Should You Date Another Runner?
I was halfway across the Williamsburg bridge with a stranger I’d met online. We were a few strides into our first date— a romantic run around the island of Manhattan. We’d committed to this lengthy endeavor after exchanging a few DMs on Twitter. He made a living writing about running and I’d just listened to him promote his book on a podcast. After I tweeted to the host of the show about the episode, suddenly the writer himself started following me. It wasn’t long before we were making plans to hit the road.
The writer met me right around the corner of my apartment by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. I didn’t want to give my exact address since we’d met on the internet. I did, however, entrust in him the route that we’d surrender our bodies to for the next several hours. And as I waited for his arrival on that hot summer morning, I saw him barreling down the block towards our designated meeting point. About a half foot taller than I was and carrying 100 more pounds — he was a beast. Covered in tattoos and sweating bullets, I wondered what I’d signed up for.
We made our introductions and started towards the bridge. It was clear from the beginning that he was going to be taking it slow. At this conversational pace, I asked him a little more about himself. But something was already getting to me— I felt like I had to put on the breaks to hold his speed. This was painfully sluggish compared to what I was used to, but I decided to compromise.
I’d never been running with someone else before. I’d also never run very far; my longest run had been 10 miles. My date was a seasoned ultra-marathoner, running 50-100 miles in a single day. So I knew I needed to swallow my pride about speed and let him show me the way of distance running. And right away, he explained how crucial it is to start slower than you want to when you are running extremely long.
But it was almost as soon as we had gotten started that he came to an abrupt stop. He said his leg was bothering him and told me how common injuries are in the ultra community. My mind raced. This date was fun and all, but I was starting to feel concerned about when I was going to get my run in that day.
We decided to walk for a while to see if his leg would improve. Somehow, we managed to walk the entire way we intended to run. And on that heroically long walk, our voices grew hoarse from talking. We must have spent several hours getting to know each other on one marathon of a first date.
When we finally found ourselves back in Brooklyn, he went in for the kiss. Even though I offered him my cheek— I wasn’t totally against the idea of seeing him again. But I’d plan to get my run in beforehand, just in case.
When his injury healed, we finally ran together, for real this time. A few long runs escalated into full-blown going steady. Within months we were living together. Then, after a brutally long winter, we did back-to-back 20 milers in the freezing rain.
Utterly destroyed, I decided after all that that I wasn’t going to run the 50 mile race we’d spent months training for. This set the stage for our ultra breakup.
It was obvious. Our relationship was one, long and winding failure built on only one common denominator: running. We’d finally hit a wall, so I ended it.
Fast forward a few years. I had worked up a lot of speed and mileage. I met a guy I’d seen around town— He was ripping up stages as a musician and I was the girl at all the shows. One night after rocking out, I challenged him to a run the next morning.
The musician was a bit winded on that first run together, but he was determined. In no time, he was waking up with me at 5 a.m. ready to put in the same amount of mileage I was. I wasn’t only impressed, I felt a competitive spark.
One day in Central Park, we decided to race one another. It was one of the hottest days of summer, and I was ready to show the object of my affection I was faster than him. But once we set off, things weren’t looking good. Every time I peeked behind to see where he was, he was right there. This infuriated me.
Frustrated that he was on my back, I sucked up the pain and sped up. He was not going to win this one. Red in the face, we both finished our run. Glad that I won, I was also annoyed— it shouldn’t have been that close.
Much of our relationship centered around chasing each other like that day in the park. And we both set a ton of personal bests. The fastest hour pieces I ever ran were by his side. Qualifying for the Olympic Trials someday became in the realm of possibility.
But then when I got injured, a lot changed. I wasn’t a very pleasant person to be around. Running had been the core of so many of our conversations— and my entire world— but suddenly I didn’t even want to talk about it, let alone hear about his fitness improvements.
I got so upset that my running dreams were dying all around me and wanted to give up on life. But as for my partner, he stayed calm. In fact, he totally got it. He’d been a Division I athlete at an Ivy League school and understood a lot about sports psychology. He let me marinate in my emotions while my body healed.
One night after a particularly hard cross-training session, he gave me the encouragement I needed, saying “injuries always feel hopeless but you’ll come back stronger.” He also fed me chocolate and avocados for their magical healing components. That’s when I knew he was the one.
In the time I’ve spent speed dating— or dating on the run— I have learned how integral running is with my romantic life. I’ve also learned that just because someone is a runner doesn’t mean that they are your soulmate. Also, it goes without saying that as a runner, I’m pretty set in my ways… So maybe the question isn’t, “should you date another runner” but rather, “should another runner date you?”