As I jogged along the seafront this morning, full of the joys of Spring, I felt a bit like Mick 'Crocodile' Dundee when he visits New York for the first time. You know, that scene where Mick is walking along a crowded pavement/sidewalk and attempts to bid "G'day" to everyone he passes, before becoming overwhelmed by the plethora of other pedestrians. Well, that was me this morning: cheerily hollering to my fellow runners, and barely greeting one before another sped towards me. Understandably, the flat, scenic route is a favourite with runners, but today it was particularly packed; joggers jostled alongside pedestrians, cyclists and dog-walkers, each traversing the tarmac at their own pace.
Which got me thinking about the unspoken rules of the road (well, pavement). Should one greet everyone you pass? Will other runners think you are showing off if you boom a hearty 'Good Morning! How are you?' without losing pace - or is a brief nod more becoming? How should I greet for the second time a runner I've passed earlier? And what's the most polite way to pass those who stand in our way of a PB?
It can be a minefield of Do's and Don'ts, but a few basic guidelines can help. Here's my top ten, honed through painful, or at least embarrassing, experience:
- You may prefer to zone out to your running soundtrack, but it looks rude not to acknowledge fellow runners. If you're too out of breath to speak, then a polite nod or modest smile will do. At the very least, make eye-contact to show a semblance of camaraderie.
- If you are unsure whether to go for a mute greeting or full-blown 'Good Morning', wait until your fellow jogger opens their mouth. Even a belated greeting as you streak past is better than being ignored.
- If you have already greeted another runner, and then pass them again as you both return from your circuit, don't go for another verbal exchange. A wry smile is enough to show mutual appreciation of the other's efforts. Also by this point in your run, you are probably panting too much for conversation, so it's a good tactic all round.
- Don't attempt to greet pedestrians or other non-runners. Their bewildered faces as you thud sweatily towards them will reveal they think you are borderline certifiable.
- Feel free to make eye contact with cyclists (they're the closest thing to a kindred spirit as another runner) but there's no point trying to converse. By the time you've opened your mouth, they will have long since passed you and you will end up looking pitiably delusional as you foolishly mouth "Hello" to nobody in sight – except for the dog-walker up ahead, now regarding you with deep suspicion.
- When pedestrians are blocking the pavement in front of you, either cough discreetly to signal your desire to slip through their ranks, or bravely speak up – a polite "Excuse me" should suffice. If they are wearing headphones/chatting loudly/deaf, they obviously won't hear your request. In this case, you can either slow your pace until they notice you or drop onto the road to overtake them. But try not to act like an undercover spook and alarm peds unnecessarily.
- Equally, if you happen to be running with a buddy, don't hog the pavement – set an example to the peds and show consideration by only running two abreast, or single file if over-taking.
- This rule can largely be ignored if you're running in an organised event, since most normal people will keep well clear of swarms of lycra-clad runners advancing towards them. Or most likely, will still sensibly be in bed, enjoying their second cup of morning tea.
- Run on the left; except if you're dodging puddles or running on the road, in which case run facing the traffic so you can see oncoming cars. In the case of blind corners, if you can't see around a sharp bend, neither can the driver. There's no point keeping fit just to be flattened two minutes later.
- Ignore all of the above if you are running on a treadmill in the gym. The view in front of you will almost certainly be a blank wall, mirror or TV screen. So don't smile, don't say 'Hello' and, whatever happens, don't try and overtake.
Last updated 16:12 on 9 January 2019