I almost titled this post “Runiquette,” like the contraction “Netiquette,” which is eitquiette on the Internet. But Runiquette sounded rather like tourniquet to me, and that got into all kind of ideas and images that I didn’t want to think about. So I decided to forgo the contraction and just use the two full words.
Depending on where you run, there are different “rules.” Generally, these rules are unwritten, but somehow understood. Therefore, I suppose they aren’t exactly rules, but rather “The Way Things Are Done.”
At the Park
At the park in my town, there is a paved loop that is a little less than a mile long. When I have a short run (three miles or less), I might do my entire run at the park — especially if it’s foggy out or if there is some other reason why I don’t want to deal with automobile traffic that day. Also, since my tried-and-true running routes have specific mileage (2 miles, 5 miles, 8 miles), I might run a lap around the park if I need one more mile to make my day’s training goal. So I don’t run there all the time, but I do enjoy a lap or two at the park on occasion.
Lots of people enjoy the park in my town. There are children playing on the playgrounds or riding their bicycles furiously around the loop. There are couples going for romantic strolls together. There are pet owners taking their dogs for walks. There are groups of young men playing soccer, or the high school football team having practice. On windy days, families will fly kites. There aren’t any rules about which way you have to go on the paved loop. Most people, for some reason, choose to go counter-clockwise. Maybe that’s because we’re Hoosiers and we have a deep-seated desire to turn left, just like the drivers in the Indy 500. I prefer to go against the traffic. This isn’t because I like being different, but rather because I don’t like warning people that I’m about to pass them. (“Left! On your left!”) People around here don’t seem to know whether I’m asking them to move to the left or telling them I’m on the left, so we do this ridiculous dance, usually resulting in me running in the grass in order to get by them. So I usually just go clockwise.
When passing people who are going the opposite direction, The Way Things Are Done in the park is that you acknowledge them the first time. That means you nod your head, say hello, mention that it’s a nice day, or give a small smile. On the second time around, though, you don’t need to do anything. You can feel free to completely ignore the person. If you keep saying hi at each lap, you become annoying. If you fail to make eye contact on the first lap, you seem cold. Greet each person the first time you see him or her, and then go about your business.
At the Gym
I’ve been going to the YMCA a little more often lately because it’s been really hot and muggy outside. I do not relish running in 90 degree temperatures with 80 percent humidity. I’d much rather run in the air conditioning. So off to the Y I go. Running at the Y is sometimes a bit of sensory overload for me. The radio is playing, there are four TVs on the wall, plus a TV on each treadmill or elliptical machine; if there is also a class being conducted, you’ll also hear music from that room in addition to the instructor telling her students to do “one more set of eight! Good job!” I get a little distracted. Plus, I don’t have headphones that are compatible with the treadmills, so I can’t listen to a specific station. I usually try to find the weather channel because you don’t really have to listen to know what’s going on there. Still, I end up looking at many different TV screens, reading the crawlers below the news anchors’ faces, trying to hear what song is on the radio, and generally trying not to get so distracted that I fall off the two-foot wide belt I’m running on.
Last week, I was attempting to maintain this delicate balance. (Taylor Swift on the radio, television screens flashing all around me, and I’m running while trying to find the Weather Channel on my treadmill.) About five treadmills over, a woman shouted, “WHOA!” Everyone turned to look. I thought maybe she got distracted just like I do and was falling off the belt. “MICHAEL PHELPS!” she continued. “WRECKED HIS SUV!” I realized that she did have headphones and was watching a news station that reported this very important information, and she was relating it to her friend on the treadmill next to her. She seemed to have forgotten that she had headphones on and that she needn’t speak over what no one else could hear. I nearly stumbled while whipping my head around at her exclamation.
The gym is the place where everyone expects to be ignored and left alone. When I go to the gym to work out, I don’t want people saying hello to me, starting up a conversation, or telling me about a famous swimmer’s automobile collision. And I certainly don’t want to hear you shouting over the din of twelve treadmills, fifteen ellipticals, and ten stationary bikes.
Respect The Way Things Are Done
I don’t want this blog entry to become a sermon about how you really should respect your fellow runner and follow all the rules. But really, it would make things a lot nicer for everyone if you’d do it anyway.