Eight Stories from NYC Running Couples That Will Melt Your Heart
Sure, running’s a solitary sport, but find the right partner and you’ll have one heck of a team for tackling races—and whatever else life throws at you. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked couples in the New York Road Runners community to share stories about how running has woven itself into their relationships—for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, in trainers and in flats, in fartleks and in tempos, in PRs and in DNFs.
Christopher and Abbe
From Christopher: “We have been together since February 2011. We met running actually. I decided to rejoin a running group that February, as I hadn't been very social with my running. Abbe was there for the run; she had joined while I was on my hiatus so we had never met. She immediately caught my eye.
After the run, our friend Joe brought out some new beer he had been brewing and we all had a sample right in front of Tavern on the Green. Everyone started to leave and I suggested we go for some food and drinks. Abbe and my friend Susan agreed and we headed over to Brother Jimmy's on 77th Street and Second Avenue. Abbe and I hit it off and went on a string of dates the following week or two. The rest is history.
My favorite story we share took place on February 6, 2013. It was snowing lightly, which was exactly what I wanted for my “plan.” I suggested to Abbe that we go for a run. Toward the end of it, I suggested we run down The Mall, her favorite part of Central Park. As we made our way down, I pretended to have a knee injury and stopped. Concerned, she turned to me. As she did, I presented her with a ring and asked if she would marry me. Our friend Erica had been hiding in the bushes—that’s how we have this photo!”
Jonathan and Nicole
Photos: Mark Pfeffer
From Jonathan: “We met in the summer of 2006 and began dating shortly after. We met as I was finishing up coaching a group of runners in Central Park. I (very awkwardly) introduced myself to a cute girl on a bike, and the rest is history.
We got engaged in the middle of a run to the top of our favorite mountain in Palm Springs, and we continue to use running to encourage and support each other, whether it's in competition or just getting out for some stress relief. Plus I coach her.
In 2016, we raced a 400-meter challenge on the track to raise money for Back On My Feet. Such a short distance was very much out of our comfort zones, but we documented the training, had a wagering pool, and lots of our friends showed up to support us. It was one of the rare times I was faster than she was, though once the distance gets a little longer, I don't stand a chance.
Every once in a while, it's challenging to have an athlete/coach relationship on top of the husband/wife stuff, but as long as we take a step back and remind ourselves that the marriage is the priority, we manage to handle both pretty well. And it has strengthened our relationship in countless ways. We've used running as our "quality" time with each other and with our son. When our son was younger we used to run with him in the baby jogger. Since Nicole is much faster than I, having her pushing the stroller helped us run at the same pace.
Sports are important to us as a couple and as parents. It's not necessarily because we need our son to be a great athlete, but because we want him to be healthy and active, and we want him to see that there's a correlation between working hard and getting results.”
Otto and Louisa
From Otto: “My wife, Louisa, and I met during my first year of college in Rochester, NY, back in 1992. We’ve been together since then, so 26 years—truly a marathon!
My wife loves to cook, I love to eat, and naturally, the excessive calories had to go somewhere. Running was the first solution that came to our minds. All we needed was a pair of running shoes to get started, it was easily accessible anytime and anywhere, and it gave us more quality time together.
To me, running and marriage are very much the same. There are ups and downs, and it takes patience to get through every rough patch—like at mile 22 of the Rochester Marathon. My wife was running her first marathon in the city where we first met. She was furious with me for signing her up for the race and putting her through so much pain. “Stay away from me!” she yelled.
Four miles later, we held hands and crossed the finish line together. It’s one of the best memories we have ever had!
Since then, we have completed many more marathons together. We even helped other runners by pacing many marathons, including the New York City Marathon.
The longer I run, the more I realize that it’s not an individual sport, especially for someone like me who has young children. It requires a lot of support and understanding from each other. That’s why I really appreciate all the encouragement from my wife. It lets me train and prepare for my races, and achieve all my running dreams.”
Mary and Michael
From Mary: “We’ve been together for 14 years. We met through a running club in Massachusetts, got to talking at a hotly-contested club meeting about Boston Marathon entries, and I asked him out after one of the club’s long runs. I was standing in our friend's kitchen handing out post-run beers when I realized there was this handsome Italian guy in the room that I didn't know. I think I said something like, ‘Hi, person I don't know. What are you drinking?’ We've been together ever since.
Mike, another runner in the club, was the officiant at our wedding and when he closed the ceremony, which we purposely kept brief, a table of our closest runner friends hit ‘stop’ on their watch timers. One proclaimed loudly, '7:35—good mile!’
We've been together through everything running can throw at you—training, racing, injuries, and comebacks. When you add them all up, we have done a combined 90 races of a marathon or longer.
My favorite story is from the Dallas White Rock Marathon. I had been sick leading up to the race and on race day, everything fell apart. Michael was in great shape and could have easily run an hour and a half faster, but he stayed with me the entire time. At mile 18, when you are on the far side of the lake, looking at Dallas way in the distance, it really can seem like all hope is lost. But he kept us moving, one foot at a time, right through the finish line. Even though we were cold and exhausted, we are smiling from ear to ear in the finisher photo, which still hangs on a wall of our family's home.
From Michael: “It was so Mary to pick Leadville as her first 100, as it’s among the most challenging courses in the country. She couldn’t possibly choose something, oh I don’t know, less intense. I had long given up marathons. She started running ultras and I just waved 'bah-bye' as she increased her race distances and I, after 22 marathons, retired to 13.1s. Nevertheless, I love to encourage her and be part of her successes.
So we were off to Leadville, where 12,000 feet of elevation makes it difficult for me to exist, let alone run. But I was determined to help pace her. As she pulled into the mile 80 aid station at 2:00 in the morning, it was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and she was down to a fast hike. She told me not to wear running clothes as I’d get too cold over the 10 miles I planned to pace her, so I left my jeans and leather coat on. Halfway up the trail, fast hiking as best we could to keep her from getting cut from the race, no fewer than six people asked, 'Is your pacer wearing a leather coat?!' It made Mary giggle every time, and kept her spirits up for the whole leg. She finished 15 minutes ahead of the cutoff, in 29:45.”
Mike and Dave
"We've been together since 1983—so 35 years in October—and legally married since 2013.
We both moved to NYC from other parts of the country. Dave is from Northeast Pennsylvania and Mike is from Southern California. We met at Front Runners New York (FRNY) at a time when running was considered a 'healthy' outlet in the LGBT community.
Every year for around the last 15 years, we've worked together to organize FRNY's annual New York City Marathon weekend pancake breakfast, which takes place the Saturday morning before the New York City Marathon.
We generally host around 125 FRNY members, family members, and guests at Rutgers Church on the Upper West Side. Our team of volunteers ends up making over 300 pancakes and fruit salad for everyone. Mike helps organize the front of the house volunteers and Dave helps organize the kitchen volunteers. Although we both have not run a New York City Marathon for several years, we have, however, made it a point to volunteer at FRNY's mile 24 water station in Central Park on marathon day.
Running with NYRR and FRNY are core pillars in the life that we share. We are both still running at FRNY's fun runs on most Saturday mornings and we run many NYRR races each year—maybe at a pace a little slower than when we first raced in the mid-80s. We've supported each other when we had racing injuries and we have encouraged each other to get healthy and get back on the road.
Running with FRNY has also given us both a second family—club members are the people we are closest to since we are both not originally from NYC."
Elizabeth and Juan
From Elizabeth: “We met a little over five years ago at a race registration in Argentina. The next day, he ran the race with me and slowed down enough to stay with me. I was really impressed that he did that, and thought it was a sign that either he really liked me or that he was an over-the-top gentleman! We got married six months after that.
Juan actually proposed to me in my favorite place in NYC: Central Park, Engineers’ Gate, in front of the Fred Lebow statute. My running team was all aware and came over for the 'surprise.' It really wasn’t a surprise because he’s awful at lying and I saw it coming that morning when he was soo nervous an hour before.
Running is a huge part of the relationship. Running was the first thing we ever did together and we live a runner’s lifestyle. Our routine revolves around work and running. We both get up early to get our workouts in, we try to eat healthy, and we organize our weekends around running. Most of our friends are runners or triathletes and most of our outings are running-related. Sometimes we race the same race on the weekend. Other times, one of us races and the other one cheers or volunteers. But we always show up together!
We see running in very different ways and we always talk about that. I’ve learned from him to be more aggressive in my races and workouts, and he’s learned from me to relax and have fun.
Knowing that the other one is going to be at the finish line really helps, too. No matter how awful a given race is, I know he’s going to be waiting for me with a donut or two. And I’m there for him as well. At the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon, Juan called me before the race started to tell me he wasn’t feeling well. I was working at the race and he didn’t want to ruin my day, so he ran all the way to the finish line just so I didn’t have to worry about him!”
Laura and Myles
From Laura: “It's been almost five and a half years since Myles' Western States silver belt buckle caught the light—and my eye—at a dive bar on the UES. In reality, it was probably his seersucker pants and well-kept polo that initially grabbed my attention, since at the time I had zero idea what Western States was, didn't know ultra-running was a thing, and had no clue that said finishers were awarded belt buckles.
When we first met, I was very much not a runner. My physical activity was limited to my commute to work with an occasional spin class thrown in here and there. A few months into our relationship I borrowed Myles’ book Ultra Marathon Man and as much as I'd love to attribute Myles' passion for the sport to getting me out the door, it was very much Dean Karnazes' words that motivated me to just get out and run.
Since then, running and racing have become very much a part of our relationship. Many of our weekend activities are scheduled around training runs and races, and most of the vacations we've taken have been centered around destination marathons and ultra events.
This January, Myles and I went to Bermuda with a group of friends, most of whom we've met through the running community, to participate in the Bermuda Triangle Challenge. The challenge consists of a mile, 10K, and either a half or full marathon. I signed up for the half challenge, whereas Myles, fresh off a third-place finish at the Palm Beach Marathon a month prior, decided to keep the momentum going and registered for the full challenge. Being that it was my birthday weekend, my goal was to enjoy a nice balance of running, racing, and rum swizzles. Myles had similar expectations, with the additional intent of wanting to win it all.
Myles and I run several of the same NYRR races, and his faster finishes allow him to see me as I cross the finish line. In Bermuda, since I ran the half versus the full, the roles were somewhat reversed as I was able to spectate at mile 26 of the marathon, which included seeing Myles plow down the straightaway, throttle through the finish, and clench the title of Bermuda Triangle Full Challenge champion. It was nice being able to share in Myles' win.
We recently got engaged, and while we have yet to nail down a wedding date, it's safe to say we will not be exchanging vows during the weekend of the NYC Half, Boston Marathon, New Jersey Marathon, Brooklyn Half, Spring Lake 5, Vermont 100, NYRR Team Championships, New York City Marathon, or the Western States lottery."
Elaine and Tom
From Elaine: “We've been together for almost six years, and married now for just nine months! We met briefly at New Jersey Trail Series' Running with the Devil, but Tom didn't start stalking me (haha) via Facebook until Febapple Frozen Fifty in 2012. We swapped messages rapidly, and I must admit, I may have been charmed when he mentioned he was going to Western States 100 to crew a friend. (He knows about Western States?! Oh! He’s a keeper!) Since then, it's been nonstop fun and running adventures around the globe. From trails on the coast of England to rice terraces in Bali, we've explored the world—on foot.
Running is such a constant in everything that we do. We train together, go to club runs together, pace together, and pace each other during ultras. Vacations revolve around races in new places and environments. That may sound limiting to some, but it provides a blueprint for the year so that we can then also plan all the fun stuff that is not running related. Running provides long-term structure to our lives and our relationship.
To celebrate Tom’s 47th birthday in 2015, we ran 47 miles at the Grand Canyon. It was a beautiful way to bond. Just the two of us, disconnected from the world under the clear night stars. We saw the sun rise and set while discovering one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Doing the thing you love with the person you love is just such a wonderful experience!”