Health

A Runner Shares How She Reached Peace With An Unsupportive Partner

Here is how one runner stays positive about running and racing without the support of the most important person in her life.

life partner
The author and her husband.

One of the comments I get most often, after someone reads my blog is, “Your husband must be so proud of you!” I immediately feel a familiar pit in my stomach and, for a split second, I fantasize about telling them the truth. How would someone react if I told them he couldn’t care less about my running and racing, that he rarely comes (or brings our kids) to any of my races and is way more likely to utter something like, “Don’t you think you’re doing too much?” than “Great job! I’m so proud of you.”

In the 10 years my husband and I have been married, he has come to only a handful of my races. Most often, he shows up just at the finish line and promptly asks how soon we can leave. He has complained about how hot, tired and/or annoyed he is when he sees me, which is just after I have crossed the finish line of a marathon or triathlon.

Racing while on vacation is out of the question.

Taking time away from our family on the weekends to run, bike or swim is met with eye rolls, sighs and snide comments.

Having him bike next to me for a long run is in the same realm of possibility as me qualifying for the Olympics.

If you’re thinking I race an exorbitant amount, think again. This past year I raced three half marathons and five triathlons for a total of eight events. The USA Triathlon National Championships in Omaha was the only one he came to, since we used it as a weekend getaway from the kids.

I used to dream about having a partner who would make a big sign with my name on it and be at three or four different locations on a race course, cheering me on, ringing a cowbell with reckless abandon and smiling big. I would secretly hope he would surprise me with my kids at a finish line of a big race or get really excited about an accomplishment I had worked so hard to attain. After all, he has a front row seat to just how hard I work every single day toward my athletic goals yet, he seems to barely notice and, if he does, it’s usually in a negative way.

Sometime around my fourth marathon, I stopped wishing he would be someone he is not. I turned my focus inward, to what I was made of, and instead of pouring energy into him I directed my energy toward running friends, bloggers, and other family members who already did all of the things I was searching for.

Making those changes was definitely not easy and, I would be lying if I said there are times it doesn’t still sting, but I have learned to live with it and, dare I say, even enjoy it. Here’s how:

Communication

I have always been very honest about how I would like him to support me. We have had countless conversations and yes, some screaming matches about it, and I have learned a lot about both of our needs.

Relationships in general, and marriages especially, are hard work. I cannot stress enough the importance of communication and asking for what you want. Don’t ever assume your significant other knows what kind of support you want, and this is especially true if you’re with someone who doesn’t run! Sometimes you have be really clear and ask for what you need.

Planning

The best part about having a partner who doesn’t race or run is that you’re not competing for time out on the roads or who is running a marathon this year or who needs to skip a run to watch the kids.

I have to be very strategic about my training on the weekends but, I do whatever it takes (which is usually getting up insanely early!) to get my workouts in and balance running with weekend family commitments.

Over the years I have learned it can be a beautiful thing to not have your kids at the finish line. Once I have my finisher’s medal, I don’t have to worrying about my little ones pawing and whining at me and I can take my time to do what I need—drink a “recovery” beer, stretch and hang out with friends. By the time I get home I have eaten, stretched and had plenty of “me time” so I’m present, happy and relaxed.

Think Outside The Box

If you think about it, there are probably several other people in your life who would be happy to cheer you on at a race or bring your kids. Over the years I have had family members bring my boys and, one of my aunts is a staple at all my races!

Turn to your running friends, blogging tribe or connect with a local running group to get your supportive fix. Being among like-minded runners who understand everything from fueling to chafing and know to bring toilet paper on long runs, is really all you need.

Give and Take

My husband is not big into fitness but he does run his own company that he built from the ground up. If I’m being honest, I haven’t always supported or celebrated his career achievements the way they deserved to be.

Take a real interest in your partner’s activities or work accomplishments and you may see some support in return. Remember that it goes both ways.

Bottom Line

I have come to love and accept my husband’s support of my running and racing for what it is. I ask for what I need or want but I take what I can get. Ultimately, I run for myself and I’m grateful to not have to deal with a partner who does the same activities I do.

If you put your time and energy into the people who will support and understand your running needs, you can focus on other things with your partner, and just be satisfied with running and life as separate entities.

Do you think it’s important to have a supportive running partner? Let us know your thoughts!