In Lean In Sheryl Sandberg puts forth the idea that one of the most important decisions a woman can make in her career is who she chooses as her spouse/partner. I happen to believe that the same holds true for ultra running.
Please do not misconstrue this to think I am saying anyone “needs a man” to be an ultra runner, or to do anything for that matter. There are plenty of single women, and even single moms who are crushing it. All I’m saying is that IF you are going to have a partner, WHO that partner is can have a great impact on your running (and vice versa), and I’d like to offer my own story as an example.
My husband has always been supportive of me, but when we got married I was a casual runner with a competitive past and he had no idea what my running was going to morph into. Needless to say, ultrarunning takes A LOT of time, and having someone who is patient and supportive of that is essential. It becomes even more so when kiddos are involved.
Even with early morning rises and doing everything I can to fit my training around a family schedule, it takes extra support on my husband’s part to make it work. That means carrying a lot of the homework/dinner/sports practice responsibility after work while I get workouts in. It also means sometimes having me pass out on the couch as soon as we sit down for movie night, making frequent pit stops on road trips because I’m REALLY hydrated, and carrying ice bags for my ice bath when I’m doing the post-ultra shuffle. He even crewed me at my first 100 miler, and is signed up to crew for my next one.
I’m not suggesting that there’s never tension, that there aren’t situations when time is tight, things aren’t getting done around the house, or we haven’t had the time we need with each other. However, because we’re supportive of each other we’re able to talk through tough times. We’ve also found that scheduling date nights helps to keep us connected. And just like my husband supports my running, I try to show equal support in the things that he’s interested in. It also helps if I keep a realistic approach to my training. While I might dream of 100+ mile weeks and weekend dirt bag adventures, that won’t work for the family. I get in enough miles, but maybe less than I would like. I try to train on trails closer to home, and I plan my running schedule carefully with my husband.
In the end, my husband might not love running, but he loves me and knows that I have a passion for the trails. His willingness to support me extends into supporting the things that I love, and without that support I wouldn’t be able to have the awesome trail running and family life that I love.