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One Runner Says You Can’t Have It All—Here’s Why

These days, the prevailing wisdom is that we women can “have it all.” After all, we are living in an enlightened time, when women can have, do and be anything. One woman is even running for president!

In running, “having it all” translates to running the fastest race of your life, hand-in-hand with six of your closest friends, all while taking copious selfies. It’s easy! Effortless! And your hair will look good the whole time!

The brutal reality, however, is that running is hard. It takes time and commitment, and, if you’re training for a goal—whether to hit a time or complete a distance—it takes sacrifice. So what does that say about our prevailing wisdom? Can we really have it all?

Based on my own experience, I’d have to say no.

When you’re “single” in running, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, with whomever you want. You want to sleep in today? Cool. You want to go on a store-sponsored jog with pizza and popsicles at the end? Sounds fun. In “single-dom,” you have the freedom to sample the entire menu of class culture: spin, yoga, barre, CrossFit, boxing, rowing, taekwondo…your options are limitless when you check your running dreams at the door.

However, running with a goal in mind is a completely different animal. When you commit wholeheartedly to a goal, you are, in a sense, wedding yourself to it. With these shoes, I do commit to my goal race time/distance, for better or for worse, on good runs and bad, in sickness and in health, no matter the weather, so help me GOD!

Consequently, at some point along the way, you will realize that the loftier the goal you set for yourself, the harder it is to “have it all.” This is when you have to start making choices—hard choices. Choices that require some sacrifice…and some creativity. Because every commitment requires sacrifice, but healthy commitments still let you have your fun, and running is no different. You just have to get creative.

Example A: A friend invites you to a Saturday morning run with a group that always gets pancakes at the end. Sounds fun! But your beloved race goal has you scheduled to run thirteen miles, and the group is only doing five. What do you do? One option is to run the full thirteen alone and meet up for pancakes afterward. Another is to get up extra-early, run eight of your thirteen miles to the meeting point, and do the last five with your friend and her group. The early morning wake-up might not be preferable, but the company for those last few miles (and the pancakes!) could be well worth it.

Example B: Let’s say you love spinning. Just because you’re training to run a race doesn’t mean you don’t have to give up your fabulous instructor and pumping music altogether; you just might not be able to attend class every single day. You have other priorities now. That’s what “marriage” is all about.

And yes, there will be times when you have to give a flat-out “no.” Sometimes your long run will get in the way of that karaoke Friday, and your speed work will take precedence over the boot camp session. But if what you truly desire is to achieve your running goal? That moment of fulfillment and pride when you cross the finish line will be well worth every hard choice you had to make along the way.

Neither running “single” nor “running married” is better or worse than the other option. They both have their perks, and at the end of the day, the choice is yours. But you can be certain: at some point, you will have to choose. So make the choice. And then get creative.

Allison Goldstein

Allison Goldstein

Allison Goldstein is a freelance writer and editor based in Jersey City, NJ. When she's not at her computer or reading a book, she can be found chasing her Gotham City Runner teammates around the various NYC boroughs. Connect with Allison via her website.