Dear Mountain Mama,
My sister started running a year ago and now runs faster than me. She wants to join me, but I end up spending most of the run feeling bad about myself. She’s the annoying good-at-everything-and-gorgeous-younger sister. Running has always been my thing so I want to tell her to get her own hobby.
How do I tell her politely to stop running?
Dear Runner Girl,
The only person we have any semblance of control over is ourselves. That means the most you can ask is that your sister doesn’t run with you, but you don’t get to ask your sister to stop running.
Running next to your sister doesn’t have to make you feel inadequate. Instead, focus on thinking about the positive. When you run with someone faster, over time you become faster. Think of her as your very own personal coach – one who trains you for free.
In the long-term, you might grow to treasure those runs with your sister. When I was fifteen and my brother was seventeen, he’d take off on runs to condition for the soccer team. Eager to do whatever he was doing, I’d lace up my running shoes and follow him, although he never invited me.
Most days he’d turn around and point to the swoosh on the back of his Nikes. “See this? Get a good look now because it’ll all be a distant blur to you in a few seconds.” Then he’d pull ahead, until he eventually disappeared from sight.
By the time he left for college, I was hooked on running. He came home the next summer carrying an extra fifteen pounds. On a mission to lose weight, he tagged along with me. My year of daily runs meant I was in better shape than he was, at least at first. We talked the miles away, often complaining about our parents, the way that only siblings can.
Over the years, we’ve run before each of us got married and after the birth of our respective children. Last spring when my toddler and I flew to Europe to meet my brother and his family for a week-long vacation in Spain, my brother surprised me with the news that he signed me up to run a 10-k the next day.
These days we live an ocean apart so our runs are few and far apart. This past weekend he was in town for a family wedding, and we snuck away from family obligations for a quick run. We picked up right where we left off, falling in stride with one another’s footsteps. Our conversation flowed easier than our breathing, and my brother provided some tips for dealing with my toddler as he enters the terrible two’s. I’m reassured running with my brother by my side, because like most areas of life, he’s already paved the way.
I’m suggesting, Runner Girl, that perhaps you can view running with your sister as an opportunity to create a special bond. Besides, siblings have a way of fueling our competitive streaks. That’s a good thing, because on days when you’d rather stay on the couch in front of the TV, imagining your sister running without you will motivate you to hit the trail.
Just because your sister is faster than you doesn’t mean that will always be the case. Life has a funny way of throwing obstacles in our running path, from demanding careers to childrearing, and sometimes running takes a backseat. But even if your sister is always a few steps ahead of you, just remind yourself that trying to keep up with her will make you a better runner.