Two’s company – not a battle of wills
How many couples can honestly say they find it easy to run, cycle or do sport with their other half?
For most people the opposite is true. It is hard not to fall out with your partner, husband or wife because there is so often mix of pride, frustration and competition – as well as love – in relationships. Many of us don’t seem to be able to hold back from telling our loved ones just what we think of them half-wheeling us or running hard up a hill ahead of us.
However, I was determined to find a few couples who could show the rest of us how to do it. I wrote this article for Running magazine. There are plenty of tips, as well as three inspiring stories. Read the story below or the pdf.
How to run in harmony
I would love to be able to run with my partner – but it’s almost impossible. While we generally finish races in a similar time, when we try to train together we fall out.
He thinks I start my training runs too slowly – and then speed up half way through making it difficult for him to keep up. I accuse him of the opposite, racing off like a hare at the start but then exhausting himself to a plod.
My runner girlfriends have similar complaints: “My husband is too fast, impatient, competitive and inconsistent.”
Meanwhile, male running pals moan: “My wife gets annoyed whether I run with her, behind her or just in front. And when I try a few words of encouragement, she snarls at me.”
For many couples, it appears that running together is more a battle of wills than a harmonious affair.
It does seem odd though because most people find that can enjoy an argument-free run with friends, regardless of gender and even if they have different paces.
One keen ultra runner told me: “It’s so different when I run with a friend, compared to with my husband.
“I would never think to tell a friend they were running too slowly or annoying me by speeding up hills ahead of me.
“It’s just that, with my husband, I don’t worry about telling him what I think. If he is running to fast and making me feel slow I tell him it’s annoying me.
“If he tries to give me advice I just get so irritated. I have no idea why this happens because we get on well in others areas of our life. It’s just the running.”
Yet it doesn’t have to be like this. There is a rare breed of couples who can run in harmony. We tracked down three pairs to find out how they do it.
“We make a date to run”
Evie Serventi, the deputy editor of Running magazine, and her fiance Grant Pirie, 49, first met after they bumped into each other while running to work.
They became running friends and got together as a couple three years later in 2012.
Evie, 44, reveals they have never argued while running together, whether as friends or partners, and they see a run more as a “date”.
She says: “We look forward to running together because it’s a chance to catch up on chat and to spend time with each other at the weekends.
“The week days can be so busy so it’s those Saturday and Sunday runs that we focus on doing together.”
The couple do not take a watch with them and they choose scenic routes near their home in Kent.
Evie, who is also a qualified sports psychologist, says: “We enjoy the outing rather than being worried about it being a timed training session.
“Running is how we met and it’s how we have always enjoyed spending time together.”
The couple, who became engaged last September on a beach in Evie’s native Australia, do have different running speeds.
Evie says: “At the moment, Grant is fitter than me and he has better endurance but he doesn’t mind if we run at my slightly slower pace when we’re together.
“He’s really only competitive with himself and not with me. And I’m not at all competitive.”
When Grant, an accountant, does want to gain some training miles they plan a run to suit them both.
Evie says: “It might be that Grant runs to a place where I can drive and park the car. Then we run a route together. Or we start at different places and run to meet each other before running a route together.
“We try to adapt our running to suit whatever we’re each raining for but when we run together the aim is for it to be time for us. Running is a total tonic for both of us.”
“Running is our adventure time”
Scottish ultra runners Katie Hall and Graham Kelly also met through running. Katie, 36, cheekily tugged Graham’s beard as she run past him while taking part in the 53-mile Hoka Highland Fling race on the West Highland Way.
Graham, 48, was injured and unable to race and while that day in April 2015 started with disappointment it turned out to be the first of a runners’ love match.
Ever since, the couple have been almost inseparable and believe they are fortunate to share a passion for running.
Katie and Graham see running as an adventure and take off every weekend in their campervan to explore new places in Scotland.
Their holidays have a running focus, too, and they plan trips to coincide with ultra events or to run routes of races they have supported at, such as the Tour du Mont Blanc.
Katie, a fitness instructor, says: “Most of our running is about the adventure. We love to see new places and we like to do so on foot.
“We plan as many campervan trips as we can and then head into the hills or along a trail on foot each day.”
The couple have a fairly similar running pace although Graham is faster at shorter distances and uphills, while Katie has better endurance.
Graham, a project manager, says: “We can run together quite well but as soon as a race goes over 50 miles that’s where Katie wins. She is mentally much stronger than me.
“Most of the time though we seem to be able to run at a similar speed.”
In training, Graham is content to run according to Katie’s programme. She says: “During the week I will probably do my own training sets and reps and I like to follow a plan.
“If Graham decides to run with me he is happy to do what I have planned. He never has a training schedule to follow.
“Then, at weekends, it’s all about the fun side of running. If I can do my training sets on the weekdays, I am happy to run according to Graham’s ideas. He always suggests great adventures and I’m very happy to join him.”
The couple also support each other at races. Graham says: “We each take pride in offering support to each other for races. I feel so proud to see Katie doing well and she is the same if I am racing.
“It might sound a bit loved up and clichéd but we love to see each other doing well and if we can play a part in that it makes us both happy.”
The marathon addicts
Laura and Alex Penny are both 36 and have been together since they were at school. Non-runners for the first decade of their relationship, the married couple are now both members of the prestigious 100 Marathon Club.
Impressively, they are the youngest couple in the UK to run 100 marathons each and hope to become Guinness World Record holders of the same accolade.
Running marathons is their hobby and almost every weekend they are in a new place completing another 26.2-mile event.
“We even plan holidays so we can take in a few marathons, such as last year when we did two marathons, Zurich and Salzburg, during a week away in Europe,” says Alex.
When racing, the couple from Buckinghamshire have a different pace with Alex’s marathon PB a 3:10 marathon and Laura’s a 3:49. Yet the still enjoy running together and often compete alongside each other.
Laura says: “Sometimes we do like to do our own thing in a marathon and while we will start together we’ll then agree to finish the race at our own pace.
“But we’re still running the same race, enjoying the social side of the event and supporting each other where we can.
“Then, when it comes to off-road marathons or races that require navigation we run these side by side. Alex is a good navigator and we prefer to stay together for these races. I find he is very supportive of me and encourages me to keep going.”
Laura and Alex also have a harmonious solution for shorter, faster training sessions.
Alex says: “We both belong to the same club, Buckingham and Stowe Running Club, where I am a coach.
“We find it’s possible to run in the same group because we tend to do fartleks or hill reps and we might do those at different speeds but we are still together as part of the club.”
In fact, the couple seem amazed when I suggest that many other running couples fall out.
Laura says: “I think that because we both love the same sport, and neither of us is competitive with the other, and maybe because we don’t have children so we have a lot of time to indulge our hobby, we just don’t have a reason to fall out.
“We both feel very fortunate to be able to run and we are very supportive of each other. Perhaps we are unusual, but I can’t see why we would argue when running.”
It would be great to hear from other couples how the run in harmony – or not!