In Which Jenn Is Awkward Around Other Runners On The Trail

Mickey waving

Years ago I remember reading a post by a blogger about waving to other runners on the trail. It has haunted me ever since.

In this post, the author expressed offense that other runners she passed out on the trail didn’t wave to her. Specifically in cases where she waved and received no response, which is understandable, but also in the general sense. Should not old fashioned friendliness and the camaraderie of the running community dictate that we wave politely as we cross paths?

Well… I dunno. I don’t wave to fellow runners as a rule, and there are several reasons why.

First, I am zoning. I am having my best run when I’m thinking out something else entirely. My brain processes the presence of other runners enough to recognize their presence, but much of the time by the time we’ve passed each other it hasn’t really penetrated my current daydream that the other person existed.

Second, I am carrying things. I carry my water bottle because I don’t care for on-person hydration options, and I carry my phone because I like to flip through my music at will. I’m not well equipped for legit waving, although I have been known to gesture.

Third, and most importantly, 90% of the time those other runners bear no indication that they intend to wave at me either. Perhaps the aforementioned waving blogger is from the south, or the midwest, or somewhere else in the country where I hear tell of storied warmth and friendliness, but that’s not how we do it here in DC. Here in DC we keep to ourselves, thank you very much! So as a high-functioning social anxiety sufferer, I’m certainly not about to start initiating interactions I’m not at all sure anyone wants.

There are, of course, exceptions. I will make those water bottle gestures at the rare runner who does acknowledge me. I have also been known to smile. And if someone makes a concession for me – for example, stepping to the side or off the path to let me pass – I will lift a hand and mouth “Thank you” to show my appreciation.

But waving to every runner I see? I’m not sure I buy that.

(Unless you have a dog. Please wave me down and introduce me to your dog.)

What do you think proper runner etiquette should be regarding acknowledgement? Do you think we’re honor bound to interact? Or is ignoring each other okay?

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  1. I feel like a smile is much less risky than a wave – if it goes ignored, well, maybe I was just smiling to myself. No one will ever know!

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