How to date a triathlete/marathon runner/endurance junkie.

1. Don’t.

Just kidding. In fact, endurance junkies are some of the most quality people around. All of those hours spent alone with ourselves in the meditative realm of Zone 2 really forces us to think about things like who we are, what we believe in, the meaning of life, what we’re going to eat immediately when we get home, and other critical themes.

But it’s not as simple as run, rinse, repeat. Being a true endurance junkie is a lifestyle. It’s a state of mind. For many of us, training makes us better people every day. It serves us in ways other people or experiences have not or cannot. And so we find ourselves caught up in a committed relationship, legs intertwined with the goddess of multisport.

As I once (perhaps mistakenly) told a past boyfriend: “You may be my boyfriend, but triathlon is my husband.”

Needless to say, this did not go over very well. I was mostly kidding, but I think we both knew it to largely be true. He replied with some snarky comment about “time spent in the saddle,” which I actually recall being quite clever and pun-ny.

This past summer and fall, in an attempt to unearth just what it is that makes us endurance junkies so “un-datable,” I conducted a rather unscientific social experiment: I went on 21 dates in 21 weeks, with 21 non-endurance athletes (a.k.a. “normal people”). Here’s what I discovered to be the top most misunderstood aspects of the endurance junkie’s lifestyle.

1. Most of us are introverts. Sure, we may be the life of the party on the rare occasions we are out socializing. We may seem extroverted because of our tendency to be outgoing when others are around. But don’t be fooled. Usually that’s just the endorphins talking. Or the fact that eventually, we need to balance out our 90% alone time with some human contact. Either way, just be prepared for someone who likes to be a bit of a lone wolf. It takes a certain type to spend hours alone running and cycling, and that certain type usually has a penchant for solitude that may be disturbing to others.

2. Please, please, please don’t make us stay out late with you. Our idea of “going out” involves literally going outdoors on foot or bicycle, preferably in the wee hours of Saturday morning when the rest of the world is sleeping off an impending hangover. If you make us stay out late with you at some sub-par Mexican restaurant, and hence compromise the quality or timing of our planned weekend long run/ride, we will resent you. And eat all the chips and salsa without regard for the others at the table. Consider yourself warned.

3. We WILL spend more time swimming, biking, and running, than with you. Sorry. It’s not that we don’t like you, it’s just that, well, we like SBR better.

4. Vacations, dates, and trips centered around doing something physical and rugged are incredibly hot. Especially if you can keep up/only if you can keep up.

5. Please don’t make comments about our choice of dress. We got up at 3:30 am and ran 54 miles today, so yes, it’s gonna be another sweatpants day.

6. Please don’t make comments about the state of our feet, or the strange rashes on our backs and butts. Listen, I’ve been working on those calluses for years. And brush burn can happen to the best of us. It’s a badge of honor. Now hand me my body butter.

7. It’s really, honestly, seriously not about the bike. Some multisport “hobbyists”, as I like to call them, are really just into gear: flashy bikes, fancy moisture-wicking apparel, gravity-defying running shoes. I think those folks are in the minority though. Really, for most of us, it’s about the process. The bike is just a vehicle for personal growth and change.

8. …but if you HAVE to give us a gift, give us a bike! Okay, maybe not a bike (has anyone looked at the price tags on those things these days? Insane!), but something we can use to make ourselves more comfortable, efficient, and/or entertained while slogging it out there. As they say, carbon fiber is a girl’s best friend. Or is it only me who says that? Meh.

9. We probably finished off that entire box of cereal. SORRY. It takes a lot of fuel to power through several hours of cardio exercise every day. Or at least, so we tell ourselves. If you bring it to our attention that downing an entire box of Product 19 in a day is gross, we will feel sad, misunderstood and self conscious. So just don’t go there.

10. No run = cranky + moody. I once saw a t-shirt at a local running shop that had the words “NO RUN = CRANKY + MOODY” printed on it in large block print. I felt relieved that clearly, I was not the only one to have experienced this phenomenon. Now where can I find a cute guy sporting said shirt?

11. We’re geeks for numbers. A lot of triathlon lingo is centered around numbers, figures, and calculations. Do we expect you to understand when we toss around terms like “max cadence,” “wattage,” “millimeter offset,” and “Yasso 800s“? Yes, yes we do.

12. Yes, we are capable of love. We just show it differently. Here’s my theory, which is loosely based on my associations with triathlete and marathoning friends over the years: we just have a different sense of relativity, slightly different tolerance for solitude and independence, and frequently a radically different neurohormonal profile, than the general populous. We like our friends to be people who understand the value of setting personal goals and doggedly going after them, with perhaps seeming disregard for other aspects of life. Needless to say, this typically isn’t considered very socially acceptable; women especially are deemed neglectful if they choose to pursue “hobbies” outside of family and even career. 

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Does anyone else find this photo incredibly hot?

The thing about triathletes and endurance athletes is that many of us have rediscovered the power of positive motivation, encouragement, and coaching in our adult lives. The paradigm of pushing through personal boundaries to shatter past records and achieve new, previously unattainable goals is something many of us move away from after we graduate from high school sports teams. This lens–one of encouragement, big dreaming, and distinctive goal-setting–is the one through which we understand how to show love and affection. If one of my friends mentions a goal she’s been entertaining, you sure as hell bet I’ll be on her case about realizing that goal and surpassing it. This comes off as annoying to some, but more often than not I’ve been met with appreciation.

Perhaps most people don’t get enough of this on a regular basis. When was the last time you heard someone say something like, “I believe in you,” “You can do anything you set your mind to,” or “Dream big”? These are things we were liberally showered with as children, but such encouragement and belief in oneself falls by the wayside as we grow up and hide away behind our desk jobs. This makes me sad.

I think people who are drawn to things like endurance sports are people who have recognized that realistically, only a finite amount of achievement and goal realization is possible in the “real world”. The concept of the entirely self-made man or woman is a thing of the past, as our careers and personal lives function more at the whim of the economy, our happenstance social network, and random obstacles that arise than our education and persistence. No longer does good, honest hard work necessarily translate into getting where one wants to be.

With triathlon, the payback is reliably and predictably related to the amount of work that’s put into it. Working hard = progress, and progress = personal growth and improvement. We crazy endurance junkies have found an arena in which one of the most basic human needs is not only attainable, it’s incredibly accessible. Maybe we’re not so crazy, after all?

In summary: how to date a triathlete:

-Dream big

-Stock up on Product 19.

The end.

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78 thoughts on “How to date a triathlete/marathon runner/endurance junkie.

    1. My boyfriend gets so frustrated with my MUDRUN addiction.. He just doesn’t get it.. He also doesn’t understand why going to the park and sitting around is so much better than sitting on a couch watching the as my dad calls it, “idiot box”.
      great blog, I reposted it on mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Love the article and completely agree! It’s a hard life style to adjust too. And most people just don’t get it.

    And yes, love the pic of her In his arms at the finish line.

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  2. I really enjoyed this. I don’t put in as much time as you do (bravo BTW) but I trained for two marathons in 2013 while working full time and have a husband and daughter who LOVE lots of attention. Needless to say, I was spread thin. They don’t understand how I get enjoyment out of a four hour run on a Sunday morning. I guess that will just be my secret.

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  3. Great article…but I disagree with the point about the “real world.” The lessons I learn in endurance sports come with me to the real world and propel me to achieve greater things daily. To paraphrase the words of one of the great ultra runners…There are very real limitations in each individual, but we never really come anywhere close to those limitations, so the ability to be self made exist and is certainly achievable….you just have to strive for it.

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    1. Brad, thanks for the counterpoint. Who am I to think that anything about my “hobby life” is any less “real” than the world outside? The reality is that the lessons I’ve learned from pushing myself physically have translated over into almost every other aspect of my life. Getting into endurance sports has definitely granted me a level of self-sufficiency, persistence, and drive for personal change that I’m not sure I would have achieved otherwise.

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  4. Love the article. True in words. It seems like “normal people” just don’t get it. I just keep going on. That’s what makes me love the outdoors. !

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  5. Great post. I come from the perspective of a person who is married and just endured a year of multisport conversion. I will say the change has not been the easiest thing on a marriage based on neither person being athletic. Got a good chuckle out of this and totally relate. Thanks

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    1. Don’t even bother. Don’t you want to date a crazy triathlete lady?

      Just kidding. I think scouting out someone who’s particularly patient is key.

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      1. When I first dating my bf, he was simply a normal person with cycling and running as hobbies. When he started to plan for an ironman race, things change drastically. I resent him every month not spending time with me, not treating me the same way as he did. I felt like I was just a normal friend of his. He won’t initiate any conversation; he won’t come see me if I don’t initiate. Things just inverted totally. He is just too selfish and neglects the one beside him. I am still suffering now at the same time struggling. Crying in the middle of the night, felling alone and without supports/encouragement. Searching and reading articles like this one makes me relieved a bit. But eventually I would like a win-win solution to it, yet no conclusion after a few rounds of conversation with him. Quite despairing…

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  6. I often hear: “instead of spending all this time working out, why don’t you go work and make more money?” How do you answer to that, which is a valid point.

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    1. Money can only make people so happy! In fact, studies have shown that after people hit a certain income ceiling, their happiness actually decreases. Besides, if I worked more, and made more money, I’d probably justify buying more expensive, unnecessary tri gear. Heh. ;]

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    2. Pretty sure I work enough overtime that no one would ever make that comment to me and I do Ironman events. It’s all about balance and finding someone who spends their time the same way you do! I really liked this article. I’m not a normal girl and won’t be able to date a normal guy 🙂

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  7. I have lost more then my share of partners because of multi sport… but after a full time job and a min of two hours training in and out of gym .. all I want to do is cuddle and watch star trek …. why is that so hard to understand …

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  8. What a great blog post! I shared it with my non-junkie bf and he said you hit the nail on the head as to what he’s learned dating me. It would be really interesting to maybe see a guest blog post from the other side, sort of a non-junkie’s perspective on how to successfully date a triathlete. Thanks for the great post!

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    1. Haha nice rebuttal! I really hope I didn’t insult anyone TOO badly, after all, this whole blog is meant to be all in good fun! ;]

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  9. This article was a good read, thx. As an ultra-runner, race director, and outdoors lover, I have similar yet different reasons for doing what I do – different from the author.

    In fact, I can’t quite understand the competitive heads-down attitude of the writer and other marathon / tri participants. It’s why I like the trail and ultra scene better. It is not primarily competitive and focus’s on social aspects as well as personal acheivement. Generally, it’s less serious and, I think, more healthy. I used to run in road races and bike, yet every one I did it with, or any race I went to – people were serious and focused on the race and on beating you. Maybe this is also a symptom of people who are hard to date? Be less serious, let go, be closer to people? Or – absolutely only date someone of like-mind.

    I am a 33 yr old with a wife, 2 kids, etc. a busy life. Many (most?) ultra and trail runners have significant others or encourage personal interaction at races and training.

    I do believe that the beneficial aspects of our tribulations are the self-thought, meditative power (no run = moody+ cranky!), and self-growth. I believe there is a balance of benefit when you exclude others to the degree needed for pushing boundaries. I struggle with that balance myself: I’m sure my wife says I already spend enough alone time in the woods and mountains 🙂

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    1. That’s interesting! I actually transitioned to tri after feeling overwhelmed from the competitiveness of “pure runners.” I have definitely found a community of really welcoming and humble triathletes up here in the northeast, but perhaps that’s just an anomaly within the tri culture. In any case, my point here is to highlight more the quirkiness of endurance athletes, rather than the competitiveness. Thanks for sharing your story!

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      1. I could be wrong about triatheletes. I actually dont have much experience with them or any tri race. Maybe a different scene? Also, I imagine, it could be locally driven as to which scenes give emphasis to particular traits or more or less competitiveness.

        Point is: I think some scenes and mindsets are healthier than others.

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  10. Thank you! Great article. My husband is not athletic and he is supportive and seems to understand why I need to get up at 5:30 am on a Sunday and get my K’s (kilometers) in. (and he know I get crabby if I can’t get a workout in!) All of my friends are non-athletic and they are supportive as well. My new co-worker is also a long distance runner and after years of only interacting with other runners at races and online FINALLY I have someone to talk to about my running!

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  11. Yes, it is a universal phenomena. Me and my wife are dealing with junkie who is into Triathlon for last 2 years and prior to that he was in to swimming for 6 hrs a days and finally made into national team before entering into Tri as he felt just swimming is not enough for him. He is none other than our sweet (in fact Sweaty) Son who is now 17 running. But supporting him from 4:00 AM till he goes to bed is having a different charm. This we understood when he broke his left hand and had to have a break of 6 weeks, We our self were feeling something missing as we had a routine of either riding him to swimming pool or being a petrol man for him while cycling or running. I guess he will be up and ready for his regular workout at the earliest. We really miss the routine.

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  12. First, very well written. Thanks. I think the issue is what you wrote, “life style”. It really doesn’t matter what you love. It could be video games, garage sales, dog shows, movies, volunteering at local charities, church, family, etc. I think you get the picture. Our, my wife and me, life style is athletic in nature. I am a road cyclist. I spend 20 plus hours a week riding. My wife, of just only 4 years, is also a cyclist. We are both competitive and have won our fair share of local and state level events. Our mutual attraction started with knowing we both love riding. From there, our relationship grew, and we married. BTW, we are both in our mid 60’s. “Blending” our lives together started with the knowledge that we both love to be moving. Thanks again for a great article. I just hope that people understand the issue is “life style” and not that we love to sweat. Although it’s hard to ride and not sweat.

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  13. Forgot to mention: I think the picture is very sweet. Hot, yes. But I would put it this way: it shows a level of intimacy that can only be understood by those that have shared an incredibly difficult challenge together. My wife and I both won a state level championship this past year so I know from personal experience the emotions in the picture, and how intense they can be.

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  14. Carrie, Great piece! I had to share with my friends on FB and only my endurance friends really understood. Everyone else just thought it was silly to date one. Having just gone through a situation with an endurance athlete and being one myself, there are certainly struggles to adjust. I think the biggest thing couples need to remember is communication. Many think they do communicate when in reality they don’t. If you have a significant other training for a race, sit down and come up with a plan to make sure you slot quality time for the two of you and talk about expectations. Sounds rigid, but by doing so you are keeping the relationship just as important as the training, making everyone happy.
    Keep up the great posts!!!

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  15. you have few options when you are with an athete, become one, fine interesting things to do when he is training (get a hobby) and cook 😛 and have a nice bite when they finish!!!

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  16. Its all good. But why do you invest so much time on SBR? What do you hope to achieve? Or are you just addicted to the hormones produced by this process? After reading the article I see that literally everything revolves around SBR for you guys and thats got to take a toll on your social, personal life (if you have one 🙂 and work life. I agree that most of you may be introverts with the exception of `the flashy minority`. This could be because you constantly challenge that little voice inside your head. But I am still unclear on why you do it. You sacrifice a lot to do it so there should be a valid answer to this….?

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  17. Love this article! Spot on except I train just not early 😉 Ruins my social life but oh well. The exception is a very self centered person I know that constantly ignores her husband and young children as she is ‘training’ so sad. Training is time consuming but family children come first.

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  18. Oh, I’m getting my obsession with running now. I just started in October after losing over 60lbs. It was also around the time that I left my corporate job to work in my business full-time. Making that transition smoothly and successfully was my goal for a long time. I needed another challenge.

    Running is my new frontier.

    Thanks so much for helping me to see (again) that I’m not a freak:-)

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  19. Haha I love this post, my husband has accused me of being guilty of pretty much every single one of these things. Luckily he’s an introvert, too though, and has recently taken up running (yay!), so he’s starting to understand more why I’m so passionate about these things.

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  20. I am so hard to deal with when I didn’t get my miles in. I really respect my wife for dealing with all my crap and mood swings on those days.

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