The Nod

It’s 6:30pm and you’re sharing the roads with evening traffic, wearing your blinking safety light and neon reflective vest. Or maybe it’s 6:30am and you’re getting in some frosty morning miles on trails by your house. Perhaps it’s mid-afternoon on a hot August day, and you’re kicking yourself for thinking a 2pm run on blacktop was a decent idea.

In any of these scenarios, you’re running alone, lost in your own world. You don’t notice the curious stares from drivers, the dog-walker’s expression as you see them in their jammies, and you breeze by the goose hissing at you. It’s status quo… until you see a fellow runner coming toward you.

When you see that other runner, you feel a sense of kinship. That runner isn’t just some faceless passerby or honking car horn, they’re someone of your own ilk! It might be the extreme weather you’re slogging through, or the seemingly asinine time of day, or it may simply be that you’ve been running for miles passing only walkers and cyclists, but when you spot another runner, there’s some added bounce in your step.

And you both instinctively do “the nod.”

A snowy run in 2010.

The nod is exactly what it sounds like: a discreet nod of the head, sometimes accompanied by a knowing smile. This silent gesture communicates so much within mere seconds, conveying well-wishes, understanding, and mutual respect.

There could be an entire Boy Scout Troop crowding the trail, rush-hour commuters honking their horns as you dash through a crosswalk (they have to stop!), or both of you could be sweat-drenched and gasping for air. None of it matters; runners will always give the nod.

My sister e-mailed me a year ago about the nod, and told me it was one of her favorite things about running. She said it gives her “the emotional boost to plug along,” and I completely agree.

Do you give the nod? Does it help you plug along?

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3 thoughts on “The Nod

  1. I got the nod today, and I loved it! Sometimes out on the labyrinth of trails where I run, I’ll pass the same runners multiple times. This morning I passed 2 guys at around (my) mile 1 and then we crossed paths again around mile 4, when I was running smack into the wind. They gave me the nod and one guy gave me a thumbs-up, which in my mind meant, “We are both runners, and doesn’t this wind suck?”

  2. I’m one of those crazy people who says “Good morning!” to everyone I pass when I run. I also throw in a big smile. Sometimes I get “the nod” back. I always remember what an instructor who was running a boot camp-style fitness class told us: it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to grimace, so I always try to smile while deliberately subjecting myself to physical stress.

    I attempt to keep this in mind at work also, which has stress of all varieties!

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