The Wave-back Conundrum

So, you are running down a path, street, or boardwalk and you see another runner (or group of runners) coming towards you. The question is, to wave or not to wave? For me, the conversation in my head goes like this:

They waved! They waved!

They waved! They waved! I’m validated!

If I wave, and they don’t wave, I look like an idiot.
I’ll wait for them to wave first.
But what if by the time they wave, it is too late for me to wave, and they don’t see my wave and think I’m rude?
I don’t want to be rude. I’ll wave first.
Damn, they didn’t wave back. Now I look like a dork.
Crap, now someone else is coming. Should I wave?

This eternal struggle goes on in my head all the time. Why is it so important to me? Part of it is about acceptance. I like to feel like we are all runners so we are part of a community. Also, as a fat runner, I frequently feel outside the rest of the running community. When another runner waves it makes me feel they are saying “You are one of us.”

About two weeks ago I decided to try something. I would wave at every runner to see what would happen. I wondered if most runners were waiting for the other guy to wave first. I also wanted to see if there was a pattern. Would more women wave than men? Would I get more wave-backs from older runners or younger ones. Could I assume the heavier out-of-shape runners more likely to wave back than the “athlete-bods?”

Now, it is hard to conduct a truly scientific study while running. For one thing, I’m a little too busy to track my data. For another, I don’t have a control runner not waving (sometimes ahead and sometimes behind) to see if my waving has any impact on the results. So here are my unscientific conclusions:

  • Fewer than half the runners I wave at wave back.
  • Waving early (well before you are passing) and smiling as you wave seems to improve your chances of getting a wave-back.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any consistency in terms of age, gender, or athleticism that can help me predict the wave-back.
  • No one waves in Queens. (Ok, I only ran once in one particular place in Queens, but I passed about 25 people, waved and smiled at all of them and not one waved back!)
  • More people wave on morning runs. I even got a couple of thumbs up!

Also, one unexpected conclusion: The more often I wave at other runners, the less of a dork I feel like when I do it. Even when I don’t get the wave-back.


7 thoughts on “The Wave-back Conundrum

    • At least with cycling you need your hands on the handlebars (I assume, I haven’t been on a bike in 30 years). If someone doesn’t wave back you can say to yourself “I bet the road was too rough. He needed his hands on the bike.”

      I like the phrase “unrequited hand wave.” Wish I had used it in my post!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I always awve to bikers (when I’m not biking because I still feel the camaraderie) and when on a bike it’s more of a head nod because I need my hands.

      I think a lot of runners are all balled up in their own thing, are they breathing right, whats on the ipod, how’s their pace, that often they don’t think of waving but I bet those that didn’t wave the first time, if you passed them again would wave.

      Liked by 1 person

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