Recently I went for a run while visiting a college town in the Southeast. I won’t name names, but let’s just say that most of the runners I encountered exhibited a somewhat cavalier attitude. I was disappointed by the lack of hellos, waves, smiles, even eye contact. I don’t think I detected a single friendly gesture from any of the dozens of runners who passed by me. Ironically, I was greeted repeatedly and enthusiastically by street cleaners, people waiting for the bus, and even an old man sitting on his porch in the seedy section of town.
Now I know that people run for a variety of reasons, and are in different mindsets when they are out for a workout. But, gosh, these folks all looked like they were either being tortured or were training for the Olympics and couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge a schmuck like me.
Maybe some of the runners I passed were in the middle of a tough tempo workout, and to look up would’ve taken more energy than they could muster. Maybe some had just had an argument with a loved one and had gone for a run to clear their heads. Maybe some simply were not morning people, and the mere thought of smiling at that hour was unbearable.
Perhaps they were worried that I was going to stop and ask them for directions, or attempt to engage them in conversation, or even challenge them to a race. Many people view their morning runs as their only opportunity for solitude during the day, and they just don’t want to be disturbed. I get that. I also understand what it’s like to be tired, hot and cranky from the humidity or a long hill. The thing is, we’re all in this together. I’m proud to be among the minority of folks who drag our butts out of bed before sunrise in order to hit the road or trail. I feel a certain kinship with the other brave souls who are out there putting in the miles while others rest cozily in their beds. For me, a smile or wave sends the message that, yeah, I might be feeling pretty tired right now, but overall, I’m psyched to be out here pushing myself – and I’m glad to see you doing the same. It’s also a reminder that, even though some miles are harder than others, running is essentially meant to be a joyous activity.
So next time you pass another runner on the sidewalk, please don’t pretend you don’t see him, even though you’re squeezing by one another on a narrow strip of asphalt. Take a moment to look him or her in the eye and give a wave or word of encouragement. It won’t slow you down, I promise – and the smile you’ll get in return might even put an extra spring in your step.