Running is Like a Marriage

Blog, Meagan Dillard

I had a friend mention that running is like a marriage recently and it resonated with me. I say this as someone who has already been divorced twice before turning 30.

I started running at 21 as a way to lose weight in my stomach that I thought I needed to. I ran my first half marathon in 2012 (and joined Runner Girls Podcast). I fell in love with running not for how it made me look, but for how it made me feel. I had never been more proud of myself or my body until I started running. I think marriages are like this, too. A lot of people are in relationships because of how it makes them feel. I know for myself, having someone else to make happy makes me happy. When I have a person to count on and do things with, it makes me happier. Running is my activity that I can count on and my Saturday morning activity.

On the other hand, running requires you to put in a significant amount of effort for it to go well- much like relationships do. You have to want it and you have to work at it. You can’t just show up to your race the morning of and expect things to be exactly what you want. There’s going to be a lot of pain at a marathon you haven’t trained for. You need to work out fueling and you need to figure out what works for you. You have to figure out how your body talks to you and what that ankle pain means. You have to figure out when your stomach makes that gurgly noise- is it telling you to stop and use the bathroom NOW or can you make it through the next 3 miles but only that long? This is what relationships are like; you have to be able to communicate with your partner and know how to talk to them. You need to know when to push and when to leave them alone about a topic. You figure out how to work your life around each other (just like I work my life around Saturday morning group runs during marathon training). You need to know what to do when something is wrong and how to fix it, running and relationship-wise.

And sometimes in your relationships, you go through a rough patch. That doesn’t mean it’s over, but that does mean that maybe things aren’t the best for a little while. This was me for most of 2017 and all of 2018. I ran 640 miles in 2016, 316 in 2017 (251 of which were in the first 5 months), and a measly 69 miles in 2018. In just that time frame, you can see my struggle with running. What is more difficult to see is the steady decline of my mental health, partially leading to my second divorce. I had given up on a lot of things for that year and a half, running included. I even changed careers and left teaching, something that I thought defined me.

That same friend equated running again to renewing her vows. When I decided that I needed to work on making myself happy again, the first thing I did was start running. I had to remind myself why I loved running again I went to my greenway and remembered all of the good runs I had had there. I took pictures of the sun and the trees while I running. I said hi to everyone and gave them a smile during my runs. I looked for the small good things. I also did things for me- I set goals to go out there and kick ass. I didn’t really tell anyone else, I just did it. My goals were for me and only me. Running is something that I do for me, regardless of how others may make me feel. My long runs are done because I have goals, but also because I feel so much better with myself after hours on the pavement. I’m not perfect, and running and I still have our disagreements, but I do love it. I renewed my vows and dedicated myself to running and all that entails again. We have to do this with our relationships as well. We need to renew the vows. We need to do the small things that bring us joy. As another running friend Pam Berg would say, we need to make the chili. (This is a story Pam often tells. I have posted it below.)

A good friend of mine unexpectedly lost her husband. A couple months later we were running together, chatting about nothing. She asked what my dinner plans were and I told her hubby wanted chili, but I didn’t feel like stopping at the store. We ran a few more minutes when she quietly said, “Make the chili.”

It took me a few minutes to realize we were no longer talking about dinner. It was about going out of your way to do something for someone you love because at any moment, they could unexpectedly be taken from you.


I ran my first half marathon in almost 2 years this past weekend. I wasn’t fully prepared for it by far, and I almost quit before I even started. There were a lot of times during the race that I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. I loved it! I loved running and pushing myself. I loved the feeling I got when I crossed that finish line and I beat the goal that I didn’t even know I had. I felt happy for the first time in a long time. I felt like myself again.