The 8 Most Annoying Things People Say to Runners
Last Updated: May 23, 2016
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Runners are a thick-skinned bunch (and not just because of the callouses on their feet). During the many miles they’ve logged, most of them have learned to tune out the noise of the crowd. From catcalls and comments about running form to suggestions on training regimens, runners have heard a lot from the peanut gallery and their fellow runners. Most of it rolls right off their backs, but some things just stick. Instead of being “that guy” (or gal) with a well-meaning comment that comes off as condescending, listen up! We went straight to the source and asked runners and running experts what they’re tired of hearing and why it’s so dang annoying.
"YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!"
If anyone knows exactly how much further there is to go, it’s a runner. So don’t bring any more attention to the distance ahead than you have to, even if the finish line is in sight. “I once had a person say, ‘You’re almost halfway there,’ at mile 20 of a 50-mile ultramarathon,” says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist and author of “The Marathon Method.” “While we know you mean well, it doesn’t matter if I’m one mile or 30 miles from the finish, it doesn’t usually help.” So what should you say? Holland says he’d rather hear spectators shout, “You look great!” or “Great job!” He also points out that calling out a runner’s name if it’s on the shirt or bib is very motivating and appreciated.
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"I’M A RUNNER, BUT..."
Do you run? Then you’re a runner! There’s no need to qualify it with something that justifies, boosts or demeans your status. “I wish all runners, but especially those alongside me at the back of the pack, would jettison the qualifiers,” said Carla Birnberg, co-author of the book “What You Can When You Can.” No qualifiers, explanations, justs or onlys. She doesn’t want to hear anymore about “I’m a runner, but I’ve only done 5ks.” Or “I mostly walk.” If you’re a runner -- of any style or capability -- then just say so.
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"RUNNING IS BAD FOR YOUR KNEES"
Ugh, this one again. The biggest running myth is that you should avoid it because of what it’ll do to your knees. Here’s the truth: Find a runner with proper training and technique and you’ll find a runner not complaining about their knees! “I hear it all the time, but the science just doesn’t support the notion that running will hurt your knees,” says Jennipher Walters, CEO of FitBottomedGirls.com. “In fact, in some cases, running can actually help your knees.” But just like with any other type of exercise, make sure you have your doctor’s OK first, that you use good form and that you listen to your body.
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"I’M RUNNING TO LOSE WEIGHT"
Thinking about running so you can lose some pounds? Hold the scale right there. It’s a myth that as long as you’re running, you can eat whatever you want and that the sport keeps you thin. Lacy J. Hansen, two-time Boston Marathon finisher and social-media manager for Prairie Fire Marathon, has fielded these comments for years, saying, “I try my best to be honest and bust the myth that running is a great weight-loss method. Truth is, running barely puts a dent in the average weight-loss goal.” One reason is that running doesn’t create a huge calorie deficit, only about 100 calories per mile. Then the faster you get, the fewer calories you burn per mile. And running makes you hungry; so once you refuel, your calories likely break even.
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"I DON’T WANT TO BE LAST"
First place and last place both run the same distance, so why get hung up on a finish time? The finish line looks the same whether you’re No. 1 or dead last. You finished the same distance as they did, and you should feel good about that. “There is so much pride in showing up and finishing what you started,” says Jill Angie of NotYourAverageRunner.com. “It doesn’t matter if you were the last one to cross the finish line because you still did it!”
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"OH, GOOD JOB! YOU CAN DO IT!"
It’s all about tone and timing with this one. Just because you see a slow runner, don’t assume you know anything about their race history or abilities. Jill Grunenwald, the host of the podcast “Running With Police Escort” and forthcoming book of the same name, knows this all too well. “There seems to be a persistent belief from other runners that, because I’m slow and in the back of the pack, I must be one race or one mile away from quitting, so I need all this extra encouragement,” she says. “I realize it probably comes from a good place, but more often than not it comes across as patronizing.” Slow doesn’t always signify a struggle -- the runner may be right on target with their own training.
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"I FORGOT TO TURN ON MY GARMIN"
Running used to be about getting outside and disconnecting from the world. Now you can finish a run with as much data as a top-tier athlete. Martinus Evans, marathoner and author of “Zero to Running,” says enough already! Hearing that people forgot to turn on their Garmin or other device is what really bugs him about the running community. “Seriously, do you really need to wear your Garmin on every run?” he asks. He suggests that you instead leave the device at home, enjoy nature and listen to the beautiful music your body makes while running.
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"I’M TRYING TO RUN FASTER"
There’s more to being a strong runner than speed. Unless you’re a competitive runner, Holly Perkins, CSCS and author of “Lift to Get Lean,” notes that you’ll get further by being strategic with speed. The “speed-accuracy trade-off” dictates that when you run faster you don’t run as well. “Basically, the faster a human body moves, the harder it is to move with good mechanics,” she says. “This means that when you run -- and your ancient cavewoman screams at you to ‘run!’ -- your misalignments, imbalances and general poor mechanics will inevitably show up. The result? Injuries.” She recommends that two of every three runs should focus on high-quality, moderate-pace technique.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Are you a runner? Have you heard anyone say these things? Have you ever said any of them? What other things do you find annoying? What would you prefer people say instead? What’s some of the best encouragement you’ve gotten on the racecourse? Share your thoughts, stories and suggestions in the comments section below!
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