How to Run with Your Significant Other Without Causing a Break Up

When I met my boyfriend seven years ago, I had recently taken up running. I was training for my second marathon and he was working like crazy on a political campaign, using what little free time he had to run, mostly for the mental break. That summer, after my marathon and the election he was working on, we moved in and, more importantly, started running together.

He pushed me out of my comfort zone, luring me to trails and new routes in our neighborhood. Running together was fun! Neither of us had any time goals, and simply enjoyed spending that time together. Honestly, we were smitten.

Little did I want to admit that easy-breeziness of this honeymoon period would not last. Seven years later, and our experience has illuminated some important rules for running with your significant other, without causing a break-up.

Back in those beginning days, we were enjoying the honeymoon of our budding romance, but soon our running dates became less fun and even began to cause some stress. I’d get annoyed at him for running a few paces ahead of me, or for pin-balling ahead, stopping, waiting, and running ahead again.

He’d sigh that I wasn’t running fast enough to keep up with him, saying I needed to compromise by running faster. He’d lounge around in the morning waiting an hour for his breakfast to fully digest, while I’d hop out of bed, eager to run first thing. Suddenly, our runs together became less about our romance and more about our individual needs.

Seven years and dozens of runs later, we’re now both training for a 50K, my third and his first. I’ve lost count of how many marathons I’ve run; he hasn’t run any. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for with stubbornness and good genes. Wanting to survive a successful 50k together and keep our relationship intact, I’ve come up with a few tried and true methods to get us through.

Be Polite

We’re often quicker to call out our significant other’s annoying habits than our friends’. But, when you think about it, you probably have running friends who do things that are just as annoying. I have a friend who hawks loogies every five minutes and others who follow too closely on my heels on the trails. I’m sure I’m not a pleasure to be around 100% of the time.

But we follow the golden rule with our friends, so why not with our significant others? I can dismiss my friends’ annoying behaviors because I value their friendships. I can dismiss my boyfriend’s propensity to run ahead of me because I love him. When I find a criticism on the tip of my tongue, I try my best to catch myself before I spit it out. And move on.

Invite a Third Wheel

If you struggle with being polite to each other (just being real), invite a mutual friend (ideally someone you both like) along to ease any tension and keep the peace. My boyfriend and I share many of the same running friends, and no one actually feels like a third wheel when they’re hanging out with us. But with an additional friend along for the run, we’re on our best behavior.

Plan Ahead

My boyfriend and I train at different paces, so when we decide to run together, we discuss beforehand what kind of run it will be. As long as I’ve planned out my running week to get the quality workouts I need, I can run with my boyfriend with the purpose of spending some time together.

If we want to run side by side the whole time, fine, it will be an easy run for him, a steady run for me. Since he’s faster than me, if he wants to pace me on a tempo run, great! If he’s planning on running an important workout of his own, I know to bow out. As long as I know what we’re doing beforehand, I’m far less likely to get upset at him for switching things up on me.

Don’t Be a Coach

Our significant others don’t need us to try to tell them how to train. I’m sure every partner in every couple in the world would describe the other as “stubborn”. The last thing we want from our partner is him or her telling us how to run our workouts (unless they’re your coach). Since my boyfriend is training for his first 50k, I consistently have to stop myself from reminding him to train. It just doesn’t work. Instead, I let my subtle suggestions, like posting my training plan on the refrigerator, work their magic.

Go to the Track

My Tuesday night routine includes my running group’s weekly track workout, and my boyfriend usually tags along. We warm-up and cool-down together, and he can fly ahead of me for the 800 repeats. At the end of the night, we both feel like we’ve gotten a quality workout and will have quality time together over a post-track beer.

Treat a Run Like a Date

Scenes from a successful run date.

Neither my boyfriend nor I are super romantic types. On Valentine’s Day, we were at the track. But every relationship takes effort to maintain and quality time together is key. Since we’re passionate about running, why not turn the run into a date?

We enjoy hopping in the car, exploring new trails together and stopping for a tasty dinner on the way home. The key is to spend time together doing something you love.

But, whatever you do, don’t bring your watch. If we’ve decided on a running date, and being together is the sole goal of the workout, then no watch is necessary. In fact, it can be detrimental to a fun run with good conversation if either of us is aware that we’re off pace.

Do you run with your significant other? How do you keep the peace?

A teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area who loves trail running, backpacking and cycling. Having grown up in the Sierra Nevada foothills, I secretly aspire to run Western States 100 someday. Realizing it might not be as crazy as it sounds (maybe it is), I am currently training for my next ultra.

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2 comments

  1. Love this! My guy and I celebrated our anniversary last year on the track, and then chased our workout with burgers and beers. :)

    Running/triathlon has always been a part of our lives separately, and is genuinely something we love to connect on and enjoy together. That being said, we’ve both also realized pretty quickly that communicating our workouts/needs ahead of time is super important if either of us is actually running with a goal in mind. One thing I’ve noticed is that it can be easy to default to an “us” mentality, which isn’t necessary good for anyone’s goals. There are times where I need or want to go long solo (it’s my time to think or zone out or just be alone), and there are times where our workout needs are different. Frankly, it’s also really important for both of us to be able to develop mental toughness, which you can’t really do if you’re constantly running together. I think we’ve both seen this communication as a necessary way to create separation and be selfish or feel productive or free in our workouts when the need arises, and that allows us to both work on the things we need to work on without feeling guilty or resentful or frustrated. I think a big part of this is also having a partner that doesn’t get hurt feelings when those needs are communicated. Sometimes the logistics of things can feel a little complicated, but you’re right that track workouts are a *super* easy way to feel connected without needing an advanced degree in mathematics to figure out how to combine workouts.

  2. My SO and I have almost exactly the same dynamic! One of our very first runs together was a 10 miler through the snow where he absolutely kicked my trash. Now we’re generally training for different things, but he’ll still always probably be faster. He’s pretty good at keeping my pace honest (but has learned to slow down a little) and I’ve learned to bite my tongue when I get mad that his easy pace is harder for me. I like to think I’ve showed him that not every run has to be at breakneck speed but I’m pretty sure he still does that when we run separately…