So Grant and I have run together twice, as far as I can remember.
The first time was circa 2002, and the biggest memory I have of the run is that I was annoyed. Annoyed he didn't talk with me the way my girlfriends did, annoyed he was barely breathing and I was huffing and puffing, annoyed that it wasn't the isn't-life-grand-and-aren't-we-great-together moment I wanted it to be. He, of course, saw nothing wrong with the run. Thought it was immensely enjoyable, actually.
Fast forward about ten years. The second time was on Valentine's Day (note the irony!) in Austin for a half-marathon. It was our first trip (read: one night alone) away together in five years or so. We didn't talk strategy, pre-race: all he knew is that I was gunning for sub 1:50, and all I knew is that he could run that pace easily. So he voluntarily "paced" me for a few miles.
Grant's version of pacing: running about 15 steps in front of me, and then would slowing down until I caught up, and then taking off again. Again, none of that chitchat I'd always imagined we'd have--or at least those "you can do it!" words I'd expect when going for a challenging PR. Around mile 3, I tried to keep calm. "I love you," I blurted as he slowed down to moonwalk back to me, "but I don't want to see you anymore right now." And off he went. Guess what? He had a great race, and it took me until mile 10, at least, to get over him--and myself.
- Before you head out, make a plan. In other words, do that thing that marriage counselors advise: communicate. How far are you going? What kind of run are you planning on doing: easy, moderate, tempo, hard? Who is setting the pace? Pushing the stroller? Pushing the stroller up all hills? Are you bringing music? Will there be any racing each other involved?
- Let's back up to who is setting the pace question. Men have this irritating hormone called testosterone that allows them to go faster than us with less effort than we estrogen-addled women. And, as many of you know, their jet-pack hormone allows them to leap off the couch and run faster than us, even if you've been training for a marathon for months. They get to run fast, we get to bleed. (Feels fair to me, right?)
- In other words, unless your husband is truly a new, new runner that has no ego at all, agree that you will set the pace. If need be, use this simple comparison chart:
If your effort is...
His effort will be...
Easy Easy Moderate Easy Tempo Easy Hard Easy-ish Legs.are.falling.off. This side of easy Lungs.are.burning. One step above easy Must.puke.now. Moderate
- If running side by side feels like it could cause a rift too big to leap over, go to a track and do a speed workout. You begin your intervals 45 seconds, say, after he starts his so there's no racing and no bragging rights at stake. (See: testosterone.)
- Or make it a two-part date: the first part, you get sweaty alone. You do an out-and-back run at your own paces (each run for 30 minutes or whatever, then turn and head back to the car) and then you go grab an easy dinner where you enjoy each other's company. And then your combined endorphins will prompt you to get sweaty together. (And everybody wins!)
- Don't cop a 'tude. This is mostly aimed at us chicks. Okay, really it's for me, and I'm hoping some of you might act the same way around your spouse. When things get hard physically, I can get really whiny and difficult. I would never act that way around a friend, but my husband has seen me in birth and other really raw situations and he's never backed down. So he's a safe shoulder to whine on when my legs are tired or a hill feels too long. (And yes, as a near 40-year-woman, it embarrasses me to admit this.)
- When it comes to delicate subjects, tread lightly. Probably not the time to discuss your tricky ovulation cycle or the family budget or your mother-in-law's latest chide. When in doubt, ask yourself: What would Grant do? Then say nothing and just enjoy the run.
Grant and I might be the exception, rather than the rule. I know there are plenty of couples out there that use joint runs as date nights and other times to grow closer together, not father apart. So now you tell us: What guidelines do you use when you run with your spouse?