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Why Couples Make Good Runners: Marriage Miles Matter

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The longer my wife and I have been married, the better runners we have become.  She started out a wallflower in 1990.  I was a gym rat.  She began running at age 40 after some bad blood work numbers.  By my fiftieth birthday, she had me running with her.  Today we co-direct races, run races, and train together.  It’s a healthy and enjoyable part of our marriage.  However…

The Unavoidable Conflict

“I’d like to run a lot more races, but you know, my wife isn’t into it like I am.”

While my wife and I are both runners, I am also deep into OCR.  That’s my first love.  Not hers at all.  So when it comes to wanting to sign up for races, OCR always takes the back seat.  We rarely have conflict about signing up for running races however.  Conflict may or may not be inevitable.  But compromise always seems to work things out for running and everything else in a relationship.

race directors
Memorial Day 5K co-directors

Me vs We

We all know that races are relatively expensive.  Running time is also  expensive.  That “me” time is not “we” time.  Either way, the cost is high and can lead to deeper issues if not agreeably managed together.  Financial issues tend to be one of the top reasons for divorce and breakup.  So here’s some advice from a guy who has made it work for over 25 years.  Our money and our time are shared.  So we share in the decisions about how to spend and when to spend.  We also respect the “me” money and time that we sometimes need.  It keeps us balanced and strong.

What About Kids?

 A lot of runner and OCR couples I know met on the course.  You share something in common.  Perhaps you are DINKs (that’s Double Income No Kids for those of you not as old as I am).  You can freely spend your cash on races every weekend.

Then you have children.  Suddenly a big chunk of race money and training time (especially for one of you) has diverted to another resource.  It’s decision time.  Do I race while she stays home with Junior?  Another top reason for couples breaking up is lack of emotional support and security.  With a baby in the home, this factor is just as large as the money issue.  Now the focus has diverted from running to family.

Patience and understanding are the keys here.  The running will probably come back.  I love to see the stroller runners at races.  My first baby was very fussy because of acid reflux.  The bouncing motion of the stroller was very soothing to him and helped him relax and sleep.  A happy baby makes for happy parents.

tired baby
Tired mommy and baby
stroller daddy
Stroller Daddy

When in Doubt, Cross-train

I’m OCR.  She’s strictly running.  This is not a “I say tomato. You say to-mah-toe” thing.  The struggle is real.  The good news is that we realized a few years ago that in order to be a competitive OCR athlete, I need to be a good runner too.  So in order to satisfy my OCR craving, I run a lot with my wife.  We run races together.  She coaches me on my running and provides crew support when I do OCR races.  It works.  We spend about the same amount of money and time on each other’s races each year.  The closest my wife gets to OCR is to have me cross-train her for running.

Make it a Family Affair

Make running a family affair.  Our boys are older now and my wife is a veteran race director.  For one of our thousand-plus runner races, we need all the muscle we can get.  Two of our boys help with registration, food and water distribution, and other heavy-duty jobs.  My youngest, a high-school junior, runs competitively.

family runners
The three Caldwell runners at Boxing Day 5K

When we go to OCR races for me, we turn it into a mini vacation.  Since most of my races take place in the mountains, our boys are delighted to come along because they love the outdoors.  They don’t mind giving up two hours to watch me get muddy.  Afterwards, we all get to eat really well and then do some more outdoor adventures.

Decompress Together

 I can count on my wife waiting for me to come home from work most afternoons by 4pm.  That gives us an hour to run together.  She looks forward to it so she can have “we” time.  We both also get our “me” time as we run together sometime quietly, sometimes talking about whatever.  It’s a chance for us to blow off steam from a long day at work or at home with the kids.  The miles we run together make us stronger together as we share in the struggle to raise two autistic children.

Spread the Joy

We like to encourage our friends to run too.  We all know how hard that can be.  Sometimes running with friends, especially married with kids friends, helps us talk things out, get different perspectives, and push each other.  That push is not just for running but sometimes also for the relationship.  The words of a friend who understands can help make us better runners and marriage partners.

best friends forever
Wife and BFF at April Fool’s Half-Marathon

So whether spouse, partner, or friend, spend time running together.  It’s really not about the money, the bling, the podium, or the venue.  It’s simply about being together.  Running together provides a cement that is flexible and enduring.  For you singles, running provides a great place to meet like-minded people.  For all of us, it’s an opportunity to stay family strong.