Last week Mac and I were featured on a popular finance blog about "Breadwinning Women" and how the situation works for us. While the traditional stereotype has the male partner earning more, in today's world approximately 25% of women earn more than their spouses. Like in finances, the athletic stereotype is that men are faster than women, too.
A few years back, Mac and I sat with Ian Sharman while enjoying burgers after the finish of the Waldo 100k. Ian asked Mac if he was a runner and Mac said yes, but emphasized that he was just a mid-packer. Ian said, "You've got to be pretty fast to keep up with your wife." It was all friendly banter, but Ian looked a little surprised when Mac told him that he doesn't even run as fast as me on my easy days.
I don't have any statistics, but I know we are not alone: there are plenty of relationships out there with "fast women": ladies who routinely outpace their male counterparts. So here are my "Rules for Relationships With Fast Women," but it can certainly go the other way, too, or apply to just a good friend.
1) Face the Facts: While the average men's times are faster than the average women's times, there is a lot of overlap in those two distribution curves. Women's world record times for most distances are only about 10% slower than the men's world records. (Ian has good reason to know how much faster men are than women; he wrote a great blog entry about it.) So, as a guy, unless you are consistently running within 10% of the world record times, there are women out there faster than you. The farther off the men's world records you are, the more women there are capable of "chicking" you and the greater your odds are of dating one of them!
2) Stress Personal Accomplishment: Everyone has their challenges and obstacles to overcome. Running a sub-four hour marathon may be as significant to one person as running a sub-three hour marathon is to another person. For others, just being able to run a 5k is a big deal. Each runner has challenges unique to them, so focus on your own personal accomplishments rather than how you compare to others.
3) Level the Playing Field: If you do want to be competitive with someone you know you can't race head to head, find ways to level the playing field. A few years back, Mac and I both ran the Autumn Leaves 50k with the course consisting of five 6.25 miles loops. So we had a friendly spousal bet: Could I lap Mac or could he make it through the 40km mark before I finished. It allowed for some fun trash-talking and ended up being remarkably close (I passed him with less than a kilometer to spare). Another couple I know had a bet to see who could set a marathon PR by the greatest amount of time. Two friends I know give time handicaps for certain races. There are many ways to come up with fun competitions that don't just involve running the fastest time.
4) Do workouts at the same time, but run different paces: Every Wednesday, our local running store hosts a tempo or fartlek workout based on a certain number of minutes. Everyone runs at different paces, but we all start and finish at the same time and are able to warm up and cool down together. Everyone gets a good workout, but everyone can run at a pace that is comfortable to them.
5) Use your faster friend/S.O. to get better: Alan Abs (husband of Beverly Anderson-Abs) used to joke that his New Year's resolution was to "Be a wife beater." Having someone around you who is faster can be very motivating, whether that means making you train more to get better or training with that person to make your workouts a little harder. You can also take a look at how the faster person is training and use some of those strategies yourself.
6) Enjoy Non-competitive Running Events Together: You can jog together on easy days or better yet, head out on a running adventure. Mac and I have done several long runs, such as last year's Mt. St. Helen's circumnavigation, where there was no emphasis on speed, but rather just being out in the wilderness, seeing new places, and having a good time.
7) Be part of the crew: Ultra-running takes a team! You can get very involved and be part of the team by being part of the crew. And that way you can share the accomplishments, too.
8) Be proud: If you love someone, obviously you want them to do well. If your spouse is kicking butt (including yours), be proud!
9) Don't get sucked into the "Why is (s)he faster trap?": Admit it - at some point you have wondered why somebody older, fatter, less experienced, or less trained beat you in a race? People have different genes, different training, different strengths - and sometimes they are a lot faster than they look!
10) Never Fake It!: I am talking about speed, of course! Don't ever fake your running talents or throw a race, thinking that it is somehow good for your relationship.
Bonus- Mac's rules: I asked Mac if he had any tips for dealing with a faster spouse. His tip: "Enjoy the view," and then he jokingly added, "and maybe don't hang out with Ian Sharman!" :)