To My Running Buddy’s Partner: It’s Only About the Running or I Would Never Hit That

Most competitive women runners train with men at least some times. 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!”

FullSizeRender (46)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? 

I'm an elementary P.E. teacher with a long-term, ongoing marathon addiction.The next big goal? Keeping up my BQ streak while aiming for a 3:10! I write about the not-so-glamorous side of running and fitting in serious training with a family while staying sane(ish).

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  1. Ha! So accurate! I always think of my running dudes as extra brothers. I have about the same affection and the same amount of interest. It took my husband a while to get it. Meeting them went a long way to solve that issue.

  2. I’ve been on both sides of this. When I first started seeing my husband he was training buddies with another woman who I never met. I was a runner, but I wasn’t serious about it yet and had no understanding of the situation and it did make me feel weird and nervous, especially when we were in a long distance relationship. It’s laughable now that I’m friends with his old training buddy and have had many male training buddies, myself, but I think it’s natural to be a little more interested in the other potential romantic interests in your partners life, even if that potential is approaching nil!

    As for the partners of my male running buddies, most of them I am also friends with even if they’re not runners so it never seemed weird. I’ve had some male running buddies disappear off the face of the earth before, though, and I always wondered if it was something like you say in the post – disappearing to relieve tension at home!

    Lastly, I once met a guy who was similar in fitness with me and I asked him if he ever would like to get together for a run and he acted like that was insane and said, “My wife certainly wouldn’t appreciate that!” I still get a chuckle out of that one. Really?

  3. I have only slightly mixed feelings on this:

    My first and main feeling is that this is no different than work colleagues – as an engineer/scientist I spend loads of time on projects with both men and women and as a result I have women I have been friends with across 4 companies spanning 28 years! I have always been a strong believer that there can definitely be male-female platonic relationships.

    But at the same time the company I work for right now (for the past 8 years now) is by far the #1 employer in the region and is therefore full up of families that were established while working together … and at my last company there were two people, both married, then she was pregnant and the child was named after the other man (i.e. not her husband) … and well, at this point they’ve been married more than 10 years with a child who looks just like the current husband!

    So … yeah.

    But I also have to say that it took my wife a bit to adjust … while I have been a runner for 27+ years now, I have only been a ‘crazy runner’ (6 days/wk, 60+ miles, run in all weather -20F – 90F) for 4 or so years. Yes, I ran alone, in the dark pre-dawn and never talked much about it. Then I ran my first 5k a few months after accepting a challenge from my brother to run a marathon together that fall. Suddenly I was running any time, any place, with people seeing me, sharing stories, and so on. That sort of sudden change is always an adjustment, even though we’d already been married 20 years and together 25+ years.

    And I get it – there are always shared and separate interests, but suddenly having something take such a large chunk of your partner’s time feels isolating, and you can be jealous of the activity itself … but that is weird and hard to justify when the person was already a runner. Then there is the male/female jealousy aspect – I started blogging, and most of my blog-buddies were women … younger women. And really, I am now in the best shape of my life at 50, look younger than in years, and HAVE been hit on (though not by any of my running buddies). So I get it. I remain friends with many of them on Facebook and it is great – and they say great things to my wife as well. Because one of the things it seems I always share when I develop these friendships is a love of family – it makes me feel safe and secure, I suppose. But I also know that is no guarantee.

    I have two good women friends and the three of us have a large project together that will last most of the year part time, so we chat every week either via conference call or in person. And each of them is also in contact with this other guy in the same division, who doesn’t really share any project work but is in contact with them – and apparently other women – quite frequently in a way that caused me to ask when they were both simultaneously complaining “is this just over-bearing or is it creepy”. One women started with ‘over-bearing’ but the other quickly said ‘a bit creepy’, I asked ‘as in hitting on you creepy’ – and both said ‘no’, but that it wasn’t out of the question, that they felt it was up to THEM to make sure that the boundaries were defined as he complained about the deficiencies of his wife. Ugh.

    And as for the husband and dating courage … haha, have to laugh! For me, I am very controlled (damn engineers) and not really subject to fits of spontaneous passion (I do try, but still … ). So my wife knows that if I had an affair it wouldn’t be ‘just a thing’, because that isn’t how my brain works.

    Whew that turned into something 🙂

    1. You bring up a good point. For each of us in a domestic partnership, romantic relationship, marriage, whatever, that’s our primary relationship and it’s up to us and out partners to define the boundaries of that relationship and while people like Pimento and me and my husband feel perfectly fine training with heterosexual members of the opposite sex, it’s not necessarily ok for everyone and it’s not really our place to judge that. When the guy I asked to run with said “My wife wouldn’t appreciate that!” It communicated an assumption about me – like I’m a threat! If he said, “I prefer to train alone or in groups or … ” I don’t know, but it wasn’t so much that him running alone with another woman was off-limits, it was more this assumption that if we ran together his wife WOULD have something to worry about that bugged me.

  4. Hahaha I love this title! I’ve never had to worry about the jealousy in my own relationships since I’ve never dated another runner, but I know I’ve caused tension with wives by being close with married male running friends. I met a buddy’s wife once, and I could feel the icicles piercing my soul! But another buddy’s wife loves me and I love her (probably because they have kids my age LOL). You’re totally right. I would never hit that!

  5. Like others, I have mixed feelings about this as well. I absolutely agree there can be platonic male-female (or male-male, female-female, whatever floats your boat) relationships, and that in the running community, you are much more likely to find such relationships. But I also think it is a slippery slope, especially if a person’s home life isn’t great – when that happens, running can turn into an external validation, the running buddy relationships can become more important/fulfilling than the family relationship, oversharing of marital issues can occur, etc. etc. When a person turns to someone external to the family relationship to have needs met (even needs like friendship, companionship, validation, etc.), then you’ve started down that slope. Even if physical cheating does not occur, when you are giving someone else time, attention, emotional connection, etc. that your spouse is not getting, then I think that a form of cheating has happened. It happened to me with my ex-spouse.

    1. I’m sorry that happened to you! I think that a good running buddy relationship could definitely help you see you’re unhappy at home, but the mature thing to do is to address that at home once you realize it and shore up loose ends before heading off on a new relationship. And it’s one thing to share your feelings about your significant other with a running buddy, but again if it’s complaining incessantly than that’s a problem that needs to be dealt with at home and not the running buddy’s fault. So I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s running buddies who are problematic, but people who address their marital/relationship issues with others instead of their partner.

    2. Ugh– so sorry that happened to you and that is a good point about seeking validation outside your marriage if it’s not going well. Boundaries are necessary– as well as recognizing when your running buddy might be on the slope (and you’re not.)

    3. I should probably clarify – it was me that went too far with the running buddy. In the end, the experience causes me to evaluate the health of my marriage, and ultimately realize that it needed to end. Also, attraction isn’t all based physical appearance. Sharing positive experiences creates feelings of happiness/excitement/joy, and you then associate those feelings with the person with whom you shared the experience, which is a factor in attractiveness. But yes – boundaries are key!

  6. I LOVE this! Especially this paragraph…”And if you’re still not convinced, know this….” Hilarious, and so true. I don’t think my non-runner husband worries at all about me running with other guys, and as my daughter likes to remind me when I walk in the door from running, “Mom, you need to take a shower!”

  7. I would LOVE to run with some fast dudes so I could use them for pacing my speed workouts.

    There is only one person (a man) I know of in my small community that races competitively and while I’ve been tempted to ask him to run, I fear the ‘slippery slope’. I am in a strong, 16-year marriage with a supportive non-runner, but I can see where some serious bonding could occur with a training partner. And even if it never became sexual, I imagine that an emotional affair could be just as damaging to a marriage.

    I believe that statistic about attraction within platonic relationships. After all, it’s human nature and our species depends on it. Maybe it’s easier to ignore if you are running with men in a group. Unfortunately I don’t have the group option, so I will just continue to envy all of you who have fast guys to chase.

  8. I met my current partner while he was in a long-term relationship with another woman. We became friends outside of running but running became part of the friendship. He even convinced me that I could run a BQ marathon and we started training together. But I could not manage the feelings I had and ended the relationship for almost a year — cold turkey, all forms of comms. I ran my BQ (a different marathon) and ran my Boston without any contact. Time passed and I thought I could manage a platonic relationship again, starting with running (he was training for a fall marathon so we’d meet to run the hills). I always asked and he always avoided me meeting his GF.

    We did manage a platonic running relationship for a few months but ultimately fell back to feeling awkward about having feelings and inability to act. The long-story short is that he finally ended it (after my ultimatum and another hiatus) and we are together today. Running didn’t break up his relationship — there was trouble at home, but it did provide validation and a view into what it could be with someone that had more shared interests. So, it’s not always black or white. I think its individual and dependent upon the health of the respective relationships and individual morality. I felt awful about having feelings for someone that was not available, but I am glad that we ran together and realized how great a true partner can be..

  9. I agree it’s not a black and white issue. I briefly dated a pro track athlete(800m) ldr… He traveled a lot for races/training camps surrounded by female pro athletes… Some were flirty and would tag him on fb in semi nude pics feeling his abs etc. It wasn’t his fault but I ended it because I had too many insecurities. Before him I had only dated jerks who made comments about other women’s boobs/butts. He tried so hard to heal these wounds but I needed more time.
    Almost two years later I met my current boyfriend. I still had insecurities because he is a runner and he had female acquaintances(not flirty) But I was also in a better place and his just being there made me less and less insecure. He ran with me even when I was a slower. He is my favorite training partner and I his. Every now and then we do time trials with his friends.
    On the other hand I’m constantly on the receiving end of the glares from girlfriends/wives for no reason other than that their SO approached me for a pre/post race chat!! BUT I get it sometimes…
    We all have insecurities and sometimes we let them get to us. I never really glared at anyone though in some cases it would have been justified 😀

    1. Oh man, dating a pro-athlete would be hard, especially one that had any kind of groupies! Sounds like the current boyfriend is a keeper 🙂

  10. I totally get what you are saying. 6 month ago I would have completely agreed with you. However in 6 months my other half has been hit on in his running group twice by two needy women who were also married. With the 2nd the platonic friendship turned into an emotional affair and the more he ran the more disconnected we got and the closer they got. Then he crossed the line with his marathon running partner (who instigated the hookup by booking a single hotel room on a running trip when he’d thought they were with sharing with a group of 6) . Yes there were other things at play including mental health issues (which I don’t think the extreme running helped) but it happened. And it happened in the ‘tight knit running community’. Just like that my reality was smashed. Now I feel like the fool as I’d always been very pro platonic mixed gender relationships. The thing is I would have run too, but someone had to stay home with the kids 🙁

    1. I’m so sorry 🙁 That sucks and I think it’s easy to just say, “well he should have behaved better.” It’s more complicated than that and when we go through low points in our marriages these things are far more likely to happen even to otherwise good people. And while it could happen in any other setting, work, other hobbies, running can lead to closeness among people in a way other activities don’t. I think the other side of this post is that runners need to be aware of that likelihood of closeness and the dangers that go along with it, especially if struggling with your current relationship. I feel for you and wish you much happiness in the future!

  11. Wow, just came across this and it hits really close to home. Currently (right this moment!) breathing through the anxiety and insecurity of yet another of my husband’s long runs with his new best running buddy (who happens to be a beautiful divorced woman). She supports him and challenges him (they both do ultras) and they post pictures on FB of each other that they take on their runs. They talk trash to each other over FB and in texts (about their workouts mainly). They sometimes run with a group but also frequently just as a pair. I am confident that my husband’s connection with this woman, though intense, is not romantic. Not being a mind reader, however, I don’t know how she feels about him. She tags him, she texts him and she treats me like someone pleasant and sweet but very distant. I’ve friended her on FB and am trying to work through my own insecurity but this feeling really sucks. I appreciate your post. I really hope she shares your perspective.

    1. Thanks for sharing! Have you talked to your husband about it? Seems like you might need to lay down some boundaries with him about what you can and can’t handle and then he, in turn, needs to lay down some boundaries with his buddy. As someone who has been the “buddy” in this situation, I know I’d never want to impose on someone’s marriage and I’d look to my male running friend to be clear about what is and is not cool about our relationship. If I overstepped, I’d want to know.

  12. I know this an old thread, but I feel compelled to share my experience from a male point of view. I am 44, been married 18 years, and have one daughter. My running partner is a 40 year old married woman with two children. My running partner has been training me for the past 2 years and I have lost 110lbs. We hold each other accountable to fitness goals, challenge each other, and run races as a team. Our spouses are “not into running” but are supportive of our friendship, our kids play together, and families are always invited to races. All that said, I have had mixed reactions from friends and family about my running partner being female. Some people cannot see past a man running next to a woman in tight workout gear who isn’t his wife. In all honesty, it is just part of the sport….we live in Texas….moisture wicking compression gear is essential. Here are some things I have learned from my experience about opposite gender running partners. 1) Men can be respectful. It is stereotypical to assume the guy is ogling his female running partner. During a half-marathon, your concerns are pace, water, restrooms, cramping, breathing, etc. I do look to see how “hot” my partner is to be sure heat exhaustion doesn’t sneak up on her (she does the same for me). I know women don’t need a knight in shining armor, but men do tend to take responsibility for the safety of their female running partner. 2) As a guy, you NEVER want to give her husband any reason to even think you are being inappropriate with his wife. Being friends my partner’s husband is a good safeguard. 3) Don’t discuss your respective marriages with your running partner. It is tempting….but even talking about your spouse in positive way sets up comparisons and competition…just avoid it.

  13. I had an interesting scenario. My boyfriend’s married running partner was jealous of me. Whilst I never complained when she spent more time at weekends with him running/cycling/swimming, she started making comments directed at me on Strava when I spent 20 mins in the pool with my boyfriend. Makes me think this is a case where she may have developed feelings for him.

  14. I’m late to the party, but… It is interesting having a female running partner. We run with a larger group, but my female running partner and I often hit or longer runs together on our own. I can tell my wife gets insecure about it, but I believe the FB posts with our gps route pics and typical running stuff gives her a little reassurance – I hope.

    That said, there are times where I believe both of us have feelings that surpass friendship, but neither of us have ever moved on it. I believe there is a respect there for each other’s real lives and that we are old enough to know it could never truly work. We share a lot of details about our lives and we say a lot of things that may be heavy (not sexual) about what we like in each other.

    She keeps me from running too hard on my long run days and I give her that push to be a little faster. We show up a lot for each others events to support each other.

    We have both acknowledged to each other that we have rose colored lenses on when viewing each other. We have lives that neither of us see. While many may think we see each other at our worst while running, we both feel that we see each other at our best. We don’t argue, never have. It’s easy when all you see is what you feel is the best in each other, but as I said, cooler heads seem to prevail and think that days a lot for our mutual respect.

    It can work, even if there are feelings there just as long as the respect exists also.