etc). Otherwise, I will be gone all morning and recover during the afternoon. This is my way to be flexible, there are probably thousands others. My point is: if the person really matters to you, you will make room in your life for what is significant.

    If you are not ready to be flexible and accommodate your running plans when you need, it is a matter of priority: your long run has a highest priority than being with your partner. In that case, just ditch the partner as you did. This is totally ok with that – just be honest to him and yourself. Looking at what you said, I believe you have the following solutions: ditch the partner and stay alone or find a dude that is also a marathon runner and will then no go out late. You might also end up by finding somebody you really love and switch your priorities, who knows? But obviously, that was not this guy.

    1. I like your alternate perspective here. It’s so common that I hear runners defend the demands we make on our partners and rare that I hear about someone compromising them. I think it’s so sweet that you still run but cut it a little shorter to spend extra time together. And you’re right, when you care about someone it’s a pleasure to spend time with her.

      And thanks for your solution, but the story, while true, is merely a vehicle for the question in this case, so I’ll just take it on advisement. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Yeah we all have limits for what we’re willing to compromise and if we’re completely unwilling to compromise anything than we’re not going to be a good partner for anyone, because anyone willing to have someone unwilling to compromise is probably not emotionally healthy enough to be a good partner either.

  7. Man, this is a ‘can ___ have it all?’ kind of question! (The answer, for me, has always been ‘yes you can but not alllll at the same time’.) In any relationship there’s always give and take based on what your needs are at any point. Sometimes that’s a spouse taking kid duty for two hours so you can go out on a long run. Sometimes that’s you opting not to do a particular race so you can go hang out with their family for Easter weekend, or whatever. But you cannot keep score – then it just turns into a simmering vat of resentment.

    (As for clubbing then running? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, either. At least one of my PRs has come from racing slightly hungover on four hours of sleep. ^_^ )

    There are guys out there who’ll understand that running is a key part of your life. They do exist ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. As a runner, or non runner we need to be a part of a relationship that offers balance and support. My husband is a golfer and I am a runner and we make each others hobbies a priority. Sure, I may have had a relationship or two last a tad longer if I was more willing to stay our and party longer on a Friday not, but long term that was never a life style I enjoyed all that much. Runners are fit, active healthy individuals. We are goal oriented and passionate. Those are great attributes and I am sure we have our own quirks and flaws too. The key to any relationship, is be yourself and your will find the right fit.