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Pilk’s Points: To Wave or Not to Wave

When to acknowledge fellow runners, and how.

When to acknowledge fellow runners, and how.

“You’re not a very friendly runner.”

Those words jostled my concentration enough to slow me down, break my mid-run stride, and challenge my friend’s blunt assessment. I’m not a friendly runner? What the heck does that mean?

Apparently a fellow runner delivered an evening verbal salutation as we jetted around the bend. I literally did not notice. What I did notice was my desire to complete the 10-miler at race pace without collapsing. I wasn’t consciously ignoring the happenings around me; up until a mile ago, my friend and I were chatting about work and laughing at the latest Bieb scandal. But I had entered the zone, that beautifully challenging place where the only three things that matter are stride, mental mantras, and gut checks. I wouldn’t call it a scowl, but my expression was definitely determined, and I wasn’t focused on outside stimuli. I was focused on my GPS watch.

When I finished, the run wasn’t the only thing cramping my style — I felt defeated by those six earth-shattering words. I’m not a friendly runner?

RELATED: Road Racing Etiquette

Was this seriously an issue? I decided to Google it. I was relatively familiar with the various versions of runner-to-runner acknowledgement, but the unofficial research behind the subject was shocking. Apparently this is a discussed topic; I was just relieved to discover that my runner’s nod preference wouldn’t award me a full ride to etiquette school. But I digress — here are some of the best ways to be “friendly” and keep the runnerazzi off your back:

The Nod

It’s just as it sounds. A slight dip of the chin and quick eye contact to acknowledge that, yes, we are both experiencing this pain together. It’s respectful, it’s easy, and it takes little away from your focused running efforts. This is perfect for those hardcore tempo runs, where every ounce of energy counts and nothing can be wasted.

The Palm Reader

No, I do not want you to read my fortune. This gesture is a mini-wave — generally at waist level — where both runners lift their hands and cycle through one quick motion of a wave, palm out. This is a more obvious display of affection toward another runner, and it’s often used in the morning, before the stresses of work and day-to-day happenings grasp our mood.

RELATED: Trail Running Etiquette

The Verbal Cue

A simple “hey.” I would save this one for the more relaxed runs. If we had a great day at work and want to release good energy for others to soak up, this verbal smile is perfect for that type of exchange.

The Eyeballer

This is simple, and it’s just as respected as the rest. It gets the job done in a simple introductory way. Everything starts with eye contact.

Do Nothing

This is acceptable if we are ever in a demanding workout situation or don’t feel like embracing the world. It’s OK not to acknowledge folks passing — I won’t take offense. But beware of judgmental run buds or avid web surfers — they will find a reason why you will die 25 years earlier if you stare blankly ahead while pounding the pavement.

This is the beauty of our sport — there’s room for all types of personalities. I have respect for those who choose not to lift an eyelash my direction, and I have respect for those who choose to jump up and down until someone notices their impeccable stride. No matter your preference, I will always consider you a friendly person.

Got a running funny? Tweet @caitpilk and make me laugh!