Do you greet or salute other runners while you’re out on your run?
I find myself doing it instinctively. Any runner coming towards me, I will invariably make eye contact and give an upward nod. I might add a greeting like “How are you?” (the Irish “How’r’ya!” which isn’t really a question) if I’m back home in Ireland or “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” if I’m hurtling around my French neighbourhood.
However, I find that the response rate isn’t high. A few weeks ago, during a long slow run of around 10 miles one Saturday morning, I decided to keep a mental note of how the runner’s salute was received. Out of 5 runners, three men and two women, with whom I made eye contact and to whom I offered some kind of greeting, one man responded. None of the five made the first move and saluted me first.
Why do I do it? Perhaps out of some sense of fraternity – especially on a long run before a marathon, when the other runner is probably training for the same race. Then, the simple upward nod of the head expresses some mix of encouragement, understanding and gallows humour along the lines of “These bloody long runs, what?”
I don’t look for conversation when I greet other runners. I run alone and that suits me fine. No one has ever pulled up alongside me and started a chat – and you can’t very well stop someone coming against you just to have a quick word. Do any runners chat with others at random? Perhaps that’s the limit of my running sociability.
In one sense, I can understand why some runners would be wary of anyone who salutes them – no doubt there is the occasional running Casanova hoping to hit onto someone and use the old “We have so much in common!” line. And big city living has made us all wary of strangers who break the glass wall and communicate with us, perhaps with good reasons.
Another factor might be the mp3 player. I don’t wear music while I run or even while commuting – I prefer a mix of natural sounds and whatever random tune happens to pop into my head. But as well as being dangerous when you’re running on the streets, do earphones cocoon you from human contact? Maybe, maybe not. Of the four runners who didn’t greet me during my brief experiment, perhaps only one was wired for sound. And even without music machinery I’m usually wrapped up in my own thoughts when I run, but I still stay aware of other runners.
Anyway, if you’re out running and see me heading towards you, don’t worry. I’m not sleazing onto you or craving conversation or looking to be your new best friend. I’m only saying ‘hello’ and then moving on. And hopefully that’s all you’ll do too.