It’s happened to every runner; you’re jogging down the road lost in your thoughts and you see another runner bouncing in the distance headed your way. You spend the next minute totally focused on the nearing figure wondering what to do. Do you move to the other side of the road? Should make eye contact? Do you say anything? By the time you pass one another, you’ve both over thought the situation so much that you panic and avoid eye contact, run by silently, and then feel bad so you throw in a “hey” a few feet after you’ve passed. Awkward.
Uncouth etiquette stories are as common among runners as blisters. I doubt I’m the only one who wishes there was someone who could just lay out the rules for us all.
Oh hell, okay, I’ll do it.
I hope my 18 years of running experience and inept encounters at least partially qualify me to share the following suggested running etiquette standards:
Scenario #1: You’re about to pass a runner going in the opposite direction as you. Definitely make eye contact and add any one of the following: a smile, small wave, or a short greeting (“hey” or “g’morning” – no more than two words. You only have a second to work with here and we’re trying to avoid any talking beyond the point of being in front of one another.)
Scenario #2:You’re about to pass someone running in the same direction as you. Let them know you’re coming up. My personal method is emitting a fake cough. We both know it’s fake, but it’s far better than scaring the hell out of them either because they don’t hear you coming and think you’ve jumped out of nowhere to attack them, or they do hear you running and breathing hard behind them and assume you are a bad guy running to tackle them. Perhaps there are a few other assumptions people may have, but as a female runner these are always my first thoughts when footfalls and heavy breathing come up behind me. Either way, you will make the person jump and yelp with surprise at best, or you will end up punched or pepper sprayed at worst. To be extra safe, you could fake cough and move to the other side of the street to give them plenty of room. Besides, if you invade someone’s personal bubble while passing them, it just comes across as showing off that you’re faster than them.
Scenario #3: You’re in a car and you come to a stoplight or stop sign and there is a runner wanting to cross the street. Generally, you should stop for them. They are out there working their ass off, while you’re sitting on yours. It’s a lot easier for you to simply continue sitting than for them to break stride, wait for you to go, and then breath in your car’s exhaust while they start up and find their stride again. That being said, if the runner has already stopped before you do, don’t stop and wave them on. I get it; you’re trying to be nice. But just go. They’ve already stopped and will have to work harder to find their pace again. You waving them on will only annoy them, because then they stopped for no reason at all.
Scenario #4: You find yourself running almost the same pace as another runner who also appears to be running the same route as you. If you’re on a road with no turn offs, at least introduce yourself and make a lame joke about having the same route. However, if lame jokes and awkward conversation can be avoided, for goodness sakes do it! Branch out, take the next left, and alter your course so you can both continue your run without desperately trying to pretend like you don’t see one another until it becomes so unbearably weird that you have to start making small talk.
Of course there are numerous more examples of questionable etiquette scenarios (let’s face it, runners tend to be generally awkward people), but the above four are the most common I encounter on a regular basis. The main message is to acknowledge other runners, recognize that they are out there to exercise – not meet new friends or breathe your car’s exhaust – and don’t be creepy. If you can manage that, you’ll be just fine.
By Audra Rundle