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Ever hear the song Smiling Faces - “a smile is just a frown turned upside down”?  Well, as a runner, when approaching another runner running towards you, what do you typically do:

  • Just smile at them?

  • Say good morning (if it is the morning) or just hi?

  • Just wave to them?

  • Do all three – smile, wave and say hi?

  • Wait for them to do something first?

  • If they are on the other side of the street, does that make a difference?

  • Don’t look at them at all or just look down like they don’t even exist


Personally, I always try to look at the person and at least smile.  Or, sometimes I just wave.  And, sometimes I say hi or good morning.  And, sometimes, depending on the person and what they do, I’ll do all three.
If you are running towards them and they look down or away, do you still say hi to them or ignore them as it seems like they want no part of you?  When that does happen and it happens more than you would think, I wonder why they just can’t crack a friendly smile for all of 1 ½ seconds?  Maybe they are just having a bad day?  But, sometimes it’s the same person almost every day...they can’t be having a bad day every day can they?  We are all out there doing the same thing, we are all runners...why can’t we all simply give a friendly smile to each other?
My point being, when someone smiles at me it sort of makes my day.  If they also wave and say hi then that’s a bonus.  I consider them a kind, friendly person.

Top athletes already know that smiling helps them run faster, longer, and harder. Olympian Eliud Kipchoge is one of them. The marathon gold medalist breaks into a smile during his races as a technique to help him relax into his running and cope with the pressure of the race and achieve world-beating times.  Smiling can increase your endurance by way of perceived effort which is how hard your body feels when it is working regardless of how hard it actually is. A 2018 study found that runners used less energy during their workouts when deliberately smiling.  Sounds a little strange, doesn’t it?  But, that’s what the study showed.

And what about when you are being approached by someone walking, either with others or with their dog or just by themselves?  Are walkers more or less friendly than runners?  And then you have the bikers?  What about them?  Do they wave at you, say hi or give you a smile as the zoom by you? 
So, I’m going to do a test right now.   I’m leaving my desk right now and going for a run.  I’ll be back with the results...

OK, I’m back!  The results are in from this morning’s run.  I saw two walkers coming towards me – nothing, didn’t even look at me.  Saw one dog walker and they smiled, not the dog, the person.  Saw a second dog walker and nothing but they were on their phone. So, if a walker or runner are on their phone whether talking or listening to music, does that make a difference?  Saw one runner and they waved.  Saw another runner who waved, said hi and smiled!  And, saw one runner who smiled and said “hi, Dave!”  I passed one walker and waved to them but didn’t say hi to them as I didn’t want to startle them.  I turned back to see if they waved back to me and they didn’t.   And, it’s another bonus when I car drives by and beeps and waves at me!

Every now and then I have a runner come up from behind me and pass me and do nothing.  Geez, that’s like a double whammy!  For me, I honestly try to smile, wave and say hi if the situation is appropriate to do so.  Even if they aren’t looking at me, I’ll “kill them with kindness” and say hi.  


That may startle or surprise them but who cares.  When I run, I might be “in the moment” and focused on something but I am always cognizant of the people around me.   
If anything, giving someone else a nice smile will keep them guessing!  Your smile can inject joy into someone else’s life.  To me, a smile is a sign of strength and is the universal language.

And, I know what you all are now thinking...this is all pretty anal stuff, eh? You are right but keep smiling anyway!  

Dave McGillivray
DMSE Sports, Inc.

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