Walk. Run. Bike. Nod. Wave.

Just because I’m out of commission running-wise doesn’t mean I don’t still have running related thoughts in my brain that I simply must share here!

One thing I’m learning the more I run, and especially longer distances outdoors, is the etiquette of the trail, the rules of the road. Whether it’s a designated, cleared ‘trail’ or just an area of town that lends itself to cardio fitness pursuits because of sidewalks or ‘bike’ lanes there is a hierarchy and an etiquette to ‘crossing paths’ and acknowledging one another’s existences.

Before going any further, I want to clarify one thing: There is absolutely zero judgment or malice in this post. I am an habitual People Watcher, and I can’t help but extend that to my running. I cracked my husband up on our ten mile run when we encountered a couple people twice on our run and I had ‘names’ for them in my head.
Glove Guy – because he was wearing the same white, cotton knit gloves I was.
Bra Chickie – because heaven help her she needed a good one! It took all I had not to stop  on our second encounter and recommend she look into a Moving Comfort Juno.
And finally “Hello! Hello!” – the (obviously a) Marathoner who was pushing a slightly younger man in what I call a running wheelchair. The young man in the chair appeared to have CP (my guess is based on knowing a number of people with this condition throughout my lifetime), and as they went along (at a darn quick pace!) he shouted “Hello! Hello!” to everyone they encountered. We heard them coming up behind us, moved over, slowed down, returned his greeting, and were rewarded with a smile of pure joy. It was then, witnessing one of the greatest displays of love I’ve seen in a long time, that I learned running and crying are mutually exclusive.

The “Rules of The Road” (as I understand them) are as follows:
I’ve been a walker, and honestly I was always envious of runners. My (past) personal issue.
It has been my observation that, with rare exception, walkers don’t acknowledge runners, not even if the runner nods/waves first. I hate to admit it but I’ve stopped nodding and/or waving ‘first’, reserving my nodding/waving energies for other runners.  But if a walker
And the occasional biker (more on them later).

Runners acknowledge other runners with a nod or a quick wave/salute of the ‘outside’ hand.
Runners generally acknowledge bikers when they see them coming.
Runners may or may not acknowledge walkers.
Marathoners – and you know them when you see them – rule the road and deference is paid to them.  They don’t have to ask.  At least they don’t have to ask me.  I’m in awe of them!
If a Marathoner doesn’t acknowledge a ‘lesser’ (Read: Newbie like me) runner there is no offense taken.  At least not by me – I’m too busy being in awe/envious.
If a Marathoner does acknowledge a ‘lesser’ runner You. Have. Freakin’. Arrived. Baybee!
A couple weeks ago when we were running eight miles and I was struggling to make it up a fairly aggressive hill there was a Marathoner coming the opposite direction. We happened to pass one another in the very instant I gasped out “This is a b*tch!” I heard him snicker a little bit as he made his way past me like a Gazelle on the Serengeti Plains – effortless and beautiful. Later we passed each other again and he waved and called out “I see you made it up that hill!” as he Gazelled along his way. I think I took a good ten seconds off that particular mile’s pace after that.
In Memphis there is a particular respect paid to runners wearing their St. Jude Heroes singlets. I learned this on a recent run when I wore mine and runners passing us shouted out “St. Jude Hero!  Way to go!”. Honestly, it’s a great feeling to “run for a reason” and be acknowledged for it.

It has been my observation that there is a bit of a gender component to the nod/wave thing as well.
Men nod/wave to each other.
A man will nod/wave to a mixed-gender couple, particularly if the man ‘takes the lead’ when making space on the trail. If the woman is in the lead he will nod at her, but the eye contact is generally reserved for the other guy.
A woman running alone or a pair of women running generally will not wave/nod at a man or men. They may, or may not, wave/nod at a mixed-gender couple.
I’ve made these observations on runs when the distance between Rich and I stretched out enough that we might not have necessarily been “together”. 

There are two basic classes of bikers: Courteous and Not Courteous (I’m being nice).
When coming up behind runners Courteous Bikers will, when coming up behind runners, say “Behind you!” or “On your left”. Or they have those cute little bells they ding-ding. I like them.
Not Courteous Bikers go whizzing past without a sound, often startling the crap out of less experienced runners (like me) who are focusing on things like “Inhale/Exhale”, “Left Foot/Right Foot”, and “Don’t pee down your leg!” I am notsomuch a fan of this particular genre of biker.

When encountering runners ‘head on’ Courteous Bikers will nod. Some even smile depending on head vs tail wind and the number of bugs in the air.
Not Courteous Bikers just give a look that makes it clear they that consider runners obstacles at best.

I’m not even going to delve into the Teenage Dirt Bike Riders.

But here’s my take on this whole thing: At least we’re all out there doing something!
Even the TDBRs.
And for that reason alone I think we can at least give each other a little wink every now and again.
Oh, and don’t forget the all important “On your left!” when passing anybody going slower for any reason!

6 thoughts on “Walk. Run. Bike. Nod. Wave.

  1. (flat out giggling all the way through this) I LOVELOVELOVE to watch people. When I worked at Cedar Point, I would go into the park on my off times and just sit and watch people. Nelson and I had season tickets to an outdoor theater (Starlight) in Kansas City and we always purchased seats where we could watch people walk by us at intermission. And I give them names, too! I am a courteous bike rider, but I don’t have a bell. But I’m always smiling, nodding and saying hello. I’m an envious rider, too. I envy/respect road riders (I’m just a comfort rider, right now–wanting in the worst way to move into the next class, but the bike I want costs around $900). I envy/respect runners–all of them, present company included. I’m just thankful to get out and feel the wind in my face.

  2. That made me remember when I first started ‘really’ running (as opposed to heading out the door without warm up, plowing through 3 miles as fast as I could and then dying). I ran with a group and paired up with a couple other ladies. I remember one of them commenting one day that “Terri says ‘hey’ to everyone that goes past” and I hadn’t realized I did that. Once I realized it, the problem became twofold: Now that I’d started doing the little pointer finger acknowledgement wave (you know the gesture I mean?) I felt bad if I stopped; but then once I’d gotten trained up to greater mileage I was so dead toward the end that I could hardly lift my finger in greeting, much less huff out a “Huuuuh” and I felt bad to be rude.
    Secondly, every Thursday morning my friends and I did hill work at the farms – and there was this drop dead guy out there running (sans shirt *sigh*) every morning. We called him Hunkymunky. This guy ran eyes straight ahead and no one else existed. Well…that’s not happening on my watch. Every time we passed him – and it was usually twice at least since we were doing a circuit – I would full hand wave and say HI! or GOOD MORNING!
    nothing nothing nothing.
    and then, one day: he did a tiny little pointer finger wave.
    And that’s the end of the story.
    I think you’ll be seeing this story again on my blog now that I’ve remembered it.

  3. Bikers and urban joggers in NYC are the bane of my existence. While being ‘green’, the hot air that fills their self-aware minds contributes more to global warming than my walking. But that’s just me.
    There is a book I coded onto my jobs website a looong time ago, called ‘Trail Safe’. Though geared mainly towards hikers, the common sense knowledge it advises would probably be even more helpful for runners and evem bikers who might have to have even a little more foresight as they rush faster through the trails and paths.

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