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Out There: Love and Racing

Should you invite your new romantic interest to your race?

Reader question: I’ve been dating a new guy for a couple of months. Things are going really well! Though he isn’t a runner like me, he’s very supportive of my training. I’m doing my first half marathon next weekend. It’s a big deal for me, and all my friends and family, most of whom he hasn’t met yet, will be there. Should I invite him, too? I really want him there but I also worry about having him meet everyone this way.

Absolutely! And hell, no! There’s no easy answer to that question. On one hand, having your new romance on the sidelines can be incredibly motivating. On the other, it can be a distraction during your first race.

When I did my first Ironman, my new boyfriend, Neil, offered to come along to cheer me on. I was excited to have him there—he had been through the race before and knew what to expect, so his insight was valuable. It wasn’t until race morning that I realized that I would be introducing my new boyfriend to my mom and sister (who were also spectating), then leaving them alone for hours.

Would they like each other? Would my very conservative boyfriend get along with my mom, who is every cliché of a bleeding-heart liberal? Would my sister tell him all the embarrassing stories she swore she’d never tell? Would Mom wield her cell phone to say, “Neil, you’ve got to see this home video of Susan throwing a temper tantrum”? I had spent the last six weeks of dating trying to convince Neil I was relatively normal…ish. A few hours alone with my family members, who (and I say this with love) are batshit crazy, could crumble the façade of normalcy I had tried so hard to create.

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Before I could jump out of the athlete corral and run interference, the starting gun went off. I would have many miles to think—and by “think,” I mean “experience mild panic”—about what was happening on the sidelines.

In that moment, I almost—almost—wished Neil hadn’t come to that race. It was added stress on a day when I had more than enough to think about.

But you know what? It all turned out fine. Great, even. Yes, Neil said some things that caused my mom to raise an eyebrow. My sister passed the time with stories that started with “So this one time in college, Susan got drunk and…” My mom didn’t pull up my temper-tantrum video, but there was a matinee showing of 4-year-old Susan singing “Baby, Take A Bow.” But as the race went on, I was too distracted (tired?) to really care anyore.

I tell this story not to scare you, but to present a worst-case scenario with a happy ending. When I look back on that race, I don’t really remember the panic and the worry. I remember seeing the people I love lift my spirits every time I passed them on the course. I remember my mom telling me she loved having Neil there to explain everything that was going on during the race. I remember Neil picking me up for a big, sweaty hug at the finish line.

Four years later, we married. My batshit crazy family proudly boasts of their “normal” in-law.

If you like this guy and you really want him at your race, invite him. Let him know you’ll have a cheering section and that you’d love for him to be a part of it. Take comfort in knowing that whatever you’re worried about in this meet-the-family scenario likely isn’t as bad as you think it’s going to be.

And if it is…well, you’ll be too busy racing to notice.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.