In Part 1 of this mini-series of posts, I got you to do your own sampling of runners you knew to get your own answer. That’s because the “answer” offered by “research” in Part 2 was not statistically good enough. However, I really did it because I was willing to bet anybody who cared enough would do it themselves with people they knew, just because they could. Think of it as if I told you I had a conclusive study that blonds were taller than brunettes, or vice-versa, or how the shortest girls marry significantly taller than average guys as if they were trying to make up for their evolutionary deficiency in their offsprings. You might well do a sample yourself because you could, since those conclusions wouldn’t have seemed intuitively right. That is you would dispute good research with your own because it’s closer to you.
The research in Part 2 was not convincing so I tried to supplement it with anecdotes and psychology in Part 3, identifying potential reasons leading to divorce in couples where one runs, but sometimes both. This coming from a never married veteran of 25 marathons. However, one great ability of being human is to be able to project and study to try to understand things without having the experience. The other great ability, especially in free society, is to exercise free speech. But with some “problems” identified, to leave it without thoughts for solutions wouldn’t be right. At least, not to me it’s not right. So here, I will address them because they do pertain to me in a “preventative” sense. I have plans to marry, keep on running, without ever divorcing… something common to a lot of people, actually. So here goes nothing, though I don’t mean this to be the ultimate answers or anything! Just more things to think about.
One of the main keys to lasting relationships of any type is the ability of people involved to change together. That doesn’t mean they have to change the same ways, but equivalent ways. Children and adults can’t change in the same ways, but if they change in some equivalent ways, like the children wanting more freedom and the Parents accepting that, both to the same degree, the relationship is smoother and closer. If your friends can keep the same interests throughout the years as you, you’ll likely be closer just on how much more you can share together for time spent, experiences, memories, etc. But if you can’t, so long as some other factors are vaguely familiar that you can relate, it would still likely be a closer relationship than stuff you can’t relate to at all. I’m a lot more comfortable with and can more easily relate to friends who are other athletes than those whose passion is virtual reality games like Second Life, for example, because I am an athlete. While those friends might not run, our “equivalent” interests that becomes embedded in our personalities is athletics. And so it is with romantic relationships. I believe that if you and your spouse can’t both run, if s/he has some other interest s/he is as passionate about as you with your running, and which you can both support each other in by, at the least, attending related events, that would help. It might help more if that interest were athletic, so you could attend games/races, but it could well be crocheting with fairs and sales. They key here is to have a passion match in these pursuits so no partner is constantly “celebrating” in the other’s face. Fill both your lives with equal joys, if you will.
Spend quality time together
This is true of any type of romantic relationship, really, but it gets tested with serious leisure participants taking time away from the relationship. To have both partners with serious leisure pursuits, as suggested by me above as being helpful, would then seem to contradict this timeless universal advice as there are two time drainers. However, the key word in my advice above was support. Be supportive of the other and it’ll be half like participating even when you’re not. I’m willing to bet that if you love someone enough, just by getting to spend time with them when they’re happy and wanting to show you this and that, you could come to like something you thought you’d dread. Hey, within crocheting is hyperbolic mathematics Einstein even had trouble trying to model while here it was at the core of crocheting [ TED.com talk ]! Being at various events could also ease tensions of suspicion since you know people around your spouse and they know you to be a supporting spouse, indicating a solid relationship. Some might argue that seeing more “hot bodies” at races would cause them to worry more (a sign of the lack of confidence factor), but if they those arguing that think about it, did they think there’d be no hot bodies at races? By being there to support, again, you are sending signals your relationship is in tact and that your spouse has a good spouse, one s/he might be less likely to leave or cheat on than if the spouse neglected him/her.
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
This is nothing new about maintaining good relationships, either. But again, demands by serious leisure activities are on top of everything else other couples without a serious leisure participant might have, so it is arguably more important than in more typical relationships. A balance of tasks and schedules, hurt feelings and misunderstandings that are consequence of serious leisure participation could be sorted out with good communication, especially that to prevent conflicts rather than resolve them after they have happened.
That’s what I’d recommend, me being a never married veteran of 25 marathons. But did that sound ludicrous or anything I rightly have no business talking about? Certainly, I have business thinking about it, as I said before, planning to marry, keeping up my running and not divorcing. But as I am single, the things I talked about above comes framed in the sense of a question of
Should I marry a runner?
It does seem silly, to put “runner” on a checklist of what one looks for a spouse, but this is something I have thought about ever since I started training a bit more seriously about 11 years ago. To be with the person you love doing something you love so much (for more than two minutes at a time) is like having a special moment from what is otherwise a casual one in running with anybody else for a partner. That’s a lot of special moments if you add it up over the years, even if some of them you train on your own because you don’t train at the same speed. You can still warm-up, cool down and stretch together. As well, platonic conversation like how was your day, or solving real problems outside the house while you’re both in sync (from running together), is a huge influence on a successful resolution. Daniel Goleman‘s Social Intelligence book talks about this beautifully. You’ll also be able to talk more honestly and not take things so personally as the guards are down when running (see Part 3). Certainly, to have someone be able to relate so much to something I love so much, and able to help each other out, travel together to races and such, is just damn nice! I’d be also to practically guarantee my wife takes good care of her body, stays healthy otherwise, have increase libido, and so on… all the benefits of running. 😉
For some, this can be too much. Running is their freedom and isolation, and that’s fine. But to them, I would say make sure your spouse has some equivalent activity of freedom and isolation, and that you both let the other into your serious leisure world from time to time. For me, I enjoy this more intense bonding from running together, but I also have fond memories of women I’ve dated who had never, and would never run. Without them, I’d be certain I’d have to marry a runner… and severely limiting my pool of potential spouse. I guess if I don’t end up marrying a runner, then I’ll have to make sure I do well with my “advice” above not to end up padding the stats that runners do divorce more.
Any advice, married runners out there?
I’m serious in asking, not just as a social writing question.
Call to action to study runner divorce rate
In Part 1, I offered a simple experiment you could try to see if divorce rate among runners you knew had higher divorce rates than the US average (works for Canada, too), so long as you were considering people in North America, to be fair. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to be enough for sample size to determine anything with any decent degree of certainty, so here is a much better idea.
This is for you running socialites who take pride in being a socialite, knowing lots of runners and things about them, though I’m betting you’ll still have to rely on others to help you.
Find a 10K ir longer race of decent size (at least 2,000) in your area where you, presumably, know most of the people you know. You could also try getting lots of people if you participate in an online running forum, have access to a large (e)mailing list of runners, or some other way to reach a lot of runners.
Find the results of the latest edition of that race online to go through and keep a tally. Print it out if it makes it easier. This gives you tons of names of people you know without the burden being on you to remember them all. That’s the magic of this idea. Then add any runner you know not on that list who runs 10K or longer distance races.
Identify anyone you know as being either: married to first spouse (A) or divorced at least once (B).
Cross out everyone else, including those whose marriage status you don’t know. You can only work with what you know for sure. The more people you can identify, the more your solid your results will be so bring in friends who might know lots of other people.
Add A and B to get C.
Divide A by C to get a decimal.
If that decimal is greater than 0.305, then yes, from your sample, runners do divorce more than the national rate, pending margin of error.
Margin of error is a bit convoluted to try and explain here, but I’ll give a few conditions that might work. I found this page from the University of Guelph in Canada to be useful to determine sample size and error margins. Just get someone who knows stats to help you if you want to determine margin of error, or email me. But the best advice is really to try to find as many runners as you can with the information you need to know regarding their marriage history.
If you can get a decimal of 0.36 or more, and have a sample of at least 410 runners, you can then draw the conclusion in blue above to be true within 5% 19 times out of 20 (what you usually hear associated with polls), for runners in your area. I don’t mean to complicate things but statistics are easy to misquote, and I don’t want anybody doing that on my behalf. The “area” statement matters because divorce rates vary quite a bit from state to state and province to province. The 0.36 ratio is because 5% margin of error from 0.305 requires a minimum ratio of 0.355 (me rounding to 0.36).
That’s as much as I can expect someone to do. Personally, I’m going to get data from the Bluenose International Marathon close to me, with events for the half, 10K and 5K, to test out my theory in Part 3 that 5K runners don’t divorce more, iffy on 10K, but feel certain about half and full marathon runners.
My ideal data set would be the things asked for here, from numerous races around the North American continent… though I won’t accept any data without names since it’d be too easy to lie otherwise. At least I’d want to make someone who’d be willing to lie to work for it! 🙂
Please come back about mid-July and search on the blog search bar at left for “runners divorce” to find Part 5 and results!
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 9.9