Separate and Together
Neither of us were runners until 10 years ago. Our running origins overlap, but are not the same. Today, we generally run similar days/times, but rarely together given our different paces and weekly mileage goals. But when you’re married for 21 years, running separately is a good thing! Our evolution, from 30-minute-treadmill jogs to training for distance and then marathons, has taught us much about life, ourselves and each other while helping us grow as a couple.
I am a self-proclaimed klutz who always preferred books to sports. About ten years ago, a friend challenged me to run a 10K with her. We lived in separate cities so we trained together “virtually” – before virtual races were a thing – and then ran the race together in person. The next challenge was a half marathon. I loved being outside and having measurable results, getting faster and going further with each run. I was hooked!
I never realized how goal oriented I was until I started setting race targets and then training for the race. Once I had a training plan on paper, I committed to every single workout. I think Marc was pretty surprised when I set my first half marathon goal, but he was supportive in every way possible! When I traveled for my first goal race, he snuck one of my favorite treats and a note of support into my luggage.
When Marc decided to train for his first half marathon, I was a little surprised; going long and slow didn’t seem his style. But once he was committed, nothing about his training approach surprised me. I just hoped he enjoyed it as much as I did!
Marc’s commitment to running upped the ante for me and his motivation is contagious. It’s really hard to sit on the couch and watch TV while he is foam rolling and lacing up his sneakers. The pint of ice cream may be calling my name, but him asking, “Are you running anytime soon?” is even louder. I love to sleep in on weekends, but when Marc opens the curtains and comments, “it’s gonna be hot today; get out and beat the heat,” sleeping in loses its appeal. “Nap later” has become one of my mantras.
After Stefanie’s first half marathon in Dallas, she signed up for the MORE Shape Women’s Half in 2012. I was so impressed by her commitment and effort as I watched from the sidelines. Occasionally chasing her to get pictures, while trying to catch my breath, I wondered, “how the hell is she doing this?” I was also really inspired; “if she can do it, I can do it!” Soon we were signing up for half marathons together, but very much running our own races, thrilled to find each other at the finish. Then in 2018, I was offered a spot on Team TCS for the NYC Marathon with my work colleagues - I couldn’t refuse!
Going into my first marathon, Stefanie helped me plan to increase my running days and miles, even fitting in my first 18 mile run while vacationing in Iceland. She had breakfast waiting for me when I got back from those long runs and knew how to feed my belly and my spirit. Her support was incredible and taught me how to be more supportive in our relationship and of her running goals.
Stefanie and I can talk about our running splits, fueling, registering for races and injuries endlessly. I imagine a non-running partner could only feign interest half as long and eventually their eyes would glaze over listening to me. During the pandemic, when we did so much together at home, it was often the one topic that wasn’t exhausted by the end of the day.
Incorporating running into vacations is something I never would have predicted. It started on the Iceland trip, but since then, we’ve run in Morocco and on local trips. We even pick destinations with consideration of suitable running routes. If only one of us were running, the Bridge over the Hudson might not be an appealing get away. With miles of rail trail on either side, some nice restaurants and great views, it’s a destination we agree on.
There are two other things that have surprised me about running with Stefanie. The first is all the stuff. And specifically the “girl stuff” – the engineering behind sports bras has taught me a whole new meaning of what it means to be “supportive.” I didn’t even know the laundry machine had a “delicate” setting. The second thing is how running impacts our social lives. Together, we often decide to sacrifice fun times with non-running friends because of our running. They don’t quite get our sense of commitment to running. “Wanna go for drinks Saturday night?” We often answer “No, we have early runs Sunday morning.” Or, ”Sorry, but we have a race.” Prioritizing running would be much harder if only one of us ran.
Joining the New York Flyers has fostered new friendships. Funny and interesting conversations have resulted from some unlikely pairings of paces and personalities during group runs. We love meeting new people during organized long runs and sharing laughs and bonding over the joys and pains at social gatherings. We still enjoy solitary runs - mostly not together - just not quite as much.
We often say we’ll keep running as long as our bodies allow us to physically do so. But, we’ve learned the mental and emotional aspects are just as important. Nurturing each other with support and encouragement including kudos (outside of Strava) goes a long way. We recognize and respect each others’ efforts, celebrate race results and express empathy when things don’t go right .… All this and more are key tenets we hope will keep us running Separate and Together for a long time to come.
- Marc F and Stefanie F