Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The runner wave

When running first began as a recreational craze in America it looked like the book below.

That's the cover for a book called Jogging. It was written by William Bowerman in 1967, and it was one of the first takes on running for your health. If you can't read it, the cover quotes The New York Times: "Jogging is an in sport." Thanks for that Times. Thanks.

Newsweek, apparently having just learned what a pun is, is also quoted on the cover: "Many doctors recommend jogging, literally tell patients to 'RUN FOR YOUR LIVES'." Good one Newsweek. Good one.

Some think that recreational running only appeared within the last few years, but remember the olympics are a thing. A really old thing.

Nonetheless, a culture of recreational running started to develop in the mid-sixties, when people started to tap into that endorphin resource that comes with a good jog. (mmm endorphins...) Companies like Nike developed special running shoes and the coveted swoosh, and now we get to wear kick ass tights like these. The rest is history.

Today, everybody does it. Everybody has at least been on a jog (many to realize that it really does suck most of the time). I can't tell you how pumped I am about this. I'm pumped about the high percentage of my Facebook friends who have somewhere in their profile pictures a shot of them crossing a finish line, or holding up a medal or chugging a post-race IPA. Hell yeah! I'm pumped about cities that once found themselves the fattest and are now among the fittest. Average people are pushing themselves to compete in things like ironman triathlons, ultra marathons in the middle of deserts, and CrossFit (haha, just kidding).

Running culture is a really cool thing.

I like to talk to my older running friends, who've been at it for a while. Whose miles could have got them to the moon by now (… you know if running to the moon was an actual option…) "What was it like?" I ask, "What did you wear? How was an East Coast winter without $100 running tights and thermal Under Armor?"

I'm thankful to have had people in my life who've been in the jogging game since practically its inception, mostly because they were able to teach me one sacred thing: the runner wave.

What is it?

When you're on a run and you see someone else who's also on a run … you wave.

It's awesome.

It says, "Hey, we're both running, and I'm acknowledging this."

But it also says so much more.

It says, "Hey, I'm not a murderer."

It says, "Hey, I don't take myself too seriously."

It says, "Hey, I may be running 30 miles and you may only be running two, but I think it's awesome you're out here."

"Hey, we both have icicles on our mustaches and snowflakes on our eyelashes and we're in this together."

Most importantly, it says, "You've got this."

No matter what you look like, or how much of a hard time you're having, no matter how far you're going, or how far you've gone, it says, "You've. Freaking. Got this."

So why don't as many people know about the runner wave any more? My theory is this: The population growth of running culture happened so widespread and so quickly that education on proper waving protocols was not adequately delivered to new members of the running tribe.

I'm trying to change that.

I'm determined to spread awareness of the runner wave. Because it's a really awesome thing. My goal is for an entire wave of people (see what I did there?) to know about it, and practice it regularly on a run.

And it's important to note that there are people out on the trail/pavement who are on their run to get away from the world. Trust me, I get that. The last thing these people want is to smile and wave at a stranger. They'd rather just face forward and get in the zone, and put on their Bitchy Resting Face and be left alone. They're still worth waving at.

Because motivation matters. If you're a runner, you get that. There is a battle going on in your head, telling you to slow down, telling you to walk, telling you that you're wasting your time, telling you that there is a Hot Pocket in the freezer at home. It's our duty to not be a holes. It's our duty to wave each other on.

Smile at strangers, and wave at other runners. (Hell, wave at walkers too.) Let the others know that you feel their pain, that you meet them where they are. Let them know that you get it.

Alas, those of you who decide to take this wave and roll with it, know that not everybody knows about the wave yet, and not everybody is going to wave back, but whatever you do, don't stop waving. If they ignore your awesome gesture of motivation, that's on them. Not you. So rock on.

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