Hands up who ran today?
Hands up who smiled/nodded/waved/spoke at a fellow runner?
I hope that if I was on a stage asking all of you this then I’d see an audience full of waving hands. It seems pretty simple to say hello or even just a quick nod to someone you pass by but apparently some people find this quite difficult. Today I ran 10 miles along the Exe Estuary so decided to carry out a little experiment in which I said hello to every runner (as well as most cyclists/walkers coming from the opposite direction). It was raining so I don’t think I had a very large population under investigation but I think I could still discuss some of the outcomes.
I did initiate most of the greetings although as I approached my finish point I was in a bit of a daydream thinking about how much time I had before my train back that I nearly ignored a lady passing me, thankfully I managed a quick hello! I think there were 2 or 3 people who didn’t respond with one lady keeping her gaze at the path in front of her. It made me think; maybe this is her first run ever and just wants to get it over with? Maybe she was in the zone and didn’t register that I was close, which is a bit strange considering the path is probably wide enough to have no more than 3 people run side by side. A man I passed at the very beginning did look at me (I think) but no acknowledgement. I’m going to assume he was nearly finished his run and was concentrating on a sprint finish.
A lot of people go out for a run to escape from what’s bothering them and clear their heads. That’s definitely true for me some days and I’ll put my earphones in and try not to think about anything at all. Perhaps, some people like to zone out completely and in doing so they don’t notice or care to acknowledge others? I would like those people to know that there are lots of us out there who also feel the same and a little smile or nod is a good way to show support.
Of course, most people did say hello or good morning and I got the odd wave from some. Last year, I got a high five from a fellow runner and that made my day. It definitely made me run a bit harder and put a smile on my face for a mile or two. If I was running along the main streets of Exeter I wouldn’t be saying hello to every single person I saw, that is definitely a step too far but when you’re along the estuary you aren’t usually surrounded by crowds of people and a cheerful “good morning!” can help you feel a little less alone. Even cyclists gave me a smile this morning and I was hoping that people were really saying “Hello! You’re all the way out here? You must have ran far, well done!”
Due to the weather today, I think a lot of the good mornings also had an alternative message of “Are we wise?!”. When you are running in the rain, early in the morning or perhaps on a special holiday e.g Christmas Day (no experience of that one) then you make an even greater connection with fellow runners. You are both out there at a ridiculous time for who knows what reason so therefore you must say hello. That hello actually means “we are both equally as insane because we are outside before the streetlights turn off but also we are fantastic and can both feel smug for the rest of the day”. I don’t often have that kind of hello but when I do, I feel great, like I have been accepted in to some sort of special club for people who can get out of bed when it’s still dark and freezing outside.
I wonder if location has an impact on this and I don’t just mean urban v rural routes, I mean your region or country that you live in. I have only lived in the UK but my experiences in Northern Ireland, Scotland and now England are slightly different (I’m not going to say where I think is the friendliest but you can guess!).
I think it comes down to showing a bit of solidarity to other runners that are clearly working hard & doing their best. I don’t get annoyed when someone doesn’t smile back but rather I wonder what they could be thinking about that means they don’t even look at me. Next time you’re out running, see if you notice any trends in how people greet you. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to interact with others that is fine but why not give a nod and see if the response from the other runner makes you feel good. I can almost guarantee that it will.
In the words of the clever penguins from the film Madagascar, if you see a fellow runner just
“smile and wave boys, smile and wave!”
Have a great week everyone,