As someone who runs outside I both dread and long to pass a fellow runner. Dread because they always look as if they are running faster than me. Long because that runner knows exactly what I am going through. And if we catch each other’s eye at the right time, there is the tangible manifestation of that kinship, that solidarity – the Runner’s Nod.
I capitalise it because of how important it is. In the gym there is nothing like this, in fact in there you studiously go out of your way to ignore everyone else around you and you inwardly (or outwardly) curse the fool running next to you who thinks the whole thing is a competition (they look at your pace and incline and push themselves to go harder and faster, only to die in a sweaty mess 10 minutes later). You don’t want to be in solidarity with anyone there because then they might talk to you and you literally can’t run away.
But outside I am more than happy to acknowledge a fellow runner as they streak pass. That person knows how my legs feel, how my heart seems to be dying in my chest, and how my breathing actually seems to be hurting my throat. They get it and getting a nod or a smile in return makes you know you are not alone because it connects you. Because if you run alone then, surprise, surprise, it is fairly lonely.
Of course there are those moments when you nod away and get nothing in return. Then you just look like a tit.