It Takes Two: Train For A Race Without Hating Your More-Athletic Partner

by Emily Arata

Months ago, I made what initially seemed like a major mistake by signing up to run a half-marathon alongside my longtime boyfriend.

We're a team in everyday life, so I figured crossing a finish line together shouldn't be difficult. But as it turns out, I underestimated our athletic differences.

With legs nearly half a foot longer than my own, he pounds out miles with the ease of a champion. Although he claims running makes him miserable, it seems as if his feet barely graze the ground between steps.

On the other hand, my hard-won footsteps land with all the plodding force of an elephant stampede. I drag myself through the motions by sheer determination, praying that the chafing of my thighs will cease to burn.

Blasting Usher is my only cure for the pre-marathon blues, and it's become my ally. I brought this Herculean task upon myself, signing up for a race alongside a competitive former high school athlete.

But as the race's start line draws closer on my calendar, I've begun to develop a few theories about how not to resent your partner for their athleticism. That includes my daily mantra: fitness isn't representative of your relationship.

In both exercise and dating, true success comes from prioritizing and communicating. Follow this guide, and you both will get to the finish line in one piece.

Admit the habits that drive you both insane.

You love your partner, but he or she has certain habits that make you feel as if you're biting your tongue so hard it actually might come off. That's fair, because you're two humans that spend countless hours together.

Instead of burying your instant flash of rage every time he teasingly tugs your ponytail during a training run, bring it out into the open. Do you want to be stuck with sore follicles all the way up until the finish line?

If you're frank about the habits you absolutely can't stand, and your partner is the same way, you'll make a stronger training team.

One caveat: This isn't the moment to remind your partner about the time they inadvertently offended your parents on a family trip. Just focus on what will impact your training.

Recognize each other's strengths.

Now that you've dealt with the initial annoyances, it's time for some positive reinforcement. Working as a team means entering into some athletics-induced couples therapy and acknowledging your best qualities when it comes to long-term commitment.

I'm not talking about exchanging wedding rings (yikes!), but rather recognizing that you're in for the long haul. The training period for a half-marathon spans three months, but your particular run may be even longer.

My particular forte lies in setting goals and keeping schedules, so I'm always the first to send out a reminder text about going running. My boyfriend, on the other hand, can't plan to save his life.

Instead, he's incredible at setting himself a steady pace and sticking to it — I call him “the human metronome.” Pairing our talents together, we're twice as good as we would be alone. It's important to be cognizant of that fact.

Set milestones, then conquer them — together.

I can't run distances with ease and my boyfriend can't drag himself to go run every other day. But, that's not slowing us down.

We love the Nike+ Running app, which records the distances of each trek on a leader board. When I ran three miles, he topped me at four later in the week. I huffed and puffed up to five, and left it to him to beat my record. We're currently at a seven-mile distance, together.

Breaking up your training period into more manageable chunks serves a dual purpose: it makes you both feel as if you're making progress while keeping you in sync. Even if one of you can't run for a week, the other will wait before moving ahead.

Don't get discouraged if you're less athletic than your partner — he or she respects you enough to maintain a training schedule with you in mind.

Connect during cross-training intervals.

I'll be honest: running with others doesn't hold a lot of appeal for me. My running Nirvana often occurs totally by accident, somewhere between the thudding beats of a club banger and the green running paths of the park by home.

While groups of talkative women hit the trails together with enthusiasm, I'd much rather empty my brain and push my body further.

Coordinating schedules, too, can be a pain since I'd rather lace up my shoes in the early evening when he's often still stuck at the office. In short, you don't often catch me running with my boyfriend.

If you can't run with your one and only, you sure can cross-train together and strengthen your strides. Using core-stabilizing partner drills like leg throws, craft a routine you can crank out together once or twice a week at the gym.

Check in with one another about the race prep, and adjust your plan of attack based on what's working. It's gym time and date night rolled up in one.

Make crossing the finish line into a celebration.

Once you've finally pounded across the race's finish line, do more than just pat one another on the back. Treat the end of the half-marathon like Valentine's Day, because it's a chance to appreciate how far you've come together.

Whether that means popping champagne in the winner's circle or dropping into an all-day brunch together, remember that it took more than just athleticism to finish those endless miles.

Don't underestimate this milestone. Not only did you just complete a race, but you also did it as partners.