In Her Shoes: Breaking Up With a Running “Friend”

Wendy, victorious—and solo—after a recent Turkey Trot.
Wendy, victorious—and solo—after a recent Turkey Trot.

One section Tales From Another Mother Runner is called In Her Shoes, which is first-person accounts of different running situations and tales. We love running stories as much as—or maybe more than?—running itself, but we had a surplus of In Her Shoes stories...if we put them all in the book, it would've been bigger than a dictionary. So we're going to run these every other Friday for a while.

Wendy found a friend she didn't really want on a run...

I have a neighbor, the father of one of my son’s friends, who used to wait for me at the end of his driveway so he could run with me. For the record, I never asked him to run with me.

He looks like a total computer nerd. Average, kind of balding, and about my age. He’s married. I don’t think he was looking for romance. I think he just wanted someone to run with. I always ran at the same time in the morning through the same neighborhood route. He figured out when I’d be running past his house, wait for me, and ask to join me. When this first started, I changed my route. Then I gave up and ran with him.

Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake. Even though I knew what he was doing, I didn’t really realize what was happening. I run alone; everybody knows this. He was hijacking my time, plus I had to talk when I ran with him. My friends called him my stalker and joked I had to break up with him.

It was about six weeks before I got up the courage to end it.

One morning, I came up the hill, and he was standing out there. My heart just dropped. I thought, “Oh, geez, not again.” And that was it. It was time.

I said, “You know what? I can’t. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t run with people.” He said, “I thought you liked running with me.” I gave him the it’s-not-you-it’s-me speech. He said “fine” and started running the other way. He was crushed. I felt like I broke his heart, which made it all the more creepy.

It was awkward at first because I’d be out running and see him running. He’d put his nose in the air and look the other way. But it’s been a couple of years now, and he’s cordial.

Wendy (Thanks to the strength solo running gives her, she can still get up on one waterski – and tried wakeboarding at age fifty-two.)

Have you ever had to break up with a running "friend"? Or have somebody run with you without really asking?

17 responses to “In Her Shoes: Breaking Up With a Running “Friend”

  1. I have not broken up with a running friend. I actually starting my running relationship (or walking relationship) with a friend. As I have begun running a bit, I am finding that I enjoy to do that alone. I love walking with my friend with the occasion light jog.
    When my husband and I go…we keep our own pace and I have grown to like the solace of me running time. As race season comes upon us, I need to transition back to having a pacing partner. I am not sure how I feel about that.

  2. Stories like this (and the following comments) are why I never have the courage to find a running buddy. I would be afraid I was coming across as “needy” or “crazy” when I would really just be excited to have a friend.

  3. Oh goodness, I have a friend that I try to avoid at races. I feel like an awful person for doing that but I don’t like running with her. I don’t mind running with someone as long as they are cool if they have to leave me behind or vice versa. Also, I don’t mind talking but this friend talks so loudly and tells ALL her personal business. I just feel awkward with strangers around hearing all that mess, lol. So I will avoid her when I see her at races and start back behind her (she’s faster than me).

  4. Ugh. I had a guy who wanted to get in shape, and knew I ran. So he asked, and I was a total doormat and said yes. I always had to go to him– and he lived on the other side of town. And we would spend the run talking, and anything I said about my life, he would lecture me on how I was a terrible person and needed to ask God for forgiveness. Running was how I dealt with stress, and I started doing two a days just to relieve the stress accumulated from my runs with him! So eventually I took the passive aggressive route and told him I was too tired to run that early in the morning. It was the only time he could go, so he decided to find a different sport.

  5. Oh gesh, I feel for you! That was so inappropriate for him to wait for you to come by, and without an invitation! I am glad you were able to end it. Something so awkward as that could ruin running for me! You really stuck it out for a while, and I’m glad you were able to do what was right for YOU.

  6. YES!! A few years ago I met a woman at a local race and realized we were training for the same marathon and ran similar paces. She asked if I’d like to run with her sometime, and I thought sure, thinking she meant once a week or so. Nope, after each run she would ask when I was running next, and no matter what time or place, she’d be there. She was nice and all, but as a working mom, I NEED the occasional solo run without all the chatter. Plus I had a personal coach for this marathon, and it felt wrong to share my personalized training plan with someone else. As the marathon approached and my nerves were fraying, I told her that I’d like to run my last 20-miler by myself so I could “test my mental fortitude”. She didn’t seem bothered at the time, but she stopped texting and calling all together. About a week later (less than a week before the marathon where we were going to share a hotel & car ride), I texted her about travel plans, and I received a curt “I’m not going” as a reply. After some prodding, she finally said her hamstring was acting up (which I doubt). I see her every once in a while on the running path, always with other runners, and she barely acknowledges me. I’m not sure if I broke up with her or vice versa, but I am so thankful that it happened!

  7. oh my gosh! I totally understand! while I have oodles of running friends and belong to a couple running groups, I like to run alone. I don’t need to worry about pace, about my dog stopping for do her business, etc. I can listen to my podcasts, talk to my dog, let my mind wander, whatever, without worrying about being social. every once in awhile a buddy is nice, but I think I make pretty good company for myself!

  8. To all of you with these types of “unwanted” running buddies. Be careful. Don’t take this behavior lightly. They know where you live; they know your routes; they know what time you run. Wendy, and others–the behavior that you talk about in these men is unhealthy and inappropriate, and dangerous/pathological if escalated–don’t ignore the signs. I would encourage you to change your routes and times–a good thing for us all to do on a daily/weekly basis. Listen to your instincts–if it doesn’t feel comfortable or appropriate, don’t be afraid to ask for help or call authorities. Happy and safe running to all of you.

  9. I have. I used to run with a longtime friend and we even trained for a half marathon together. At the time it was a good fit because I was just getting back into running and it was nice to have someone to meet up with on the weekends, but at the end of our race I new I had more to give. I wanted to run faster and train harder and she didn’t. We never formally broke up, but when the next training cycle came around I emailed her my workout plans for the next week and she never joined me again. It’s been two years and I miss her, but I needed more release and escape during my runs and the new found speed gave that to me. I PRed my next half marathon by over 20 min, but still miss having a training buddy sometimes.

  10. My running buddy and I had a similar experience but didn’t have the courage to formally end it. A co-worker invited herself to start running with us. I know it sounds snarky but with kids, work and rearranging our schedules for everyone else we just wanted to run together — without a third wheel. Besides, our stalker tried to insist we run in the mornings (something the two of us loathe), talked really loud through our neighborhood miles (often talking about the people who lived in the houses we were close to) and when we ran on narrow sidewalks there wasn’t enough room for three so someone (usually my friend or I) had to run in the street. We were cowards and just started making excuses and then running without her. It was awkward for a while (especially if we saw her while running) but it just kind of worked itself out. I completely understand your frustration — our experience taught me that I can “just deal with” so many things on a daily basis but I’m not going to compromise when it comes to running.

  11. I too had a male “friend” who I ran with for years. I was married with a child, but would show up on Sundays to do a long run with me and then wold come back later for dinner and hang out with us. When I ended up getting a divorce he “wooed” me by sending me presents in the mail, anonymously, altho I knew who it was. I put the presents in a box, put them on his porch with a note saying “this is ending” and it did. I never thought of him as “romantic” material….he was a running buddy! Two different animals! Glad you are still talking…we do too if we happen to “run” into each other ! On another note, I started mountain biking at age 50 and LOVE it still (I am now 61!)

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