Hello there, great to have you here. I loved that thing you did the other day by the way; you know, the thing. With your hair. Anyway, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to have a chat about something that’s been on my mind for a while.
The runners nod has been discussed since the dawn of time, and I think the vast majority of us will agree that it’s a nice thing to do and rarely unwelcome. But what about when you’re not running? Like many of you, I was quickly bitten by the running bug*, and I get a real buzz from seeing others enjoying the same simple pleasures as me. When I’m out running and I spot a fellow runner, it’s simple: they get The Nod (or a happy wave, or some other cheerfully panted greeting). But when I see someone out running while I’m just walking down the street or driving in my car, what then? The feeling of kinship doesn’t just disappear, and I’m left with something of a quandary. I still feel the urge to reach out and acknowledge our shared awesomeness, but how best to do it without it seeming odd? When you’re both jogging towards each other clad in shorts, running shoes and a mutual glow of exertion, a simple nod is all that’s needed, and it can speak volumes. But when one of you is “off-duty”, for instance wearing jeans and a big heavy coat, that very same nod can feel a bit strange.
People, I’ll cut to the chase… We need a signal. Some sort of universal runners salute, a sweaty equivalent of the masonic handshake.
My first idea for this was a nod accompanied by a short staccato semi-whispered “runner”.
Good start. The utterance of the word “runner” will let them know I’m not just some random nodder, like you read about in the news.
…but what if they mishear me? What if they think I’m nodding in their direction and whispering “scummer” or “bummer” or (and this will only be unnerving to a certain type of person) “plumber”,
Okay, so that’s out. What next?
Some sort of salute? Nope, most of these have already been taken and people could get confused and think I’m declaring membership of the nazi party, the boy scouts or the Black Panthers.
Still on the subject of non-verbals, I toyed with the idea of adopting the official sign language way of saying “running” coupled with a friendly nod. However, as far as I can tell from a quick glance on t’internet this involves pumping your arms by your sides in an exaggerated jogging motion, and if taken out of context by a complete stranger there’s a very good chance they’d think you were just taking the &$?!.
What about when I’m driving? The temptation is call out words of solidarity and encouragement. Perhaps one of the race-spectator staples such as “keep going”, “looking good” or “you’re doing great, but you’re about to be overtaken by someone dressed as a potato”. The problem with this is that, when you introduce factors such as wind velocity, the Doppler effect and society’s general mistrust of people shouting things from cars, your positive comments can easily be misheard. It’s a sad fact that people’s imaginations will often sabotage your unsolicited kindness, so don’t expect a reciprocal cheery wave from any runner who thinks you’ve just shouted “stupid running person, my Nan runs faster than you and she’s 107″ or “your legs look like hairy slugs” at them. Or the potato comment, to be honest.
We could adopt a signature item of clothing that we all have to wear when not running, but there’s a chance that not everyone will suit a yellow trilby and/or Hello Kitty dungarees. And neither would go down particularly well at job interviews or funerals**.
I thought about pinning a few of my race medals to the inside of my jacket, and then when I saw a fellow runner I could give a knowing nod and subtly hold one side open to show them, in the same way that someone who called himself “Knuckles” or “Frankie Two-Thumbs” might menacingly show off his shoulder holster. I think the key word there is “menacingly”, and I’m far too pretty to go to prison so it’s back to the drawing board.
Okay, so nothing so far. How about just standing in front of them with a massive grin on your face, arms stretched wide while loudly declaring “Brother/Sister… I’m just like you, and I want you to know that I’m there with you in spirit, following you every step of the way”. Hmm… I’ll refer you to my earlier comment about prison.
All things considered (and unless you’ve got any other suggestions) I think we’re stuck with only two options. Either settle for a simple smile and a nod (and if they get it they get it, and if they don’t they don’t) or just do nothing (while internally wishing them a fantastic run, of course). On the subject of the latter, I’ve often idly wondered if the unspoken good wishes of undercover runners might be magically responsible for those moments mid-run when you inexplicably get a second wind and your legs become suddenly refreshed. So anyway, next time you’re out running and a “civilian” smiles or waves or doffs a yellow trilby, be sure to smile/wave/doff back.
…and maybe run a little bit quicker, just to be on the safe side.
Anyway, I thought I’d end with a poll, mainly to find out if I’ve remembered how to do them…*Not actually bitten by therunningbug.co.uk, which is lovely and not an actual bug at all. Anyway, they removed at least 80% of the biters from their staff in The Great Purge of 2009. ** And to clumsily paraphrase Groucho Marx, I’m not sure I’d want to work for any employer who’d hire me if I turned up dressed like that. *** Just out of interest, do you wear a bandana, run bare-chested wherever possible and generally act like someone from a Pepsi advert? Just wondered. **** Um… if you ticked this one you might want to re-read the question.