Running is a fulfilling hobby, but it can be a tough one. If you don’t run, you may not realize your partner or close friend is facing a whole rollercoaster of emotions every time they go out (from elation to mind-numbing boredom), or that their pastime really does a number on their body—bruised toenails, anyone?
What’s clear, though, is that they’re working hard, and they would probably appreciate some support from home. So here are some suggestions from Redditors on the r/running sub.
Listen to them complain
The first rule of running club is that you never shut up about running club. The runner in your life is going to have a lot to say—although many runners think they’ll bore their partner with the running talk (so if they don’t say anything, ask).
If they’re going out for a run or just came back from one, safe questions are “how many miles?” and “How are you feeling?” Sit back and listen to them regale you with tales of their mile splits, which body parts were hurting, or anything else they might want to talk about.
Several of the runners and partners on the thread noted that just showing interest is the most important thing. Runners know they are probably boring you. They appreciate that you listen anyway.
Let them sleep
A runner who puts in a lot of miles is a runner who needs to sleep, a lot. That often translates to early bedtimes, especially if they get up early to run. As one redditor points out:
Hearing an encouraging message from my husband instead of “come on, one more episode!” or similar pleas for me to stay up with him at night mean so much!!
Similarly, a runner may feel exhausted after a particularly long or hard run. If they’re training for a marathon, it’s likely they’ll be running all Saturday morning and then need a nap Saturday afternoon. You’ll be their hero if you can watch the kids or take care of other obligations so they can sleep.
Do the driving
Runners need to go places, just like the rest of us, but their legs are usually tired. Several runners noted in the thread that they appreciate when their partner does the driving, and this means even more on race day:
She’s also my chauffeur to and from races. So I can get some fuel in on the way and she’s there at the finish line.
Driving duties are also appreciated on long run day. If the runner in your life needs to cover a certain segment of their upcoming race course, or even if they get bored running loops over and over, they may appreciate you dropping them off at their starting point so that they can run home (or to a second car).
Accept with the time commitment
By far the most important thing several runners noted is just that their partner doesn’t mind the time they spend away from home. If they do short runs, this may mean a few mornings or evenings each week they need to take the time to get out there for half an hour. Your support here may just amount to being okay with a late dinner, or doing some of the morning chores by yourself while they’re out on the trail.
If they’re training for a longer race, the time commitment is even greater. It’s not unusual for a marathoner to have weekend runs that stretch to three or more hours, and then there’s that post-race nap. It sucks to feel guilty about the time you’re taking; if your partner can reassure you that they are okay with the time commitment and just want you to succeed, that’s a huge load off a runner’s mind.
Besides naps, runners appreciate other forms of self-care. If you can draw a bath for them, that’s great; one redditor mentioned that their partner will start a fire in the fireplace on cold winter days.
But by far the most mentioned favor in this department was massages. Learn what your runner likes, but it’s common to enjoy massages of the feet and lower legs.
Surprise them with little gifts
Runners go through a lot of snacks and small pieces of equipment. Pay attention to what they like, and buy extra to keep them stocked up. Some of the things to consider:
- Gels or other snacks that they eat while running
- Favorite breakfasts or post-run meals
- Socks, the good ones.
- Electrolyte drinks, or their tab or powder equivalents
The shoes should be the same kind they already wear, and/or specific shoes that they’ve tried on and mentioned wanting to get. Runners can get very picky about their shoes, for good reason. But they also go through a lot of shoes over the years, so if you’ve noticed they always run in Brooks Ghosts, keep an eye out for when Ghosts are on sale.
Cheer for them on the course
Most runners appreciate support at the finish line and on the course. (The exception would be those few weirdos who run for “me” time and wish this to extend even to race day; don’t surprise your runner at the finish line unless you know for sure they’d like that.)
For a short race, like a 5K, race day support means taking them to the start line, making sure they have all their stuff, holding their jacket or wallet while they run, and being there to yell your head off as they come back to the finish line. Then refer to the tips on massages, driving duty, and naps.
For a longer race, like a marathon or a half-marathon, plan ahead and see how many places you can show up on the course. Employing a bicycle or making strategic use of subways can help you get from point to point easily and quickly; find your runner by knowing their pace and start time or just by watching your runner’s location in a tracking app (like Google Maps or Strava’s Beacon feature). If you can hold up a funny sign and make them laugh in the midst of their suffering, that’s the best.