Meeting And Greeting...

Snorts, cries and stares of disbelief... hello, runner

Posted: 31 October 2002
by Lin Vaux

I never cease to be surprised by people’s reactions to runners and the way they respond, greet or astutely ignore you as you pound past on your daily trot. On the whole, people are generally happy to stand to one side to allow you to pass with a nod and a thank you. But there are those that view you with increasing disbelief as you grow closer, and unless you’re prepared to barge through them, will force you into the undergrowth, the gutter – or if you’re really unlucky, into an inconveniently placed clump of stinging nettles or cow pat.

I acknowledge all those whose paths I cross with a nod, a smile or greeting. I try to gauge the salutation, if any, that I will receive in reply.

Hi Single syllable favourite of other breathless runners.

Hiya Used exclusively by the 30-40 age group.

Hello A particular favourite of middle-aged women walking dogs (never to be confused with “Well hello”, an opening [and definitely closing] gambit of lechers of all ages as you whizz past).

Halloo! As in ‘view halloo’. A favourite of the boating fraternity on the Thames as they pootle by on their river cruisers.

Morning This can vary from a short “mornin” (often accompanied by the touching of a hat) from older men to a long “morn-ing” (in a ‘what-have-we-here?’ tone of voice) or a breezy and generally high-pitched “morn-ing” much used by others hurrying past purposefully. (The same applies to variations on a theme of “evening”.)

’Ow do Used by older Northern men.

Good morning Emphasis is everything: “good morning!” springs from cheerful, ‘I-like-to-be-up-enjoying-the-crisp-morning-air’ types, often accompanied by a couple of tail-wagging dogs. But “good morn-ing” signals a man who believes he could sell ice to eskimos and charm you into the bargain as he leers at you over his beer belly.

Good evening The emphasis is different here. The “good evening” dog walkers (who can be the “good morning” brigade out for an evening stroll) are much more relaxed – winding down and enjoying the end of the day. However, “good even-ing” still thinks he’s in with a chance.

That’s hard work! Said completely without malice by smiling, middle-aged women. And, yes, it is.

There’s even a separate sub-group who manage to communicate silently:

Smiling This can vary from a shared joke (often other runners) to a wry, ‘you-must-need-your-head-examined’ sort of smile.

Laughing while shaking head Another ‘you-must-need-your-head-examined’ type greeting.

Grinning This is more a case of ‘rather you than me’, but can alternatively mean ‘you’re completely bonkers!’

Silent growl I’ve always taken this to mean, ‘seeing you reminds me that I’m overweight and in need of exercise, so why don’t you just b***er off.’

A nod, wave or a hand raised briefly From runners who don’t have the puff to say anything. (We’ve all been there.)

Gasping acknowledgement From runners who don’t even have the energy to nod or wave. Not to be confused with panting (from dogs pulling on leads).

A brisk, friendly nod or a shy, inclining of the head Both from sensitive men who are unsure of the politically-correct way in which to address a semi-clad beetroot on legs as it runs past.

Staring This can be disinterested, disbelieving or downright, hate-the-world antagonistic (usually from someone accompanied by a Rottweiler or other big dog).

Grimace or leer Almost exclusively used by fisherman along the riverbank.

Honking car horns Men only again, most often those in white vans.

Bicycle bells or hooters Sounded with a view to warning you to get off the path. (Have you noticed that the vast majority of so-called ‘mountain’ bikers rarely deviate from paths onto the bank let alone onto mud or mountains?)

Whoever said that long-distance running was a lonely business?

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The best, or is that worst, encounter with Mr and Mrs Non Runner so experienced. Evening run, last winter, in London. Wide pavement (ish, it was London after all) and coming in the opposite direction 2 middle aged couples i.e. walking four abreast. With a wall to one side and parked cars to the other, surely one of them will leave me room to pass? Of course not. Having effectively stopped to squeeze between them, I offered them thanks in the form of "Thank you VERY much". The reply was priceless - "You should run on the road"! In London in the dark with a perfectly good pavement - I can't repeat what I said.
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 09:08

But it's the owners of dogs on long leads that usually drive me nuts. What usually happens is the dog is one one side of the track, the owner is on the other with the lead streched between the 2. The owner sees you coming, moves to the opposite side of the track to be with the dog BUT the dog then moves across as well. The result? The lead is still across the track and the owner says "Sorry!" usually with a giggle meaning "Oh,isn't my dog silly". For some reason these people take exception to being sworn at.

Other greetings:

"Alright?" usually in South Wales

"Watcha!" usually said by someone who looks like Jack the Lad and often with an accompanying wink and grin
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 09:39

The nicest comment I ever had was when I was running in a massive thunderstorm in Paris early in the morning. Several men shouted "Bon courage" which was just so nice and French.

Mind you every woman I passed looked at me like I was something they'd stepped in...
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 09:51

I remember getting an equivalent response (and applause!) from some people sheltering at a bus stop when I ran past them in a massive cloudburst in Walldorf, Germany, some 14 years ago. Would never get that here.

As for the dog issue - most recent incident came Wed night as I was running along one side of a residential road. A dog off the lead galloped across and began to harass me loudly as I proceeded up the road - getting in my way on one occasion (but a shade too big and too far away to kick alas). The owner had the cheek to shout across to me & ask ME to stand still rather than her dog!
At no stage had I tried in any way to eyeball or otherwise challenge the stupid mutt - she was q clearly incapable of controlling it.
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 10:04

That long dog lead trick happened to me in the Blackpool marathon. The owner crossed in front of us and the dog stayed behind so the lead stretched across the path!
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 10:05

Generally I find non-runners very supportative here in Germany and they usually hold onto their dogs before as I run past.

My solution for pavement rage is generally to speed up, put head down and generously flail the elbows - people generally move out of the way.
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 10:10


I've had a bra thrown at me once when out running.

Either I excite the same responses while running as Tom Jones does with his singing - or she thought I was on my way to the luanderette.

Sadly the most likely explanation is that it was a drunken bet (late night run past a pub).
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 10:39

At least those dogs had leads recently while running to work I approached a "lady" with her dog from behind. I did not want to surprise the dog which was a lurcher type, so i ran on to the road and gave it a wide berth as i ran past it pulled away on its lead knocked me off my feet and bit me on the chest and stood over me while i was on the floor in the road. The most painful aspect was the as the dog jumped on me it kicked me in the crown jewels. As you can imagine when i got up i went ape and tore of a strip of her. As i got in to work i took of my vest to reveal quite a nasty bite. I contacted the police but nothing happened.
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 11:10

Running with my club recently a bunch of kids in front of us started shouting and jeering which is nothing new, however this was a sub 6.30 group, so we came upon these kids pretty quick but they did not attempt to get out of our way in fact one young girl jumped in the way of one lad. One of the sweetest moments of revenge for all the hassle we get was this as she did this another chap with a water bottle squirted her in the face and all we heard as we moved on was a single scream and then laughter GREAT REVENGE!!! Abit of water doesnt hurt anybody
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 11:13

I was running along a small country road, only been running a few months so I wasn,t exactly pushing on, an old man with his dog, smiles, your fair struggling the night lass .. huh .. I had already ran 8 miles.
I have only once came across nerdy teenagers getting in my way, I altered my path to run straight towards the smart ass one with the 'watch me I'm big' grin lifted my head for eye contact & sped up. he quickly jumped into the mud. I aint exactly small you see.
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 11:39

I don't know if any of you were out running last night, but I got an exceptional amount of hassle from irritating kids, p***ed students, etc. etc. By the end of the run I was pretty much ready to deck the next person that got in my way.

Must make a mental note to stay in the gym next halloween ;-(
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 12:53

I had an egg thrown at me by trick or treaters whilst running last night - they were about 14 yrs old.....(trick or treaters, not eggs) Not the 1st time I have encountered egg-throwing whilst running in London, but 1st time it has been on hallowe'en. (By the way they missed!)
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 13:34

Welcome back Nicola. haven't seen your name for a while.

Last winter we had a bloke running with us who we called the Juggernaut - he was a big ex-boxer type. Any gangs of teenagers and we let him go to the front. The teenagers didn't seem so keen to block the way. Our Juggernaut has now moved to another area so we're back to the running in a crowd and hoping to keep out of trouble. So far this year, we haven't had more than the 'run forrest run' comments shouted at us. But it's early days yet. Roll on the cold nights when the brats are indoors.

Posted: 01/11/2002 at 14:48

We were out with the running club last night and there were obviously a lot of kids out - generally harmless but one group got egged - I'm glad I wasn't alone.
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 14:53

This is a good one for this time of year (probably to do with the time of year!): kids at side of the road with badly-dressed Guy, they ask (as I zoom/drag myself by), "Penny for t'Guy, mister?" Can they not see my complete lack of anywhere to put anything?!
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 16:36

There were tons of kids out letting off fireworks in the road last night (apparently this is normal in North America rather than a sign they should be jailed, as i had assumed) & a fair number of adults in silly costumes, but i mostly just avoided them. Met another amused runner admiring the houses adorned with scary pumpkins though. Running is seen as pretty normal in Vancouver, so we get a lot less hassle here than in London. still, pesky kids etc.
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 17:48

I was out on a swift 5 miler one Halloween a few years back and ascending a steep hill when I heard the sound of breaking glass from a side-street up ahead. A group of kids emerged from the street and disappeared around a corner. I ran on, passing the entrance to the street. You can probably guess what happened. Broken window + running man = guilty party. Next thing, I'm being chased by a very irate householder. I stopped to explain, calmly, in moderate tones, between rasping breaths, that I was just "a jogger" (it was the early eighties). Then I spied an older man in the background, but getting closer all the time, carrying what appeared to be a carving knife. "Hurry up dad, we've got him" said man number 1. I think my training log said something like "5 miles with fast hill".
Posted: 01/11/2002 at 18:34

Re James Smith & the dog incident. It is an offence under the dangerous dogs act for one's dog to cause someone to feel apprehensive even if it doesn't actually attack you. The police should have responded & that dog should be muzzled when in public

We had loose dogs under our feet in a recent XC race in Bacton Woods & small children chasing us blocking our way while the mothers/dog owners looked lovingly on
Posted: 02/11/2002 at 12:08

how about "where's yer shovels?" from a group of teenagers as we returned on an evening run with several members with head mounted lights, better than "run forest run"
Posted: 02/11/2002 at 12:59

A nice gesture is when someone you pass in a car (obviously when they are stuck in traffic or at traffic light ;-)) and they give you the old 'well done mate' or 'keep it up'. Always feel the encouragment and you know it is probably a fellow runner. Although the other day, my wife and I were out running next to Kew Gardens when a man jumped out from behind a tree and starting clapping his hands and saying "faster faster". (If only he knew we were on a 8K of the 10K speeds session). He then starting running behind us and again shouted the word a couple of times, but getting angry at us for not picking up pace as he instructed. Must have been a complete nutter.
Posted: 02/11/2002 at 14:20

I don't get the nice comments, the last comment I got shouted at me from a car was "get a move on you fat f**king cow", I was charmed as you can imagine.
Posted: 02/11/2002 at 14:38

With about 1.5 Miles to do of a 5 Miler one year, whilst running quite well, one bloke had the audacity to collapse on the floor and have some kind of a fit!

Obviously I had to stop and help as his mate and another bloke were worse than useless and obviously didn't know first aid!

After the usual 40 min wait for an ambulance I was allowed to continue with my run!

Incidently, I think he was alright after!


Here to Fight The Force of Evil!
Posted: 02/11/2002 at 15:22

Once I was faced with 4 young teens walking side-by-side blocking the path walking toward me and looking at me but none of them moving out of the way so I could pass clearly. I shouted out, "If you don't move I'm going to run you over" and fully prepared to run through/into them in the Red Rover schoolyard game style. Surprisingly they jumped out of they way and apologised sincerely as I went by!
Posted: 02/11/2002 at 15:39

Sharp little elbows are quite useful when trying to negotiate young bullies in small groups coming towards one on the footpath! Dogs are the bane of my running life, some dog owners are courteous and friendly to runners, others seem to think I should stop running when approaching their friendly (sic), he won't hurt you, or vicious, dangerous, out of control animals. I have tried to explain that I just want their dog to ignore me!! however, it usually end up in a slanging match. I'm called, stupid, miserable old bitch (latest) and much worse. The funniest was when I said to a woman 'Madam please control your dog' she replied don't you dare call me madam!
Posted: 02/11/2002 at 18:15

My most recent encounter was a couple of teenage girls, up for a lark, running behind me and commenting on what they thought was slow progress. I told them that as a runner, I was used to being chased by dogs. They didn't appreciate the repartee, for some reason.
Posted: 02/11/2002 at 20:02

I agree that dogs are the worst - not just them but what they leave behind. As an early morning runner I rarely have to bother with difficult teenagers.

I'll give any dog owner who controls their dog as I approach a cheery 'hello'. But the funny thing is that EVERY dog owner says something to the effect of 'he won't do you any harm' even when towser is going mad and trying to bite my leg off.
Posted: 03/11/2002 at 17:31

A few years ago I ran past a group of teenage girls. As I passed one of them shouted in a great American accent "Great ass". My wife got pig sick of me telling people
Posted: 03/11/2002 at 19:56

And . . . a while ago my missus and her mates were out running and a group of young lads in a car yelled out of the window "get your t**s out. They then drove past again and yelled the same thing. About a mile later the girls saw the car again. . . pulled over for speeding
Posted: 03/11/2002 at 19:59

I ran past a rather pretty girl the other week, wearing my (sadly now disintegrated) tight-fitting Ronhill gear.

She commented, to my utter surprise: "Mmmm.. nice a**e honey"!!

I was on Cloud 9 for about 2 weeks, when my ego recovered by the expedient of looking at myself in the mirror ;)
Posted: 03/11/2002 at 21:17

I had an eventful run yesterday morning. Everyone I passed - usually waiting at bus stops looked at me like I was a complete nutter - particularly liked the one who blew cigarette smoke in my face as I was passing! Then I got chased by a huge dog that started howling - thankfully a fence between us and then I got tooted at by a couple of blokes in a clapped out VW. And there was me worrying about using the underpass on my route for the first time!!!
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 12:38

Had to giggle yesterday - we were 7 miles into our long run and it was chucking it down. Chased b/friend over steep hill to be greeted by bemused passers by. Was a bit put out by well meaning lady's question "Are you allright love?" Did I look that bad??
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 13:06

Just back from 2 weeks in Ibiza, lovely running weather etc. Bit cramped in the hotel room (2 adults 3 kids)and due to the age of my youngest daughter (21 months) I found myself up too early in the morning and decided to run her down the road to the nearest bigger town in the buggy. The buggy is a standard wiggly 4 wheel job and the run was about 6K each way. Nobody batted an eyelid, even the locals just coming out of the pub at 7 in the morning drunk paid no attention. Mad dogs & Englishmen eh? I can imagine the looks I would have got in the UK.

On the subject of teenagers, I was once faced with 3 across a path and very much in cheeky mode. I ambled on in full view, nobody moved but the grinning increased. I meerly continued at the same pace in a straight line and sent the middle one flying whereapon he apologised immediately!! Strange world?
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 13:09

Clearly Nuts - I did the same thing during a race but with a car pulled in front of me - pulling out of a side road onto the road we were running on and then stopping, despite several dozen runners approaching at top speed (we were heading downhill and to the finish). I figured that if I carried on in a straight line, he'd reverse back into his road. Oh how wrong I was.

Running into BMW at 6.5 min/mile pace really, really hurts, and I broke my watch.

But he had a lovely dent in his roof and I don't think he'll ever do it again!

Posted: 04/11/2002 at 13:17

I get some grief almost every time I am out. If it not kids sitting on a wall shouting abuse, they will be blocking the pavement.

The majority of the time it is young girls that cause all the problems as any blokes realise a young fit runner could probably give them a beating.

I found shaving my head down to about a one or a two gives you that 'thug' look and the amount of comments goes down.

The one thing that will probably make me react in the end is when I go running with my girlfriend. She is quite new to it and finds the shouting a bit worrying - especially from passing cars.

One day I am going to kick some ass.
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 13:25

Some people just need to be less ignorant and show more respect I reckon.
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 13:28

A few months ago I was approaching the end of my first 7 mile run. The last half mile or so is uphill, and as I approached the bottom I started to feel a little sick, the lungs were burning etc. etc. so I decided I would run 5 lamposts only and stop. As I rounded the corner and started my ascent I noticed a group of 4 dog walkers stood talking at lampost 4. Great I thought - an excuse to stop. I was overjoyed, however this was shortlived as heart and lungs were giving up on me, and breakfast was threatening to reappear. As I approached the dog walkers an elderly gentleman spotted me.

"Move over, move over - fit young man coming through". The crowd parted.

"Come on bonny lad - keep it going. Why man, I wish I was as fit as you young un".

It was pride and the look on the old mans face that made me keep going. I reached my street, turned the corner and was reminded of what I had for breakfast....

Bloody dogwalkers....
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 13:32

I had a more positive experience on Saturday.

Running along the cycle path late on Saturday afternoon I met a guy walking the other way he stopped and said "I shouldn't go down that way if I was you because there are three guys sitting there high on drink and drugs."

Fortunately I was able to come off the path, skirt round (sure enough there were some people sitting up there) and rejoin the path a bit further along.

I don't know if they would have said/done anything but it was nice to be warned and have the chance to take avoiding action.
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 13:36

I find that if you start making noises as if you are about to spit in the same manner as footballers specialise in the idiots tend to move out the way. I assume they don't like the idea of being covered in phlegm.(It doesn't appear to work on dogs though)
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 13:49

Hi Dangly Spice, Didn't realise that I posted on here enough to be noticed when I am absent! I am on the forums every day, but just don't post much.
Muttley - great idea about telling unwanted followers that you're used to being chased by dogs!! Just a shame, I guess, that most of them wouldn't get the humour.
Was out in a downpour on Saturday and the only thing of note was a guy who said "Ooh, running in the rain?" I simply couldn't think what to say except " looks that way!" I guess he comes from the same school of people as the ones who shout "Keep going"?!

Posted: 04/11/2002 at 13:52

I rarely have any trouble. I used to run in south Manchester and everyone was really friendly. I'd always say hello to other runners and quite often have some yelled banter with them or dog walkers etc.
But without wanting to start some north/south debate, I've found since moving to London that if you say hello or just nod to another runner they tend to look at you as if you're a psycho or just completely ignore you. As far as I'm aware I don't look particularly psychotic when I'm running.
Having said that I used to run along the South Bank and although other runners weren't very friendly, there were an impressive number of 'nice ass type' comments from tourists which I haven't really got anywhere else I've been running!
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 14:23

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