When it comes to running, I tend to wax poetic. No matter why we’re running, how fast we are or how incredibly apart our lives are, we runners are all connected by this thing we do. Somehow we all find comfort and routine in this heart-pounding, sometimes excruciating activity. So when I pass a fellow runner on the sidewalk, I feel a sense of solidarity. I feel the need to acknowledge this person’s existence because for this one moment, we’re crossing paths and doing the exact same thing.
Some runners give a quick courtesy wave, a hand held up as though to say, “I come in peace.” Others, like me, opt for the courtesy smile. And oh, is it awkward. There’s always that stretch, when this other runner and I are approaching one another but still too far away for courtesy whatevers, where both of us try not to make eye contact. Then, just as we’re passing, I look over and purse my lips into that weird but not overly eager hint of friendliness that I call the courtesy smile. What is that face? It’s sheepish and apologetic and, let’s be honest, a little creepy, but it’s instinctual. Why can’t I be a courtesy waver instead? I’d look so much cooler.
I appreciate runners who swap a quick signal of hello with me. Those who run past stone-faced or look the other way even irk me a bit. I’ve been told that this is not a big deal and I shouldn’t care, but when I make my awkward turtle of a courtesy smile in someone’s direction, I’m going to feel 10 times weirder about it if he or she sees me and then turns away. I know, this other runner might be in pain, doing a speed interval or just plain peeved and not in the mood to deal with other humans at this moment, but I just appreciate that runner’s bond. Maybe it’s the Midwesterner in me, wanting to smile at everyone on the street.
So if any runners are actually reading this odd little blog of mine, tell me: Do you courtesy wave or smile, or do you just keep running? Do you think about this as much as I do? And I promise, if we ever pass each other mid-run, you’ll get a smile from me. 🙂