Wednesday, February 8, 2012

...and it begins with you.

This morning I did 9 miles in the park with 10x100yd strides (they should have been 100m strides, but I used the reservoir which has 20yd markers). The run wasn't anything exciting so I won't bore you with any more details. Instead, I'd like to bore you with something else--running related--that I've been thinking about the past couple of days: acknowledging other runners.

There has been plenty of ink spent on this topic already, I know, but it's one that never goes away. Here's the scenario. You are running and you see another runner approaching you going in the opposite direction. As he or she gets closer, you wonder to yourself, Do I say hi? Do I waive? Do I sheepishly smile? Do I nod? By the time you get to the end of this list you and the other runner are within inches of each other and you give a halfhearted Charlie-Brown look that falls somewhere between "I really need to use the bathroom" and "I spend my spare time memorizing dialogue from Silence of the Lambs." The other runner, however, just gazing in the opposite direction pretending not to see you (or maybe he or she really does need to use the bathroom and that internal struggle requires all of his or her concentration).

Anyway, the point of the above rambling is that, at least in New York, there is no real protocol for greeting other runners. Generally, there is little to no acknowledgment. I don't know why this is. I've noticed on my runs in Van Cortlandt Park that as soon as I cross the county line into Westchester, the number of hellos and waives I give and receive jumps exponentially. It must be something about city living. I guess it makes sense when you're running in Central Park at 7pm on a Tuesday when the roads are choked with runners, walkers, and even "joggers" moving in every direction. But what about at 5am on a Friday when there are four people on all of East Drive?

My theory: we city runners view these interactions as a game of chicken. No one wants to be the first person so say or do something polite in case the other person doesn't return the gesture. One of the announcements on the subway ends with the following, "Courtesy is contagious and it begins with you." Maybe I'll make that my goal for the rest of the week, spreading a little courtesy to other runners. It's possible nothing will change. But then again, who knows how many I may be able to infect?

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