People Making Unsolicited Comments On Your Runs? This Is What We Do!
It could be anything from a catcall to a comment on your pace. Either way, most runners have experienced a person making unsolicited comments to them while they run.
Sometimes they are mocking comments, other times sexual innuendos. Fortunately, there are also people who yell out encouragement or even running advice! Depending on your state of mind, all of these things could (and often are) received differently depending on the runner.
How should you react? Does it pay to react? Is there one right way to answer? Or should you simply not engage? We went to our running communities to get their input.
The Mocking Comment
The real irony about people who mock runners as they are doing their magical thing is they are typically not runners themselves. These comments range anywhere from, “Pick up the pace, sweetheart” to “My grandmother runs faster than you!”. Hey, maybe your granny is a wicked fast old lady? Who am I to judge?
Nick Kiger was running on a trail and heard someone ask, “What are you running from? Is there a bear chasing you?” He smiled, gave the person two thumbs up and responded, “I’m running from heart disease!”.
A running group I belong to, the Sub-30 Club, includes runners from all over the world whose goal it is (or was!) to run a 5K in under 30 minutes. Members of this group purchase all kinds of adorable apparel and wear it with pride!
Ed Mitchell was wearing his Sub-30 shirt in a race when a gentleman yelled, “Sub Club! That sounds awesome! I love sandwiches!”
Did the person mean anything by the sandwich comment? Perhaps so, perhaps not. However, if you are working hard toward a goal, sometimes unsolicited comments are kind of … well… annoying.
Great advice from runner Scott Burgess, “The best thing is to ignore them, really. It shows how sad people are that they do that.”
Cat Calls and Sexual Innuendos
- “Hey baby, how you doin’?”
- “Can I run directly behind you for a while?”
- “You look gooooood in those leggings…”
- “Your ass looks hot in those leggings! Wanna take them off?”
Bethany Bro said she got a “Hey Baby!” coupled with some honking. She said those comments startle her, make her jump and throw her off for the run.
Once when I was running, a man made a very loud comment about my butt. Usually, I just ignore these comments. Since I wear running headphones, I pretend I just don’t hear it. However, on this day, the man who made the comment had a bunch of people surrounding him, including some young boys.
I could not help myself. My response, “You’re teaching your boys to degrade women. I’m someone’s wife and mother.” I was pleasantly surprised to hear him yell back an apology!
Lee Anne Barnes had someone lean out the window and say, “My, my, what a big piece of ass!” She did not comment; however, the female passenger in his car did! Lee Anne could hear his wife/girlfriend/passenger chewing him out for the comment.
One runner reported being “cat-called” from a man who was leaning out of a work truck. She was so upset by his lewd behavior and language, she finally did decide to call the company on the side of the truck and report the action.
Ripping on Run – Walk Intervals
When you head out for either a training run or to do a race using intervals, you intend to run and walk for set periods of time or distance. Make no mistake. Walking is not a weakness. For those doing predetermined intervals, it is a race plan!
Ingrid Sell-Boccelini runs intervals of run/walk. When she was on a walk break, someone yelled, “Run! You can do it!” In reflecting, she recognizes the person was likely trying to be encouraging. However, this is not the type of encouragement someone needs! Especially when, knowing their own body, they know this is what is the best race plan for them!
Most run/walkers find comments insinuating that they should run the entire race insulting and unfair. Besides that, it is simply no one else’s business!
Have you ever experienced running advice that you didn’t ask for? This can be either good or bad, depending on the day and the advice.
Mary Dodds said once while she was running a 10-mile race a man yelled out the window, “Lift up your knees more.” What possesses people to think that their advice is wanted or needed?
Marie Price said that an older gentleman sitting on his porch told her to “run faster, faster, faster!” Her response? “Come join me! I’m running 10 today!” Sometimes that kind of comment is all it takes to shut someone’s mouth.
When visiting my daughter in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, I used to often run on a beautiful, paved recreation trail near her home. Once while I was running, I encountered a man walking alone. “Beautiful stride! You look awesome! Try to use the arms a little more!” I smiled and did modify my arm swing. When I glanced back guess what I saw on the back of his jacket? “Coach Bill – Badgerland Striders.”
While Coach Bill’s advice was unsolicited, it was welcome. Why? First of all, I have a positive and growth mindset. Second, he offered legitimate advice in a positive manner. Third, it became obvious to me he knew what he was talking about!
Sometimes, the context of the advice or comment matters!
Although there is a lot of negative energy out there that runners experience, there is positive energy too! One runner reminisces about an amazing experience.
Rachel Babbit “When I first started, I was heavy and struggling in the heat, slowly making my way along a major street in the area. A woman on the other side decided to be my personal cheering section. She started whooping and hollering. ‘You got this! You go girl! You’re doing great!’ It motivated me to keep trying. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about that day.
Another runner agreed that most of her comments have been encouraging.
Dava Silvia said that while running uphill in the rain one day, a woman walking downhill with an umbrella smiled and called Dava “tenacious.” She has also experienced people praising her with a “good job” or “way to go,” which go a long way toward spreading positive energy and keeping her moving.
To React or Not To React?
The general consensus among my running friends is that they typically choose to just ignore people who yell out to them if it is a negative comment. If it is a positive comment, the reaction ranges from a smile to a thumbs up to a simple nod or thank you.
When the “advice” seems to be the person trying to be positive, but the person still takes it in a negative way (encouragement to run during a walk interval, for example) the runner usually finds ignoring the comment more useful than trying to explain. Yelling back seems, to many runners, a dangerous potential in this day and age.
If someone is treating you in a way that seems to cross a line, you can always call law enforcement. While no one wants to push a panic button, you also deserve to feel safe on your run.
Run, Forrest, Run!
The one comment many runners have heard is “Run, Forrest, Run!” This one typically does not cause the runner to get upset by any means. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be like Forrest Gump?