Friday, February 15, 2013

Social Aspects of Running

One of the big things that kept me on the treadmill for years instead of running outside (besides fear of getting lost) was having to deal with people.  I don't hate people, but I run to be alone with my thoughts, and I also look like quite the dumbass out there, and didn't want to feel self-concious.

I've seen pictures, I know the truth
 But once I finally ripped off the band-aid, I realized that the strangely social aspect of running alone can be quite delightful.

Exhibit A: The Solidarity Head Nod
This is what happens when you approach another runner and it means 'good for you for getting out there, I admire your pace and your form.'  However, the solidarity head nod is a highly regional thing.  Here in Rhode Island, you get it maybe half the time--no, more like a third of the time.  Therefore, it's kind of like a treat, but there's always a bit of tension as you approach another runner.  You don't want to do it first and feel like a nerd if he or she spurns you, but you also don't want to be rude.  It's a goddamn mine field out there.

When I was visiting my brother in Minnesota, people went beyond the head nod and actually said "Good Morning".  95% of people I encountered while running said good morning to me--it was a little spooky.

Exhibit B: The Cheering Section
This doesn't happen too too often, but when it does, it's a bit hilarious.  You're just out on a normal run, and some random person decides to give you a cheer.  I've had elementary school students frantically wave at me from bus windows; some college kid fist pump when I was tearing down a hill; and my personal favorite was the guy at the bus stop who gave me a high five.  He was totally casual, just stuck his hand out, then kept on waiting for his bus.

Exhibit C: The Super Fit Youth
I live in a college town, which means that in the fall and spring, my running route is jam-packed with incredibly attractive and fit young people.

I call this photo: Wall of Abs
The fact that they never seem to tire or sweat could be disheartening, but despite their outward appearance of perfect fitness, some of these young people don't really move that fast.  Passing a 19-year-old is possibly the most satisfying thing in the world.  Also, some of the boys are awfully cute (they're over 18!).

Exhibit D: The Regulars
There is an older woman who runs up the same street as me often around the same time.  Depending on the weather, we pass each other about once a week.  Every time I see her out there I think about the fact that she's probably in her 50s and still out there killing it.  Seeing her usually gives me a bit of a boost, and even though we've never spoken, I'm pretty sure we're pals.

What's your favorite social aspect of running?

Do you give the Solidarity Head Nod or some variation thereof?


  1. Coming from North Carolina, I've always been a greeter. In NC we do the friendly wave to everyone who passes, be it driver, walker, or runner. Transitioning to RI running meant that I had to reel back a bit to just head nods at everyone. But I get excited when I can slip a wave in there....

  2. I am definitely a one who gives the nod. I will even do it first, sometimes with a slight hand wave. The nod is common, gut not universal here in Texas.

    I have not really experienced the cheering section from strangers too much, but once or twice in my nice little neighborhood, I've had someone I don't know or barely know fall in stride with me (slowing themselves in most cases) and ask me what I'm training for (or similar questions)...I'm always tempted to say "the hell of it." but I generally do have a formal run (I'm not fast enough to "race" in mind). I'm not sure why people do this, I must just be approachable.

    When it comes to the college runners (and there are an abundance in Austin), I just tell myself that I'm 30 or 40 years older than they are, and I'm still here looking fabulous. (I have a seriously large capacity for self deception).

    And as a 56 year old runner, who is maybe not killing it, but is making the attempt to beat it up a little, I appreciate that you get a boost seeing your "pal"

    All of those are great social aspects, my other favorite...hanging out with other running folks, enjoying an adult beverage, and talking about our running exploits...and other stuff no one else cares about.

  3. I like the head nod, but I usually get it from older runners on my trail. I usually avoid Boston due to the wall of abs, out of sight out of mind ;)

  4. You're exactly right about running in Minnesota! Runners almost always say good morning or hi when they pass each other on the sidewalk :)