Out There: The Love In Running

"In every one of my favorite running memories, Neil is always slightly ahead of me," writes Susan Lacke. Illustration: Matt Collins

Susan Lacke’s best running memories do not contain race numbers and setting PRs.

“Wow, you have a lot of time to take in the scenery at this pace,” says Neil, sighing in wide-eyed amazement as he bounces along the trail.

“Is that your way of calling me slow?” I huff, shooting him a sideways glare. He smiles broadly and ups the pace ever so slightly—an unspoken catch-me-if-you-can.

In the four years we’ve been together, I’ve run with Neil fewer than 10 times. Though I’d love to be one of those couples who giggle and squeal as they chase each other along the trail, our compatibility ends when the stopwatch begins. He clocks 6-minute miles with regular ease; I, on the other hand, only see that speed when I shake my Garmin back and forth really quickly. When we do run together, it’s usually when we’re on vacation, where shared adventures take priority over mile splits.

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Our compromised pace is one where I’m just on the edge of my comfort zone, red-faced and puffing, while he apparently takes a scenic nature hike. It doesn’t sound like a good time for a lot of people, but to me, it’s heaven. It’s exactly what I train for. Races and PRs are fun, but nothing motivates me more than when Neil tells me to pack a suitcase and don’t forget my running shoes (as if I could ever leave those behind!).

When I think back on my very favorite experiences as a runner, I’m not wearing a bib number. I’m chasing Neil through the beautiful redwood trees in the Muir Woods in California, splashing him as we take a mid-run ice bath in the cold ocean during a boardwalk jog or laughing about all of the sheep staring at us as we run over the grassy hills in New Zealand.

We’ve been caught in a rainstorm 10 miles away from our car, our bright smiles a stark contrast to our bodies caked head-to-toe in mud. I’ve loved showing him the trails of my beloved hometown in Wisconsin. There’s something about holding hands as we wait in line for post-run coffees.

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Most people have a vacation photo album. I have dirty running shoes and a full heart. In every one of my favorite running memories, Neil is always slightly ahead of me. He thinks he’s challenging me to run faster, and he is. But what he doesn’t know is that there’s a method to my (slow) madness.

I’m totally taking in the scenery.

This piece first appeared in the May 2014 issue of Competitor magazine. 

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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