In a perfect world, everyone would support our goals and any efforts we take to improve ourselves. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.
A Facebook acquaintance recently posted a question in a running group I follow. She had asked her husband if she could register for a half marathon. He flat-out said no. He cited money, time, child care and a few other reasons. She was not allowed to run the race that she dreamed of doing. Her question to the group was: When should she give up on her dream? Was it worth it to try to still make it happen?
Her question made me profoundly sad for so many reasons. I’ll leave aside the one-sidedness of a relationship where a husband had the final say and a veto of the activities she pursues. I won’t pretend to have any expertise there.
But I have known some runners who have experienced (much) less extreme versions of her story. Spouses, family members or friends who don’t like, don’t understand or don’t approve of their running and training.
When Loved Ones Don’t Support Your Running
Maybe they are concerned about the time it takes. Or the money race entries cost. Of child care. Or they may be concerned that you will be spending so much time apart from each other while you train.
Friends and family may not even be aware of it, but they may not want you to set goals and achieve your dreams because it will make them feel bad for not pursuing their own goals.
What’s a runner to do?
Do They Matter?
Not everyone needs to understand or approve of your running or training.
If a co-worker or casual friend questions you on why you are running or training, engage them if you want, but pick your battles. They don’t need to understand what you are doing or why.
However, your spouse or other close family members who will be directly impacted by your training should be on board.
You may not be around as much for them, or you may need to cut back on your participation (temporarily) with household chores.
These are the people who should support you and help you in your training.
Don’t just dig your heels in (tempting as it may be). Actually talk to the person and listen to what they have to say.
What are their concerns? Why do they not want you to run?
And here is the key: Actually listen.
Do your best to understand their concerns from their point of view.
Explain Your Why
Know your why.
Why do you want to run this marathon, or that half-marathon, or the local 5k fun run?
Whatever your goal is, know why it means so much to you.
Then explain your why to your person and how achieving your goal will positively impact your life.
If you can, explain why you accomplishing your goal will improve their life too.
Find Areas For Compromise
When you understand their concerns from their point of view, some potential solutions or areas for compromise may appear.
For example, if their concern is you missing out on some family events, see if you can re-arrange your training to be available on certain days or for a weekly family dinner.
If the concern is money, see if there are races nearby that offer free or discounted entries to people who volunteer at races. Can childcare can be swapped with other mother runners in the area.
Is It Just The Timing?
After listening to their concerns, determine if their concerns will always exist, or if there is something about this specific timing.
Is this just the wrong time for you to be training for a race?
There may be areas for compromise if the timing is off for a particular training cycle. For example, if training for a spring marathon will conflict with kids sports team practices, maybe a fall marathon will not have the same issues.
If you can, compromise by changing your target race to one that will address the timing concerns of your loved one.
Get Them Involved
If the concern is spending time apart, try to get them involved with your training.
If you can get them involved in running, that would be ideal! But even if they detest running, getting them involved in some role may minimize their possible feelings of alienation.
Have them bike along with you on long runs. Have the kids help by making mileage tracking charts or similar art projects.
This isn’t directly tied to your running but can be important to a healthy relationship: Be aware of the role you play in the activities they want to participate in.
Make sure you support them in their activities, even if you don’t understand why it’s important to them or why they’d want to do it.
Fair is fair, after all.