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?