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Running When You Don’t Have a Support System

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Running almost always gives back more than it takes. There are a few downsides, such as personal heartaches that come with missing targeted times and injuries that cause you to sit on the sidelines. However, the benefits typically outweigh any negatives ten-fold. The benefits of running are in all areas of our life; they are mental, physical, social and, for some, spiritual. On occasion running can become all-encompassing. This can be tough on those in our life who don’t get it or are just tired of hearing us talk about running. Most of the time those that love us put up with our race planning, our stinky running clothes, our multiple pairs of running shoes and all the other non-glamorous running related stuff.

What happens when supporting you becomes too much or you have a relationship in your life where the person has never supported your running?  Maybe you have begun finding yourself defending or hiding your running from a person or people in your life more than you’d like to admit. How do you handle running and any negative effects it has on your relationships or when it causes loss of relationships?


Often we don’t have the clearest view of how our actions and words come across to others. It’s important to take an honest look at yourself and your running. Running is important to you but so is your relationship.  And quite often for runners, running is a part of your identity. Running is something we do for ourselves and it’s tough to give it our absolute best when we are not supported. It might be worth looking at other aspects of your life and seeing if the lack of support is isolated to running or if it is a pattern.

Are you being respectful and holding down your portion of commitments you have made to others and yourself? Ditching events, leaving deadlines unmet or choosing running over other important things can make running the bad guy.  Often, as a sign of awareness, many runners check-in with their significant others or families to make sure races and training aren’t going to be an inconvenience for others.  Is it possible that you have really amped up your mileage or have you signed up for a crazy number of races?  When people who love you want to spend time with you feel like something, running in this case, is coming between you two, they can be a little resentful.

Relationship Evaluation

How important is this relationship to you and others in your life? How long has this person been in your life? Does this person have a right to have an opinion on your life? If you are a beginning runner, or your new running is coupled with other life changes, the lack of support or negative feelings you are experiencing could be fear. Some people are fearful of changes, especially if they are not in control of the change, and cannot recognize those feelings of fear in order to communicate them to you. In turn, you are left with someone taking all their feelings out on you and your running.

Try asking why running is an issue. Are they afraid you will find new friends and leave them out? Is it a significant other that is fearful you will find someone else? Directly address their concerns and invite them to events where they can get to know the people you run with. Fear of the unknown is much worse than fear of the known.

Seek Outside Counsel

Ideally, seek out someone who will be objective. Another running buddy is not ideal unless you know they experienced the same type of running relationship problems. For some, a pastor or spiritual guide can offer insightful and non-biased advice or help you in a productive evaluation of the situation. Or you can seek out friends or family to talk with that do fully support you. And in this day and age, you can always seek advice out on an online running forum.

Seeking outside counsel should help you gain perspective you may not be able to see yourself. It should shed light on if you are being sensitive to any feedback you receive on your running and if the relationship is, in fact, an unsupportive one.

Be Honest With Your Communication

It is imperative that you be open and honest. If you feel unsupported share your feelings with those you think should support you. Tell them exactly what you need them to do to make you feel supported. It is important that you listen to their point of view.  If they attempt to make changes, offer to make changes yourself; it may be as simple as offering to change the time of day you run a couple of times a week. As humans, our expectations set us up for the biggest disappointments. You may ask that they give you on-course race support. You may not get that; you may only get a good luck as you walk out the door, but that good luck might be a very strong show of support by that person. People’s communication styles are different. Focus on what you can get.

In the End It’s About You

At the end of the day if you are happy with your running and its overall effect on your life, the people in your life are going to have to learn how to cope. Like all things, good or bad, moderation is the key. Moderation is also different for everyone. If you truly feel that your running is an added benefit to a portion of your overall life, that’s a lot of positive support right there. Begin seeking out people who will support your running. Or look to certain people to fulfill certain support needs. Maybe you have one person that really supports your running and another that is really a champion of another aspect of your life.

While a support system and positive relationships make our goals a little easier to reach, we are our own true motivator. Harness your energy and train so that you are proud of your accomplishments. Besides, some of the best support and motivation can come from complete strangers at unexpected times.

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