In those first years of running, I could have told you a lot about my shoes, not because I’d yet made my way in to a running store to find a real shoe. I kept my eyes down while running because I was too slow too be seen.
Or at least if I didn’t make eye contact, I could pretend no one noticed me.
One day, I looked up.
I was a runner darn it.
I held my pride and there it was…the nod.
That passing runner probably thought nothing of it, but I knew what it meant: I’d joined the club.
I was officially part of that select crew that acknowledged each other’s efforts on the road the subtle “I see you” of the runner’s nod.
Of course, he could have given me a flick of the hand or a hello, but there’s something about the nod that really feels like you’ve joined a secret club. A club that says we don’t need words to recognize effort, we don’t need to talk about this, we don’t need to share a language, we might never meet again, but we both know we’re out here crushing it (whether that’s a speed walk pace or sub 6 minute mile).
Why the Runners Nod Matters
Do We All Nod?
In the years since then, we’ve lived and I’ve run many places around the word, which has lead me to find that the nod isn’t always an expected or common thing. But I believe it should be!
Miami – Rarely a nod, but lots of big running groups…so still runner friendly.
Kansas City – No one to nod at but passing drivers, you’re likely to hug another runner if you pass them.
Iowa – Also no one to nod at but passing cows, but when you do pass someone you generally get a “good morning”
Denver – Get ready to feel like a bobble head, you’ll be seeing lots of people and only the Boulder bubble super elite will ignore you
Naples – Every single runner I passed said “hello” it was really invigorating
Of course there are variations on the nod, which we tend to interchange depending on the day, our speed and yes our mood.
- Nod + smile = I’m having a great freaking run
- Nod – smile = I see you, I’m working too hard to be loving this yet
- Flick of the finger = I’m going real fast, but hey
- Wave of the hand = Wassup, this is hard.
What’s it like where you live?
And there’s a strange relationship between runners and cyclists that seems to only include a nod when the cyclist happens to also be a runner. As one who loves a man on his bike, I’ve started spending more time on the bike and realized that what I often took as cyclists perhaps looking down on runners was often more likely, speed.
In my case, I’m terrified to remove hand for any kind of wave and by the time it registers to nod, I’ve often passed the runner. Ha!
Should We All Nod?
I know some of you are thinking, but running is MY time. It’s why we run solo, to escape our to do lists and the mental chatter.
Well I’m sorry, but I say yes.
We may run alone, but the community we connect to through running is a large part of what keeps us coming back. And one day your nod could help someone else run a little taller and lace up again the next day because they feel like a runner.
Men’s Journal posted an interesting article that some men now feel strange doing the nod because of all the talk about women being harassed while we run. Yet, I think the nod is collegial and friendly. It’s the stare down, the hooting, the cat calls and the whistles that are unwelcome.
In fact, years after I received that little nod I found my chance to return the favor.
By then it was common practice for me to acknowledge other runners, sometimes it was a nod, sometimes a funny face as we passed in the wicked weather and sometimes a full on smile because damn I was having fun.
But this time was different…
I nodded and watched as the smile lit up her face. I could see the wheels turning and knew that’s what the gentleman who nodded to me had seen so many years ago, the switch. The moment you feel validated and part of something bigger.
So here’s my virtual nod to you all.
Do you give the nod?
Or do you keep to yourself on the run?
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