Running Loving and Driver Etiquette

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a few interesting encounters on my runs. During one, I was apparently very popular with the elderly lady demographic. I received waves and smiles, and after a car turned into my way without looking an elderly woman nearby became very upset with how inconsiderate drivers can be. I guess I’m used to being harassed by Long Island drivers because I hadn’t thought much of the incident, but the support was nice nonetheless.

On another run pretty late at night a driver passing by decided to blast his horn at me as he approached. I was all the way on the left side of an empty road, wearing a long sleeved white shirt, and the car was going slowly after a nearby stop sign, so it was definitely not out of alarm from seeing me. This being the case, and having had previous bad encounters with nighttime honking (one incident left me with a sprained ankle), I decided to grant him a certain hand gesture. Suddenly, from across the street, I heard someone yell out to me “I love you. Really, I do.”

I looked around, startled, but didn’t see the caller. I’d like to think I was being supported once again against rude drivers, but I suppose it could have been for any number of reasons; perhaps my stride was very graceful that night. Alternatively, it wasn’t directed at me at all, but that is not a possibility I’d like to consider.

On the topic of inconsiderate drivers, I’d like to supply the driving public with a few tips for proper runner-driver etiquette, most of which should be self evident but apparently to some people are not:

1. Do not scream out of your window at runners.

For some reason I am subject to this on a fairly regular basis. Words of support are of course appreciated, but guttural screams and barks (literal barks- speaking from personal experience here) are not appreciated.

2. Do not honk at runners.

Unless you know them and are going slowly enough to be recognized (I hate wondering if I was supposed to know who that was who just honked at me), please resist the urge.

3.  And most importantly: Do not run over runners.

I suppose this one speaks for itself.

As a corollary to Rule 3: When backing out of a driveway, check the sidewalk. Way too many times have I nearly been run over by suburban drivers who don’t expect pedestrians on their quiet street.

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Why do they yell? Because they’re jealous! (I hope).

I’m sure other runners have gotten this treatment in one form or another. A honk, a yell out of a car window, a snide comment as you run by someone. Whether it be about the length of your shorts, your pace, or, especially if you’re a woman, your body type, it’s downright rude.

Occasionally I’ll get nice comments complimenting my speed or someone cheering me on if I look fatigued. But much more often I get yells out of car windows. On one strange occasion, a man barked at me out of his car window. And then turned his car around to bark at me again. I swear.

Another time a honk caused me to jump and sprain my ankle (immediately before a half-marathon).

Now, while the barker undoubtedly had severe mental issues, I don’t believe everyone who yells at runners has such major problems. While it’s possible they’re just mean-spirited, I like to believe it’s something else entirely: jealousy.

When non-runners see someone fly swiftly past them with smooth strides, they realize that they’re witnessing something they simply cannot do, and they’re overcome with jealousy. In a green rage, they quickly look for something to criticize about the runner to assuage their own feelings of discontent. And if the only thing they can find to mock me for is my shorts (which aren’t really that short), I count that as a victory.

(My theory fails entirely if it’s another runner doing the yelling- but I can’t imagine a runner doing such a thing to his own kind).

It’s easy to believe that all those people who run at yellers are really just terrible people. But jealousy is a much more optimistic view of mankind. After all, how could any reasonable non-runner watch a sweaty, exhausted person run miles for no apparent reason without wishing he could do the same?