The Power of the Running Couple with Hollyanne Fricke and Kevin Cleary

Well, I'll start you off with an easy one!  How long have you been together and how did you meet? Was it via running?

We met in undergrad, when we were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend. Shortly after we started dating, Kevin graduated and moved to Arizona for grad school, so we were long distance for a year until I moved there for my master’s program as well. We’ve been together for over 10 years now and married for 7.

How long have each of you been running?  What are your goals for 2019?

H: I started running in middle school, mostly to stay in shape for soccer which was my main thing growing up. I did cross country in high school but wasn’t very serious about it. I ran here and there throughout college and grad school but didn’t really get invested in my running until about 2013. As far as goals for this year, I’m planning to focus on shorter distances this spring, and I’m excited to chip away at my 5k, 10k, and half marathon times, and to have fun in the process. Specifically, I’m hoping to break 20 in the 5k and 90 in the half. But let’s be real, the marathon is my true love and I’m already excited by running another one this fall. Longer term goal right now is to set myself up for a successful first Boston in 2020!  

K: I had done some cycling while in graduate school, and I had a co-worker talk me into running a half marathon. I signed up 5 weeks before the race and never ran more than 5 miles. After that race, I didn’t run again for two years!  I started running more around 2013. For this Spring, I’ll be running some shorter races (5K, 10-mile, Half Marathon), which is a big change after two marathons last year. I’ll probably be running another marathon this fall.

Both of you have coaches, yet they are different ones.  How has coaching helped you in each of your training, respectively?  Do you find yourselves coaching each other when one or the other has a key long run or session?

H: I would consider myself to be highly self-motivated, so unlike some, I don’t rely on coaching as much for the accountability aspect. Rather, I like having the guesswork of training taken out of the equation so that I can just get up every morning and do the part I’m good at - hard work. I would probably skew toward doing too much vs. too little if I didn’t have a coach, so it’s good to have someone keeping me in check and reminding me that recovery, time off, etc., are key parts of successful training. Also, as runners it’s easy to get caught up exclusively in our next big goal, but having a coach is so helpful for long-term goal setting and looking at the bigger picture. It’s helped keep me grounded but dream big at the same time.

And yeah, I definitely find myself playing assistant coach for Kevin all the time - usually it’s telling him to slow down his easy runs or helping convince him he’s capable of big things in an upcoming race. I’m a pro at unsolicited advice!

K:  For me, coaching takes out the guesswork in everything. I’ll do whatever is written down for me in terms of mileage and workouts, but it’s nice to know that I have someone monitoring my progress. Unlike Hollyanne, I would probably run too little if I didn’t have a coach. Coaching has helped me with my goal-setting both long and short-term.  

I definitely find myself playing the role of assistant coach for Hollyanne. If she has big workouts, I’ll follow her around in the car and pass fuel to her at the stages she needs it, especially if the weather isn’t cooperating.  

What I love about you guys is you always travel to races together, but sometimes only 1 of you may be running?  Do you find motivation from knowing one or the other will be on the sidelines cheering you on? Or does it kill you inside to think you should also be racing!?
Through the years we’ve run a lot of the same races; it’s fun to be preparing for the same race and share in the joy or disappointment of the day, but nothing beats having your #1 on the sidelines. (I think Kevin may like spectating even more than running?). I’d consider both of us to be pretty elite when it comes to spectating - we spend lots of time plotting out where we’re going to be on the course to help maximize the other’s success (e.g., I really wanted Kevin to be somewhere between 15-20 miles at CIM because that’s the hardest part of a marathon for me). Last year, we were able to spectate each other’s fall marathons and those two finish line moments are some of our favorite memories ever. Lots of happy tears.

They say a couple that runs together, stays together?  Think that's true!?
Well, we certainly hope so, ha!

Your lifestyles and line of work may be different, but end of the day, each and every week consists of training, race planning and going out there and getting your goals and dreams.  Do you feed off of each other because of this? The fact that you both share an insane passion for this beautiful sport?
We think it’s pretty cool how much we love this sport, especially for two people who didn’t compete in high school or college and came to running (or at least racing) a little later in life. We certainly each have our own separate hobbies, but feel really lucky that running is one that we can share and never get sick of talking about (and that gives us a built-in accountability partner for 4:30 am wake-ups)!

Now really, who pays for all of these race entries?  Haha.
Ha, this is in part the reason why I (Hollyanne) started working part-time at a local running store. Racing certainly isn’t a cheap hobby! We’ve been able to turn a lot of our race adventures into vacations, which is awesome. But one of these days we need to go on a non-running, actually relaxing vacation!

Who's the best at post race celebrations?  Or are you both ready for a burger and a beer, immediately after a race?
I’d say we both excel at this! We both need some time afterwards before we’re ready for real food but we’re pretty much always down for a beer. In fact, one of my favorite race memories was bringing Kevin a beer at mile 22 of a particularly tough marathon (for both of us) to cheer him up. It was a bright spot in an otherwise very crappy day, and proof that despite our dedication to this sport and our training, we also try not to take ourselves too seriously.

Who owns more running shoes?

K: Ha, no question at all. Definitely Hollyanne. It’s kind of embarrassing how many shoes Hollyanne has but also how few shoes Kevin has.

Do you guys run together at all?
We’ve tried running together here and there, but decided we’d like to stay married instead, haha. We usually just end up getting on each other’s nerves in some way. We coordinate where we’re doing our long runs or workouts sometimes, but otherwise kind of do our own thing. Kevin is much more of a social runner, so he’ll often meet up with friends for his runs, whereas running for me is my alone time. It works!

And, along with another couple, we helped start a running club that meets weekly at a local brewery, and we’re coming up on three years of doing that. So although we very rarely run side by side, there are definitely lots of ways that we are involved in running together.  

And finally?  Is there any advice you can give any other running couples out there?  Why do you guys click so well? My wife is a Ultra Runner and Kickboxing instructor.  But end of the day, she hates running with me because all I do is talk running! Ha.
If you know us, you know that Kevin and I are very, very different people, but I think one of the reasons that we work well in general and as a running couple is that while we both have our own separate goals and dreams, we are also fully invested in the other person's goals and dreams. In running, as in life, there are lots of ebbs and flows, so naturally there have been and will be times when one of us is seeing success and the other isn't, and we feel really blessed to be able to navigate all of that together. It's such a privilege to have a front-row seat to someone else's journey, whether it's running or anything else, so I guess our advice would be that if you're lucky enough to have that kind of support in your life, don't take it for granted, and pay it forward by being that support system for others both through the good and especially the bad.