By Christopher Cudworth
Way back when a book titled The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was published, people were beginning to more deeply consider what it meant to engage in a solo activity as profound as running long distances.
Billions of words have been written about the subject since then. But what is the direct consequence of relationships on those who run and ride?
Here are some answers to that question.
Your relationships help determine how you feel about yourself
If the people in your life do not support what you’re doing, then you’re at a disadvantage from the start. Having clear communications and support for your training and racing has everything do with your inner emotional health. If those channels are out of whack, you need to consider how to manage the relationships in your life and how to balance your love of sport with your love for other people.
If the people in your life begin to resist your running and riding as you increase the time spent on those activities, you need to open that subject up for conversation. And listen.
But understand that there are times when you need to stand up for yourself as well. People can be jealous of your time and selfish toward you as well. Be prepared to discuss your fitness activities in terms of benefits. Obviously it is best if those benefits do not come with automatic or dismissive sacrifice on the part of those who would otherwise support you.
A great relationship, and better yet, the feeling of being loved can help your training and racing in ways you’ve never dreamed. I always think of the lyrics from the song “Don’t Worry Baby” by the Beach Boys as a great example of the support that can help you overcome anxiety and other issues in endurance sports.
Well its been building up inside of me
For oh I don’t know how long
I don’t know why
But I keep thinking
Something’s bound to go wrong
But she looks in my eyes
And makes me realize
And she says “Don’t worry baby”
Don’t worry baby
Don’t worry baby
Everything will turn out alright
Sentimental? Yes. A bit dated? Perhaps. Sexist? Not really. It could work both ways and often does for men and women. The whole message here is that your relationships can make things better.
Relationships are important whether you succeed or fail
Having people in your life to keep your head on straight is vitally important. That’s true when you win and when you lose at what you’re doing.
When you achieve a new personal goal it is wonderful to share it with someone significant. But there are dangers with any victory, and the high you get from competing can lead to a low when that goal is no longer out there in front of you. Having stable, loving relationships in your life to fill that void is absolutely important. And wonderful.
The same goes when you fail. It’s dangerous to put all your emotional eggs in the basket of achievement. If you start your first triathlon only to flounder in the swim, it can be devastating. You didn’t even get a chance to ride or run! Your best events!
Or, if you’re killing it in a marathon only to cramp up at 23, walking it in with dire humility, it helps to have someone tell you, “Relax, it happens to all of us at times.”
Cycling is a particularly grueling activity in which you can coast through 60 miles one day and get dropped like a rock the next. That’s when it’s best to retreat and re-gather your will and self esteem with someone who was not out there beating your ass on the bike. Or, if they were, they need to commiserate and share their own experience at getting their ass beat. That’s called support. If you don’t have it, you might be riding with the wrong people.
But it’s a tough world out there. We all know that. We don’t sign up for these sports to be coddled. Taking your lumps and growing through the experience is just as important. Those perspectives are also important to share through relationships. We grow by sharing and building collective wisdom. When you get your ass kicked. Admit it. You’ll be surprised who much people respect you for that.
But then again, relationships sometimes come with tough love
Sometimes relationships are for getting you to face to difficult challenges in life. I once had a running roommate who told me, “You know, you need to stop complaining. Just shut up and run.”
That spring I went on to set all my PRs. It was tough love. And good advice.
We’re good sometimes at deceiving ourselves into thinking we’re doing our best. A good friend or a loved one can often see that. They may be reticent to say anything critical. But if asked, a truly good friend will tell you the truth. You need to try harder. Eat better. Drink more fluids. The list goes on. We all fail in certain categories and the people in our lives who know better can be life savers on all those fronts.
Good relationships look at the long term
When you’re in love and everything is going great, it is still important to look out for relationship warning signs.
Sometimes the goals you set are Once In A Lifetime Opportunities. You may never be this fit, or this young or this ready again. It can happen at any time in your life.
So if the people in your life are dragging you down during that opportune time, share that perspective with them. Let them know that the sacrifices are real. Because the consequences of giving up on a short term dream are also real.
It’s your job to lead that process. If you’re going to train for a marathon or a triathlon or a Century ride, you know that requires time that might go toward other things. Don’t try to hide from that fact. That’s not fair to anyone in your life. One of the nicest things to see at any race is a family waiting for mom or dad or the kids to come in during a race. That’s a good place to be.
Goals matter. Relationships do too. It’s all about communication and finding common ground and support through relationships. We run and ride for a purpose. Be sure you let the people in your life know what that purpose is, and relationships often grow stronger through that level of communication.