As much as I love running with my husband, I have an irrational fear that he will want to push me down a hill in efforts of keeping up a good pace. Whilst he hasn't applied that pressure onto me yet, it reminds me of the worries that exist as a back of the pack runner.
Unlike most of my friend list on Instagram, my husband had to wake me up two minutes before the start of the New Year. It's my lovely 30s kicking my ass and reminding me that I could give two bits of a damn about staying awake long enough to watch the ball drop. Our family friend Joanna, my son EJ, husband and I had a celebratory drink - and the kid had sparkling cider - before I was ready to call it a night. An exhausted Eric grew irritated about my line of questioning about what time we would go for our training run; he finally agreed that he'd wake up at whatever ungodly hour I was ready to go. Whenever a spouse says something like this to you, it's a polite way of them telling you to please shut the hell up and leave them alone. In my heart, I wanted to be a jerk and wake him for o'dark thirty; instead my body knew better and waited until after 8AM.
Slow AF Twitch Meets Fast Twitch
So I Threw My Husband Into a Half Marathon with Three Weeks of Training: A Sadistic Runner's Love Story
Slight background about my husband Eric: He was a sprinter around the time that we met in high school. Eric's body was lean, covered with a pile of sexy leg hair, muscular and had the power to do hurdles at a speed that I could only manage if I was chasing down the ice cream truck when slightly determined to give a damn. Despite suffering an injury due to a callous runner and not running for years, he can still dust me with ease at shorter distances.
Conversely, I am a slow twitch, plus size late bloomer who happened to be tricked into said running and only signed up for my first half marathon in 2014 because of a friend. Prior to this, my only running experience came from chasing down the Mister Softie ice cream truck while pregnant -- and I am not being funny nor ashamed when I make this statement. Ideally it was supposed to be a one and done but somehow I haven't managed to catch onto this thing called quitting thus yet.
After finishing up over 15 marathons, 5 or so ultra marathons (including my first 100K a few months ago) and almost 200 races later, Eric decided to meet me somewhere in the middle and train for a half marathon with me. Quite frankly, I'm looking to talk him into signing up for a full marathon between now and 2020 but I think he's suffering from PTSD from the Brooklyn Half Marathon experience back in May. To make a long story short, I talked my husband into his first half marathon with less than a month's worth of training. And to make matters worse, there was a torrential downpour for the first two hours of the race. Needless to say, he learned that the tortoise and the hare story holds a bit of truth. Spoiler Alert: He survived and we still finished the race despite my warnings to him to start slow as hell.
I told myself that I wouldn't be a sadistic wife this go round and we'd commit to a race together on his terms while I take on my very ambitious calendar: 3 half marathons and 5 full marathons before June. For 2019, I want to pick up my speed simply because I want to see if I can do it. Eric's goal is to finish a half with a drastically better time than before. And what I mean by this is completing a half in 2 hours ideally and nothing longer than 2:30. While I have strong faith in his ability to pull this off at the NYC Half, this makes my back of the pack nerves thrive in the port-a-potty. Comfortably, I am a 13:30/mile and when I was faster, my best half time to date was somewhere around 2:45ish. Every ounce of me wanted to give him a divorce for five minutes but he managed to pull off what I view as practically the impossible simply from following an insane half-assed training plan that I crafted. I owe this much to him and to myself. If it scares you, allow your fears to excite you. Game on.
New Year's Day Doughnut Run
Hubby and I were laced up, bladders emptied and out of the door around 8ish or 9AM. The wind was slightly rude but temperature was unusually warm for New York City in January: A whopping 57 degrees. To adequately train for all of my marathons, I created a base plan to prepare me for the half with Eric in March but created a separate column in my plan that allows me to supplement extra mileage without burning myself out. Our run was scheduled for an 'easy' 3 miler but we opted to run to a vegan doughnut shop that's 2 miles away from home, adding on an extra mile.
Around a mile in, I found myself apologizing to my husband for being significantly slower than him. His long legs and lighter weight made it a bit hard for me to catch up to his pace. Weeks ago, we tested out a five miler together and he quickly realized that I'm not as fast as him but I'd make it my mission to pick up the pace in time to catch up with him. With this in mind, he slowed it down to a solid 12 while running and was respectful to a multitude of walk breaks.
Even with all of my knowledge, I felt guilty and tried to eliminate my excuses. In ways, you don't want to hinder someone else's training but you don't want to injure your body nor pride in the process. Once we reached the doughnut shop, my ankles screamed at me for being pushed at this pace. We took a five minute break in between to order 8 doughnuts for a 'fun breakfast' -- two of which we dusted off for the last two miles back home. When finishing up our run, I felt both connected with my husband but a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to reach this milestone with him. As a slower runner, this pressure exists when you are partnered up with someone in a running group or just running with a friend who considers their 7:45/mi pace 'slow' as they sing Broadway tunes.
How to Survive Running with a Faster/Slower Running Buddy
As much as I made jokes here and there about homicide against my husband during training, the fear of being out of sync with your running partner is very real, especially when you're married or in a relationship with this person. If the slower runner is so drastically behind their running partner, it can turn a joyous run into a mental tragedy, having a light despise for your faster partner or even drawing out arguments. Here's some tips that I'm constantly reminding myself and my husband while embarking on this 12 or so week journey with him:
Transparency is Key
Just like a relationship, you will need to be honest if you want it to survive. Surely there will be days where your running partner will cause a bit of frustration. Maybe they talk too much or you're struggling to breathe through their grumpy attitude of running without a cup of coffee in their system. Whatever happens: Be honest. If you are the slower runner of the two (or four), don't skirt around the topic. Transparency about your current fitness ability is crucial. Your pace will snitch on you once you hit the pavement so why wait until the first few days of lacing up together. And if you are the faster runner, respect their struggle. If you don't think this is feasible or your goals don't match, respectfully decline running with them. Perhaps you really want to run with each other? Great -- welcome to my beautiful hell and follow this:
Bridge the Gap
Your running partner is slower or faster in pace by a long shot but you're going to see it through: INCREDIBLE! Once this conversation is out there, ask yourselves if you want to place a goal on it or if it's simply for company and leisure. Despite my extroverted ways, I love the pressure of not having a running partner most days of the week. It's my way of collecting myself, allowing all of the neurotic thoughts to flow through my brain and I don't have to worry about keeping pace with another person. On the other hand, it gets a bit lonely some days.
My husband and I established that we want to be faster TOGETHER. If you are training for the first time for a race, whether 5K to marathon, realistically your goal may be to just finish. If you are in our situation, establishing a healthy pace is attainable. My fastest pace was hovering somewhere around 12:30ish for a half but I have years of mental grit working for me; my husband knows how to push himself but he's learning the challenges of endurance running versus sprinting. We established a broad range that can shave time off from his first half but allow me to dig deep and accomplish something that I wanted to try. What your range will be with a running partner is up to the two of you.
If a race is not your speed and you're more of a leisure runner, the following could be helpful to you even without a race goal in mind:
Dedicate Certain Days to Partner Running
Eric and I will be doing a bulk of training together but some days will be solo runs. Why? For one, I've been with my husband for almost two decades and we know each other ticks. At some point, I might nag him too much about the garbage not being taken out the house or I might have a moment where I want to be away from my family for a hour. Having a mixture of alone time and partner running is essential because:
Stop Apologizing, Feeling Salty About Your Pace & Beyond
For the next twelve weeks, I will be reminding myself often to stop apologizing about my pace. My husband already know that I'm a slower runner who loves to lift heavy at the gym. He tested out the theory and he respects me. Remember: You chose each other. If your running partner makes you feel inadequate or is taking you on as a sympathy case, perhaps you should look into another running partner. Having a running partner can be an intimate experience for some people. Personally I love being around others who can help build me and I am able to offer the same when the option is there.
As a road and trail runner, I sometimes have conversations with people that I wouldn't dare have with anyone else. Respect the words exchanged on the pavement or trail and treat it like the Vegas experience.
If you find that there's too much pressure of having a real life running partner, get a virtual one. Quite recently, hubby gifted me a sweet Garmin 235 because I kept griping about my FitBit Charge 2 activity tracker. I was loyal to FitBit because of the challenges set in group. They had options like Goal Day, Weekend Warrior and Workweek Hustle. Seeing the alerts made me a bit sad this morning considering I'm not using this watch anymore but I was able to find a similar community with my Garmin app. Challenge an e-buddy in a healthy competition to get a certain amount of steps or run a certain distance. There's a host of online communities and Facebook groups to talk with like-minded people. The Internet can be your friend sometimes if you use it constructively.
Our next scheduled run together are sprint intervals. This is probably going to be his playground and my personal hell. I haven't decided if we're going to head to the track or hit the treadmill for this drill. We both hate the treadmill but it's an option and if on the track, we can keep up with each other's stats and do relay loops.
In two weeks, I'll be doing my first half on the schedule: The Fred Lebow Half Marathon. Thus far, my last marathon within a six month period is the Cleveland Marathon, which I'm excited for since it's my first time participating at this location. I'll be pushing some intense runs on the pavement with my husband and looking forward to spending some runcations together. We're heading to New Orleans and Tokyo in February and March for the Humana Rock n Roll NOLA Marathon and Tokyo Marathon. Training abroad will be interesting but I think this experience together is the start of another beautiful layer to our marriage.
Psst. Hey you! Yes YOU. If you need a bit of personal motivation and want to drag your running partner along, why not sign up for the Cleveland Marathon. Use my code LS2019 to save 10 percent off any distance -- and yeah, this includes the Challenge Series!
I wish I had known you were running (my cousin and I did the half) and I would have liked to have met you. You are a great source of inspiration that I, too, am an athlete.
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Latoya Shauntay Snell
For my pretentious ass bio, check out the about me page but for anyone interested in who I really am, make me a good meal at your house and I'll tell you a dope ass story.
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