Can you meet your perfect partner through running?
The first time Megan and Aaron Olbur hung out, Aaron nearly threw up on Megan’s shoes. They were on the same Ragnar running relay team, and after Aaron finished running and handed Megan the baton, he immediately dry-heaved into a bush beside her. Despite the unpleasant start, running became a tie that binds the Chicago residents. They were married last July.
“Running is a big part of our relationship, a healthy aspect of our relationship,” Aaron says.
“It’s a common hobby we both share, so we can understand why each other runs and support each other’s running,” Megan agrees.
More and more, single runners are turning to their sport as a way to find relationships. Runners meet at running groups, go on running dates and even compete in singles races.
At the Skirt Chaser 5K on Feb. 15 in Tempe, Ariz., (and various cities in 2014), couples and singles are encouraged to run, but women wearing running skirts get a 3-minute head start over men.
The Luv Run, a non-competitive singles 5K in which runners wear color-coded bibs to signify their availability and sexual orientation, launched in Boston last year and will host races in several cities on Feb. 16.
“Meeting somebody at a bar is not the way runners and athletes usually meet their boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives,” says Michael O’Neil, one of the race founders. “If you see a slow runner you’d like to talk to, you can slow down. If you see someone a little ahead of you, you can dig in and try to catch up.”
The Perfect Running Date
To meet your future partner through running, take every opportunity you can to be around other runners, says April Masini, a relationship expert and author of AskApril.com. Go to group runs, ask someone to go on a running date and run in public places. Just don’t interrupt someone who’s “in the zone” and don’t lie about your ability.
Go to a local group run.
Begin at a pace that will allow you to chat with others. Talk about whatever comes to mind, but avoid rattling off the splits from your recent races.
Don’t split after the run.
Stick around for post-run activities, whether that means hanging out and stretching at a running shop or joining a group at a restaurant.
Don’t worry how you look.
The one exception might be if you’re wearing something super skimpy like a pair of split shorts (men) or itty bitty boy shorts (women). San Diego postdoctoral researcher Evan Merkhofer decided not to wear his short shorts on a running date but admits, “I was more concerned about what my hair looked like.”
Amy Thoma, a Sacramento, Calif., political consultant, suggests wearing a hat: “My hair is really long and becomes a rat’s nest if I don’t wear one. I don’t think anyone wants to date a girl with hair like a rat’s nest.”
Where to meet runners?
Find running groups and running-related social events at meetup.com, Facebook and local running stores.
This piece first appeared in the January 2014 issue of Competitor magazine.