Do you run with baggage? What thoughts wander around in your head while you’re running? Are they good thoughts? Brilliant ideas? To do list items?
When I run on the treadmill, even if I’m watching a movie or a television show, there are a lot of thoughts wandering around in my head. For me, running time is processing time. Time to think about whatever I saw, read, observed, encountered, worked on, etc. since my last run. Or time to zone out if things were stressful.
When I run outside, my mind usually isn’t on my surroundings because it’s processing, just like it does on my treadmill runs. Do I notice my surroundings? Sure, especially if I’m running in a new place. Do I notice the cars whizzing by? Of course, safety when running outdoors is important to me. Do I notice other runners, walkers, and bikers? Absolutely, we are sharing the same space, after all.
Do I acknowledge those runners, walkers, and bikers? If you read my post, To Cheer or Not to Cheer – There is No Question, you know what I like to acknowledge others. So when I’m running outside, I’ll usually greet other runners, walkers, and bikers with a hearty, “Good morning!” or a cheery, “Hello!” Sometimes I smile and nod. I don’t wave. I’m not a fan of waving. How do I decide whether to speak or just smile and nod? If they have their headphones on, I’ll smile and nod. If they are with a companion and they’re in the middle of a conversation, I won’t acknowledge unless one of them makes eye contact. If they are on the phone, I may smile and nod or I may speak. If I’m feeling grumpy, I may just nod.
I have a lot of guidelines to acknowledging others on the road, right? I don’t have hard and fast rules about acknowledging other. I like to do it. Do I always do it? No. Do others always return my gesture? Of course not. Do I care if they don’t? Absolutely not.
A Facebook running group recently discussed the topic of runners not returning acknowledgments. The majority of people who commented said that they were offended or annoyed or irked or bothered when people didn’t return their greetings. It’s rude, some said.
I disagree with them. I’m sure I’ve been on the other side of not reciprocating an acknowledgment because I’ve been lost in my thoughts. If I ignored an acknowledgment, it wasn’t intentional. It certainly wasn’t personal. It doesn’t mean that I hate the person. It doesn’t mean anything at all.
If my acknowledgment is not returned, I know that it’s not about me. I may think to myself, “Well, I tried.” Or, “They must be having a bad day.” If my mom is on my mind, I might tell myself, “Their mom must have told them not to talk to strangers.” If I’m huffing and puffing pretty hard, I sometimes think, “They must not have understood what I was saying.” I let the thought come and then just as quickly, I let it go.
I have too much other stuff going on in my head to stuff any more baggage in there that doesn’t need to be there. I have enough emotional baggage of my own that I don’t need to be worried about whether a complete stranger snubbed me. I’m a slow enough runner that I don’t need to be weighed down by additional baggage like that.
If you see me running outside and you speak to me or smile/wave/nod and I don’t respond, don’t take it personally. I don’t hate you. I’m not ignoring you. I’m not secretly plotting your demise. It’s possible that I didn’t hear you, especially if I’m listening to music. It’s possible that I didn’t see you because of the glare from the sun or because I blinked. It’s possible that I’m struggling to find a rhythm and just missed your friendly gesture. It’s most likely that I’m lost in thought and just wasn’t paying attention. I can guarantee you 100% that it’s not about you.
So don’t hold it against me. Because it’s highly probable that the next time you see me, you’ll get a cheery greeting and a big, goofy smile. And I hope you’ll return my friendly gesture. But if you don’t, I won’t hold it against you. And I won’t give it a second thought.