Running Etiquette: How to Avoid Being Awkward On The Road

avoid-being-awkward-on-the-roadIt’s hap­pened to every run­ner; you’re jog­ging down the road lost in your thoughts and you see anoth­er run­ner bounc­ing in the dis­tance head­ed your way. You spend the next minute total­ly focused on the near­ing fig­ure won­der­ing what to do. Do you move to the oth­er side of the road? Should make eye con­tact? Do you say any­thing? By the time you pass one anoth­er, you’ve both over thought the sit­u­a­tion so much that you pan­ic and avoid eye con­tact, run by silent­ly, and then feel bad so you throw in a “hey” a few feet after you’ve passed. Awkward.

Uncouth eti­quette sto­ries are as com­mon among run­ners as blis­ters. I doubt I’m the only one who wish­es there was some­one who could just lay out the rules for us all. Oh hell, okay, I’ll do it. I hope 18 years of run­ning expe­ri­ence and inept encoun­ters par­tial­ly qual­i­fies me to share the fol­low­ing sug­gest­ed run­ning eti­quette standards:

Sce­nario #1
You’re about to pass a run­ner going in the oppo­site direc­tion as you. 

Def­i­nite­ly make eye con­tact and add any one of the fol­low­ing: a smile, nod, small wave, or a short greet­ing (“hey” or “g’morning”—no more than two words. You only have a sec­ond to work with here and we’re try­ing to avoid any talk­ing beyond the point of being in front of one another.)

Sce­nario #2
You’re about to pass some­one run­ning in the same direc­tion as you. 

Let them know you’re com­ing up. My per­son­al method is emit­ting a fake cough. We both know it’s fake, but it’s far bet­ter than scar­ing the hell out of them either because they don’t hear you com­ing and think you’ve jumped out of nowhere to attack them, or they do hear you run­ning and breath­ing hard behind them and assume you are a bad guy run­ning to tack­le them. Per­haps there are a few oth­er assump­tions peo­ple may have, but as a female run­ner these are always my first thoughts when foot­falls and heavy breath­ing come up behind me. Either way, you will make the per­son jump and yelp with sur­prise at best, or you will end up punched or pep­per sprayed at worst. To be extra safe, you could fake cough and move to the oth­er side of the street to give them plen­ty of room. Besides, if you invade someone’s per­son­al bub­ble while pass­ing them, it just comes across as show­ing off that you’re faster than them.

Sce­nario #3 
You’re in a car and you come to a stop­light or stop sign and there is a run­ner want­i­ng to cross the street. 

Gen­er­al­ly, you should stop for them. They are out there work­ing their ass off while you’re sit­ting on yours. It’s a lot eas­i­er for you to sim­ply con­tin­ue sit­ting than for them to break stride, wait for you to go, and then breath in your car’s exhaust while they start up and find their stride again. That being said, if the run­ner has already stopped before you do, don’t stop and wave them on. I get it; you’re try­ing to be nice. But just go. They’ve already stopped and will have to work hard­er to find their pace again. You wav­ing them on will only annoy them, because then they stopped for no rea­son at all.

Sce­nario #4
You find your­self run­ning almost the same pace as anoth­er run­ner who also appears to be run­ning the same route as you. 

If you’re on a road with no turn offs, at least intro­duce your­self and make a lame joke about hav­ing the same route. How­ev­er, if lame jokes and awk­ward con­ver­sa­tion can be avoid­ed, for good­ness sakes do it! Branch out, take the next left, and alter your course so you can both con­tin­ue your run with­out des­per­ate­ly try­ing to pre­tend like you don’t see one anoth­er until it becomes so unbear­ably weird that you have to start mak­ing small talk.

Of course there are numer­ous more exam­ples of ques­tion­able eti­quette sce­nar­ios (let’s face it, run­ners can be awk­ward folks at times), but the above four are the most com­mon I encounter on a reg­u­lar basis. The main mes­sage is to acknowl­edge oth­er run­ners, rec­og­nize that they are out there to exercise—not meet new friends or breathe your car’s exhaust—and don’t be creepy. If you can man­age that, you’ll be just fine.

By Audra Run­dle