To Wave or Not to Wave? A Runner’s Dilemma

How complicated can the sport of running get? For diehards, pretty darn complicated! I’ve seen magazine articles on how to train, what to eat, what to wear, even how to tie shoelaces (a subject that can be surprisingly detailed if one is seeking just the right amount of pressure on one’s metatarsal bones).

But one of the more intriguing recent articles I’ve found is “The Waver’s Dilemma” in the February, 2009 issue of Runner’s World magazine. This article explores the significance of whether or not an oncoming fellow runner will wave to you as you pass. For the purposes of this article, waving is defined as including “nodding, smiling, grinning, shrugging, or the utterance or near utterance of many other words or word-like words, including all variations on hello…” This article reaches some definitive conclusions on waving probabilities based on such factors as time of day, size of groups, use of personal electronics, age, and weather.

Based on decades of running, I have reached some conclusions that are surprisingly different. My results are based on wavers by sex. Here is what I have learned about the friendliness of oncoming runners:

– If you meet a man running by himself, he will almost always wave. After all, there is a certain camaraderie among athletes.

– In contrast, a woman running by herself will almost never wave, although the younger she is, the greater the likelihood she will acknowledge your presence. (And, no, I’ve never had to courage to start following her.)

– If a man and woman are running together, he will always ignore you, but she will always notice you (which for purposes of my research I count as a wave). I consider this a normal boy-girl thing.

– When meeting a group of men, waving varies; the larger the group, the less likely anyone is to wave. In other words, in a group of two men, at least one almost always waves; four or more men, maybe one of them will). This is perfectly understandable. When I’m running in a group, we’re invariably engrossed in meaningful conversation about sports, sex, or something that moves very fast on at least two wheels.

– What about a group of women? Actually, I can never remember meeting a group of women runners, although I had a nice conversation once when I overtook three women on horseback. With the women, of course; I can never think of a topic of interest to horses.

And if you’re wondering, I usually wait for the other person to initiate the waving. If they are so inclined, I do wave back, although that varies in the third (man/women) category depending upon the size and age of the other man.

So those are my observations about waving. Let the research continue! If nothing else, this will give you something to think about on your runs.

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