Runnerquette: To Smile, Nod, or Ignore

This time of year, when the running trails are still covered in snow, I often find myself running on a very popular paved path that meanders past the million dollar homes on the shore of Lake Tahoe. I have been running this same path for almost twenty years and while it has mostly stayed the same (with the exception of a few new obscene mega-mansions), there is one thing that has definitely changed, the people I pass. Not just in the sense that I pass new people on the path all the time, but in that there has been a noticeable attitude shift in the majority of these people.

I live in a small town (about 8,500 year-round residents) and one of the things that I love so much about living in a small town is the sense of community. To me, that means running into people you know at the grocery store every single time, especially when you really don’t want to see anyone. It means people finding out about your personal life, both good and bad, before you can blink an eye. It means the community coming together to support one another in times of need. And it means passing people on the street, path, or trail and always at least acknowledging their presence.

Maybe it is because I grew up with a small town mentality, but I always expect to smile and nod at people I pass, especially other runners. And if I am not in the middle of a strenuous tempo run and sucking some serious wind, I also usually add in a “good morning/afternoon.” But lately, I am lucky if I get the same in return from 25% of the people I pass. Have things changed? Or are these just transplants/visitors that might not have the same mindset from wherever they came from? Am I the one that is crazy and all these non-acknowledgers are the norm? Or have things seriously changed over the past few years?

To test if I was just being hypersensitive or if people really were ignoring others they passed, I decided to play a little game on my four mile run this morning. I mean, why not play games in your head while you are running? It makes things that much more entertaining. Out of the 17 people I passed traveling in the opposite direction on the path this morning, whether running, walking, or bicycling, only two looked my way and smiled when I passed them. Two! Seriously. I just don’t get it. Unless you are an olympian with laser focus in the middle of a crazy hard training run or engaged in a serious conversation on your phone (which I see a lot, too), wouldn’t it be common courtesy to look at those you pass and smile, nod, or raise a hand as a slight waving gesture? What has happened to “we are all in this together”? Isn’t smiling good for your health and the health of others around you? Don’t runners want to be more healthy? I am pretty sure that is why we run in the first place, but I could be wrong.

I want to hear from YOU. To everyone else that might stumble across this blog, no matter where you are located in the world, what do you do? Do you smile, nod, or ignore those that you pass when you are on a run? What do you feel is proper runnerquette and why?

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