Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team of people to support a runner. This can be as true about the months leading up to a race as it is about race day. But while there is a lot of training advice for runners, there aren’t a lot of resources for close friends or family members who are trying to provide encouragement. Here are a few ideas for how to support your partner for the long run.
1. “Be flexible,” recommends Steve Maher, marathoner and race director of the Run Wenatchee race series. “When training for a race, weather can change your plans.” Sometimes your partner might need a rescue if a run goes poorly, or she might need to change her long-run day due to high winds or smoke.
2. Ask them what they need. If your partner has a hard time asking for help, try to make your questions more specific: Would it be helpful if I dropped the kids of tomorrow? Will you need to go to bed early tonight? Or, can I pace you for the first few miles?
3. Cook dinner on long run days. OK, so my version of this is to treat my husband to beer and pizza, which always seems to sit well after a long run, but kudos if you are a good cook and can provide delicious, baked-from-scratch calories.
4. Ask about the little things. Did your partner mention an ache or pain the week before? Then follow up, even if it seems minor. Athletes appreciate the chance to talk about what their bodies are going through. If it’s something they mentioned out loud, then it’s probably distracting or has been bothering them for a while.
5. Be prepared to show up on race day. “Get yourself a map and orient yourself with the course,” suggests Maher. He also recommends looking at an elevation profile, which is as useful as mileage when trying to anticipate where a runner might be, and when.
6. Run support (whatever that looks like). When my partner traveled with me to Seattle for a race, I panicked the night before because the cheap hotel I had booked did not have free coffee in the room. He hit the streets at 11 p.m. to find some java so that I could reheat it at 4:30 the next morning as part of my pre-run routine.
7. Provide transportation. This allows runners to focus and mentally prepare for the race, and to totally relax when the race is over.
8. Confirm, don’t refute, their concerns. Chances are, if your partner has signed up for a long-distance race, then she is the kind of person who has done other hard things. Rather than argue and say, you’re crazy, you have nothing to worry about, listen to her anxious thoughts.
9. Plan a fun and laid back recovery day. Some people want back rubs and booze. Others want snacks and naps. As a way to honor his accomplishment, whatever sounds good to him, try to make it happen.