Dating a Runner
by RAC member Justine McGonagle
The athlete and the non-athlete can be compatible, even though their interests are not the same. The athlete in my life is a triathlete who ran for over 10 years. I am an occasional jogger, exercising purely for vanity. What is a typical day like for such an unlikely couple? My boyfriend gets up at the crack of dawn to swim. Upon waking, the first thought in his mind is whether the pool will feel warm or cold when he dives in. I get up wondering which coffee shop I should go to - the one with the sweet bread or the one with the bagels?
After our individual morning rituals, we both go off to work. I crawl in, invigorated solely by a caffeine buzz, while he is refreshed by the endorphins from a one-hour swim workout.
When he gets to work, his athlete's pursuit of food begins. It is a slow progression, a type of crawl down the food chain. He works his way from banana to egg sandwiches, to any food his coworkers inadvertently leave unattended. Eating is a constant throughout the day. For me, eating is a calculated event, a measurement of meals, a social occasion.
After work, it's time for his daily 10-mile run. I occasionally go with him. I sprint off while in his view, smiling and thinking, "If I just make it to the next building and turn the corner, I'll be out of sight. Then I can go window shopping."
He warms up at a pace matching my full-out sprint. I know he will continue for miles, while I will run one mile and make it into six antique stores. When I am in an area where our paths may cross, I keep a watchful eye out for him. In places where we may run into each other, I run like a gazelle with the wind at her back.
After a bit, we both return home, having accomplished our missions - he, a serious workout and me, three stores, six items on hold and a quick glance through three magazines at the local bookstore.
Dating an athlete doesn't end with the workouts. You gain a whole new appreciation for time. A minute ceases to be a minute and becomes a measurement of how much training went into creating the difference of one minute in a race.
Dating an athlete broadens your horizons. When I first met him, he would talk about times with me while I listened in a daze. I must have asked him 50 times what a PR was and could he go over one more time the world records for various events? Now I know what a four-minute mile means to a runner - and to the rest of the world.
Dating an athlete means he will have friends who share his athletic pursuits. When they get together, they reminisce about workouts and race times. One will say, "Remember Doc? He did a 3:57 his senior year in Florida." Another pipes up like an old man remembering the glories of his youth, "Yeah, but I killed him by four seconds at the state meet."
The conversation goes on while I enter into a daydream, wondering if I could even run a 12-minute mile. I think maybe if the antique store was about to close...
While my friends and I gather to dine at restaurants or go to clubs to dance, my boyfriend and his friends gather to hold sports events. A group of his college running friends annually re-race each other at The Battle of the Not-So-Super Stars. Each year, those who are no longer able to maintain the daily workouts are able to revisit the compet-itive element they once shared.
Unfortunately, having an athlete for a boyfriend or girlfriend and not being one can cause the non-athlete to wonder if the athlete would prefer to date one of their own kind. It would be a relationship with another who also thought daily about workouts, beating their current times and how to get rid of obstacles that might prevent them from missing a training session.
I try to convince myself that my boyfriend wouldn't want a hard-bodied woman who could talk endlessly about her ability to run a mile under four minutes. I try not to imagine him locking eyes with her as she quotes her fabulous pace numbers to his friends, while he beams with pride.
In defense, I'm forced to focus on things his dream date wouldn't have time for. She wouldn't have the time to drag him to the latest art exhibits or eclectic improvisational comedy theatre. She'd never read him poetry in bed.
In my dreams, she would aspire to professional status and he would grow tired of the echoes of his own pursuits in someone so close. Also, in the dream, I would have a firm, athletic body, developed through my dedication to antique store shopping.
What are the advantages of dating an athlete? Balance. Dating an athlete lets me peer into a life of discipline and focus, one that I admire and am inspired by. The value of focus and discipline takes on a meaning that is carried over into my hobbies. I have become a very disciplined antique shopper: racing from store to store.