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Sole Mates: Runner’s World Feature on Relationships & Running

Runners World Feature

Over the Summer I was approached by Runner’s World to provide my expert opinion on a piece about relationships and running. The individual, JT, outlines his issue first to which I follow with my insights in to what is going on and some tips on how to help the situation move forward. The above photo is the paraphrased advice that was printed in the August edition of the magazine. Enjoy.

The ‘me time’ runner

JT Tyrrell, 45, Ibiza and London

My last serious girlfriend moved out in June 2012, which was when I was able to really focus on my fitness. I started eating six small meals a day – a protein shake, then salmon and broccoli, that kind of thing. It was impossible for me to eat meals like this with her. She loved to cook and every meal had to have dessert, otherwise it ‘wasn’t a proper meal’.

I enjoy my new independence. After recovering from a glutes injury I was ready to get back into running. I am concerned that this new freedom and ability to focus on diet and exercise will make things difficult in future relationships. Honestly, I really can‘t imagine dating someone and showing them what I eat on a daily basis.

Many of my previous girlfriends have been smokers. My last serious partner would have a cigarette with her morning coffee. She found running too challenging. She did give it a go but she was terribly slow, stopping every five minutes. I’ve always met women through nightclubbing, so automatically that’s putting me among a certain group. They become aware of my running, but generally there’s never a question that I’d want them to run with me, as they’re clearly not runners. I had a girlfriend when I trained for my second marathon in 2007, but it wasn’t an issue as I wasn’t living with her. I had my own space, my running world was separate.

I much prefer running alone. I don’t listen to music, I like listening to the world: cars honking, people talking. I’ve always preferred solo sports to team sports. I’m self-employed so I work mostly on my own, so it must be a personality thing.

Now I would love to meet someone who was into running, but she would have to be better than me. I would need the challenge of trying to keep up. But she would also have to prefer running alone, so we could both run by ourselves and just occasionally together. That would work for me. So far I’ve not met anyone remotely like that. Perhaps I need to join a running club. Until that point I think I’d rather be on my own.

Summary of what I thought was going on for JT:

He relates his exercise to vanity and body image, which makes me wonder if his self-esteem is perhaps lower than projected. On a subconscious level, I can’t help but think that in the past he might have been protecting himself by choosing relationships that are unlikely to work for him long term and he therefore does not risk getting hurt, criticised or judged in any form. This could well be carrying on by him setting high, almost unobtainable, expectations and rigid standards for the type of relationship he is now seeking. The fact that he feels a tremendous about of guilt and anxiety when he does not exercise would also point to something a little deeper than what appears on the surface.

On a more basic level my assessment is that his assumptions and expectations of what type of partner he needs are fairly rigid. He is assuming that freedom and independence can only come from being single due to the nature of his past relationships. He is assuming that all women will want to eat together and that his diet will therefore be an issue. He has told himself that he now needs a partner who is better than him to challenge him. Is this a realistic goal? Can he fulfill the need to be challenged without putting that pressure on a partner e.g. through the use of a personal trainer perhaps? He is putting a lot of pressure on a future partner to fulfill his needs. It may be that those needs can be met elsewhere in his life to remove the enormous pressure he places on a future partner to fulfill them, a role which they are unlikely to live up to.

Advice as to what JT, and others in his situation, can do:

Be flexible and open minded in your thinking. In the right relationship, freedom and independence can be had. Be creative and curious as to how a relationship might work alongside your exercise and diet routine. You can still have your goals, you might just need to obtain them through a different approach that works for you both. Joining a running club is a great idea but be open minded when meeting new potential partners; try not to write them off straight away if their story doesn’t match yours. The more flexible you are willing to be, the more likely the relationship will work. You might both need to be independent but the most important thing to ascertain is that you have the same values and priorities e.g. healthy eating being more important than eating together. Online dating is also a great thing to try as you can set your search criteria to exactly what you’re looking for. Remember to approach relationships as a give and take scenario; there always needs to be room for compromise. What would you be willing to do differently in order to make the relationship work better for both of you?

Alice Stapleton

About Alice

Alice coaches those who want to change career but don’t know what they want to do instead. She offers Career Coaching designed to help graduates, early career-changers, and parents returning to work gain a clear vision of what career is right for them, and how to achieve it.