How to Divorce Your Running Spouse
They are your early morning comrade, your after work confidant or your Saturday steady – the one person you simply cannot bail on: your running spouse. In this rare person all the normal initial measures of compatibility don’t matter. What does matter are two basics: pace and distance. I trivialize but pace and distance is the foundation this relationship is built upon. This is the human you seem to magically find just hanging out in your normal running group. They get you. They listen, support, get your sense of humor, call you out and don’t judge at mile eighteen when you are tired and incoherent. They might very well know you better than you know yourself. After all, you log thousands upon thousands of miles with your running spouse. Training runs seem easy and quick even in 100% humidity uphill both ways. You are distracted – running and, often as a bonus, get a quick therapy session in among the laughter. You count on each other, trust each other, plan months of training and multiple races together. You thought it was an urban legend until you found yours.
Your drives to races are now, “Did you remember your race fuel this time? I packed extra just in case.” You park in the spot closest to the bathrooms for him and closest to packet pick up for you because you never grab it before race day. There are unspoken habits, rules and ritual. You walk up to the start lines together planning the same for the finish. You’re almost see you as one runner.
Then it happens, something is off. Really off. I’m not talking funny gait issues or strange, new chaffing concerns. Suddenly the same old, same old is now, well, old. Then it hits you during a fantastic run alone when you should want to huff and puff with your ball and chain. It’s time for a divorce. The inevitable has arrived and you both need to comfortably fade back into the greater community you belong to as runners. How do you divorce your running spouse and make sure it’s amicable?
While this may seem obvious, immediate desertion should be avoided. You do like this person, you just don’t want to log umpteen miles with them any longer. Begin by loosening the ties that bind. Usually sync your Garmin and then provide detailed breakdown to your running spouse after each run? Maybe you begin skipping this step. If possible, start delaying response times, but do not ignore them. Answers to questions can begin becoming vague or one-worded without any detail. They don’t really need to know how last week’s baby shower went or need any details on that conversation with your boss. Don’t rearrange your day so you can fit in the miles together, a simple “I can’t. Sorry.” response can suffice. Keep in mind all of the above can be done nicely, without being rude, the key in slow subtly.
Running in a group? Start actively seeking out and chatting with other people in your group without your running spouse, assuming of course this doesn’t sacrifice your run. If it’s not your thing talking up people you don’t really know, this may be putting yourself out on a limb. We all know finding other runners to meld with can be difficult, so prepare for potential boring conversations or unexpected habits with new-found buddies.
Feel a Little Bad
Regardless of which side you are on, getting the boot or doing the booting, you are going to feel bad. Allow yourself to work through it. Think of all the good times or silently want to crawl into a hole about the oversharing. Reminisce about that epic bathroom stop at the creepy store located in what can only be described as the set of Deliverance. Cringe about that one time… We all have that one horrible running thing and they saw it. They didn’t judge you then and won’t judge you now but it’s not the same, now it does feel cringe-worthy.
Try Something New
Your running career – and life – is all about the journey, not the destination. Take this time to try something new. A group across town you’ve been itching to run with? Go, do a quick three. Three miles is long and short enough to tell you all you need to know. Been loyal to a brand for years simply because “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”? Change it up for that shiny, new brand you’ve been eyeing. You may really like the change or you won’t. Either way you come out on top, you know your choices are spot on or now you have a great new product. The race you just never could get your running spouse to do? Sign up for it, now. A new race course is a gift enough.
Realize that you might feel a vacancy for a while. There will be times you want to go on a run with effortless conversation that passes the time and your running spouse won’t be there. You could be a bit lonely from time to time the first few weeks or training cycles. Be wary of replacing your ex-running spouse too quickly. Sure, those marathon miles are not going to be as pleasant as they were when you part of a “couple”, but you do not have form an arbitrary comradery. That could make the miles even longer. Remember when you started running. You just showed up and ran and real alliances formed. Only you can be the one to confirm a real running relationship is unfolding but do not force it.
Eventually for you both, new, separate habits will take hold. Luckily, races are not children and custody battles should not ensue. And a true ex-running spouse will, unlike a real ex, will not break the confidences of the marriage. And maybe, one day, you will both be happily remarried and can nod as you pass. In different directions, of course.