A few years ago, I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon in Phoenix with my then-boyfriend. We had trained together for a few months and had the same goal — to finish at about two hours. Because we were running at about the same pace, we figured we’d cross the finish line together — we never talked about what one would do if the other one got a cramp or got tired or got mowed down by an overzealous Kenyan.
We were in perfect sync until Mile 10, and then he turned to me and said those fateful words: “I have to pee.” He told me next time we passed an alley, he was going to duck in and relieve himself. He told me to keep running. “Are you sure?” I asked him, secretly wanting to keep going, but feeling guilty for not waiting for him. He assured me it was fine. So I left him. And when I crossed the finish line without him — he finished five minutes later — I didn’t feel nearly as excited as I know I would have if we would have done it together.
I remembered reading about this couple who ran the 2002 Chicago Marathon, sticking together every step of the way even after the woman got leg cramps and the official time clocks were turned off. It was such a sweet story, and it made me question my dedication. Was I a bad girlfriend? At the very least, I felt like a bad running buddy, destined for a lifetime of bad running karma.
Which didn’t stop me from leaving another friend in February during the Austin Half Marathon. She told me ahead of time that she hadn’t trained properly and would probably be slow. She asked if I would stay with her. I told her I’d try. A mile in, it was apparent I was getting antsy, and she gave me her blessing to go on without her. It was probably for the best that I did — I ended up finished almost 45 minutes ahead of her. But it made me question my loyalty.
Flash forward a couple of months to a new boyfriend and a new race. The Peachtree Road Race will be the first organized race we’ll run together, though we’ve gone on training runs together a few times. We’ve talked a bit about race day, how one of us won’t mind if the other has to go ahead for whatever reason. I have a feeling I’ll be the one left behind this time — I think the hills will do me in, plus that bad running karma will probably kick in. I say I don’t mind, but I wonder how I’ll feel if I’m the one left in the dust come race time.
What do you think? Do you make pacts about staying together with your friends or significant others during races? Do you think it’s fair to stick to pacts if you have time goals? Have you ever had to leave a friend behind — or have you been the one left behind?