Sick of having to listen to mediocre chat over a mediocre drink during a first date? Writer Kezia Rice has an alternative for you: running dates. She explains why she’d rather lace up and head out a jog than get to know someone over a glass of wine.
When people hear that my first date of choice is to go running together, they often think I’m crazy. “How can you jog and talk at the same time?” or “Don’t you both get really sweaty?” and “How does that even work?”
One friend joked that my penchant for asking guys to go jogging with me has primal undertones – as though by testing their fitness on the first meeting, I’m scouting for a healthy mate. In reality, I’m just on the hunt for an active, outgoing guy who is up for a challenge. Those who say ‘yes’ to running dates are already ticking lots of boxes.
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While I’ve so far used generic dating apps to meet fellow joggers, a new product is filling the gap in the market for fitness lovers seeking love. Soon-to-be-released dating app Zeal is specifically designed to match users with a mutual passion for sport. With a sporty guy being ‘my type on paper’, a whole app dedicated to finding candidates for sweaty and breathless first dates sounds like a genius idea.
But when you move beyond messages, how does a running date actually work? Skeptics are right: there are several logistical obstacles to overcome. Here’s what my past experiences of running dates have taught me.
How to take conversation off-line and onto the road
A few months ago, I matched with a guy called Georg on Tinder. With both of us citing running as a common interest in our profiles, the chat soon turned to favourite routes. I asked if he wanted to join me for my Saturday run, fully expecting him to decline due to what can only be described as sub-arctic temperatures in Berlin, where we both lived. When he replied that he was up for it, I was instantly impressed. Here was someone as keen on being outdoors in all weather conditions as me!
Icy paths may have made the run slightly trickier, but the snow falling around us added a romantic and mystical atmosphere. We began the date talking in German, but I soon realised that maintaining a conversation in my second language while jogging was a step too far. The takeaway? Keep everything else as simple as possible so you can focus on running.
Running can be great for spotting red flags
The second big consideration is pace and distance. I’d suggest keeping runs slow and small to allow for chatting, and establishing this over messages before you meet. You could message ahead of time something like: “I’d love to do a casual 5km with you.” After all, you can always run faster or for longer if you’re feeling especially fit on the day (or on the second date!).
Georg and I ran seven miles and continued the date by grabbing takeaway sushi to eat at my place. It felt comfortable and natural transitioning to an activity where we could talk more easily. If it was weird that we both stayed in our running clothes rather than immediately showering, neither of us mentioned it (but as I say, it was pretty cold that evening).
Several salmon rolls later, we began kissing. The running clothes stayed (mostly) on, but I considered it a successful date until he blew me off over text 48 hours later.
In hindsight, there was a slight red flag in his running style: he dodged around prams, pedestrians and slower runners with a brusqueness that I found inconsiderate and which had me hurrying to keep up. If analysing personality through physical movement is your thing, then a running date could be revealing. Unfortunately, I was too distracted by Georg’s other qualities (ie how he looked in activewear) to make sound judgments. But, we live and learn.
Friend-zones can happen quicker
A couple of months later, I added a line to my Hinge bio designed to scout out runners: “Best way to ask me out: ask me on a running date.” This attracted quite a few first messages, although it was sometimes tricky to move the chat from “Okay, let’s do it!” to “Hold up, let’s message a bit first and see if we get on.”
But one guy – Paul – seemed promising, and we arranged to meet up in a nearby park. I decided to jog the 20 minutes there, but, late as ever, I had to increase my pace to a sprint so I wouldn’t keep him waiting, heightening my pre-date anxiety. Top tip: save yourself the extra hassle and walk, cycle or take public transport to your meeting point.
Paul and I switched between running and walking, giving us moments where we could turn and look at each other as we talked. The pace was casual, but he pushed my limits in other ways: we did a 100 metre sprinting competition (I lost drastically) and ran nine miles, finishing at my flat so we could both grab some water.
Paul left shortly after his rehydration pit stop and texted me later to say that he’d enjoyed our date, adding that it’d be nice to do it again in a friendship or business networking way (we both run our own businesses). This was the first time I’d been business-zoned, and I was only slightly sour that he’d got the rejection in before I had. But there were no hard feelings, especially as I’d run further with him than I had alone in weeks.
Why running trumps drink dates
Although these two dates didn’t turn into anything more, I still maintain that for anyone who wants a similarly active partner, running together can be the perfect way to get to know someone. Silences are natural while running, so a lack of conversation never seems awkward. The date has an inherent time limit, so you won’t feel bad about quitting early if you’re not feeling it. Yes, you might be red-faced and sweaty, but if your date has a problem with that, they can get lost immediately.
Despite bars being open again, I’ll still be suggesting runs as first dates. Meeting in an inherently platonic atmosphere stops the ‘beer goggles’ of feeling more attracted to someone than you really are. Above all, running and dating at the same time is the ultimate multi-tasking activity. Even if you don’t meet the love of your life, at least you’ve got some miles on the clock.
For more first person experiences, healthy recipes and workout ideas, head over to the Strong Women Training Club library.
Images: Kezia Rice