On Thanksgiving Day I had very little desire to go for a run. It was drab and cold outside. I had been outside early in the morning with my dog and could feel the dampness chilling me and knew that on a day in which people love to get together and race Turkey Trots, I would probably opt out. Seeing that Covid-19 was killing off most of the official Turkey Trots, the decision to opt out would be an easy one.
But as the morning progressed guilt got the better of me, and I decided that if others were out there I should be too. Plus sitting inside watching football games that I had zero interest in probably wouldn’t make me feel any better about myself. And I planned to feast on the fabulous meal my wife would be presenting later in the afternoon. I needed to run to make me feel better.
I chose to run eight miles, my typical distance which follows my normal looped running route. I can change my route up – shorten it, lengthen it, run it clockwise one day, counter-clockwise the next. But I generally run my loop, and adding a little quarter-mile extension, it makes it an even eight miles.
As I got to the looped portion of the trail a mile from home I noticed that I wasn’t alone out there on Thanksgiving Day. Plenty of walkers and runners enjoying a moderately mild, fall day. Families walking together, a few running together and most just doing what comes natural on Thanksgiving Day – getting together outside and being thankful for that opportunity. About a mile and a half into my run I got the first of handful of greetings that I call “The Look.”
The look can be different things with different meanings, but for runners it generally is an acknowledgement that the looker sees you as a serious runner. I see it a lot at races, runners eyeing each other up, giving a nod as if to say “I validate you and recognize you as my competition.” I also see it out on the local running trail as well.
Maybe it was the Boston Marathon jacket I was wearing, or maybe it was my pace. I’m not sure, but the kid running toward me gave me the look and a greeting that seemed to say “Nice job, old guy.” I can assume this because he wasn’t dressed like a hobby jogger, and he looked like a high school or college cross country runner. I have to admit that it kind of made my day.
Another mile or two into it and I came upon another runner who looked very fast. This time it was me that gave the look of approval. He was lean, focused and running pretty fast. He didn’t even really make eye contact with me that I could tell. I gave him a quick thumbs up and “nice job” and we were soon running away from each other as fast as we had been running toward each other. I don’t think he even realized that I gave him the look.
As I kept moving toward mile six, I saw a couple up ahead walking toward me. This time the look came from a tall, jeans wearing guy who was also wearing running shoes. He seemed to take me in and give me the look, one that lingered, like he was acknowledging the Boston celebration jacket and knew what it took to earn that jacket. I gave him the look as well – he looked like a guy who was a longtime runner, with a pedigree to boot. He reminded me of the guys who used to run in the early 70’s – Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, et. al. He had that look of a tall and thin runner. As I ran away from them I wondered what kind of running he may have done over the years.
As I was about to finish my loop and take the trail back home, who did I see coming at me but the kid who I thought hadn’t even noticed me 2.5 miles earlier. This time he and I were chuckling at the fact that we were seeing each other again. I now wondered if he had given me the look, seeing that he recognized me the second time around.
Two days later I went for another run. I didn’t give anyone the look, nor did I receive any. I did have someone say hello to me and call me by my name. I have no idea who it was, as he was cycling and bundled up from head to toe. Getting recognized by another runner or cyclist is almost as good as getting the look.
So the next time you are at a race, or just out running, keep an eye out for the look. Another runner respects you. You deserve it.