Buffalo is a very friendly city. I am confident making this deduction after having walked and/or run through a number of cities. People will start chatting with you while you’re walking; they’ll share stories and joke with you. Heck, even outside the city, Buffalove runs deep. One summer on Cape Cod, we were driving in A. Scott’s car, which happens to have a Buffalo Bills license plate frame, and the driver of another car rolled down her window at an intersection after getting our attention. She shouted that she noticed our plate frame and wanted to know if we were Buffalonians. Apparently she had lived in Buffalo for a number of years and absolutely loved the city, the people, everything. It was like she was saying, “Tell Buffalo I said thank you!” It’s no secret that Buffalo is just a really big small town with lots of friendly people.
So this is why, when I recently went for a fifty-minute training run to prepare for the Buffalo half marathon, I struggled with what to do or say when encountering other runners and people walking their dogs. Do I nod, smile, wave, talk, or stay silent? I don’t know if everyone else goes through the same mental turmoil I do when approaching these individuals, but I nearly always wrestle with the choice of acknowledging their presence or blatantly passing by without any interaction. I’ve definitely been snubbed before, smiling and offering a quiet “hey” that was answered with silence, but I haven’t let those moments stop me from trying again.
This recent run was filled with opportunities to smile and wave. The sun was shining (I swear I heard a chorus of angels when I looked heavenward and saw blue skies), and the weather was warm enough not to sting your lungs as you inhaled. That meant everyone who was feeling cooped up over the past few months strapped on their running shoes and got out there. First I saw a woman all decked out, water bottle in hand, looking like she was going for a long run. She was super nice and smiled, waved, and said hi. So that boosted my confidence as I crossed paths with other runners. A pair of young ladies smiled, a guy nodded (I’ll take it!), and a teen kindly moved his dog over to the grass as I passed, which I thanked him for and to which he replied, “No problem!” Overall, it was a very chatty run! I think if I had not gotten such a positive response from the first runner, I likely would not have made such an overt effort to communicate with subsequent individuals. It was like my interaction with that woman inspired me to make that effort and put myself out there. In a strange contrast to my experience on that run, I’ve noticed I am less likely to acknowledge others when running in a group rather than alone. I’m not sure if I am distracted, per se, by staying with my group or if it’s something else.
I wonder if people are set in their ways about whether or not to interact. I’ve definitely caught some people by surprise when I wave at them. And I’ve been surprised myself when I didn’t expect any exchange but suddenly am greeted with kind words and a smile. A journalist at Runner’s World had a similar experience in what he called “The Waver’s Dilemma.” Particularly interesting to me were the takeaways he learned from observing runners as a self-proclaimed waver (versus a nonwaver), which you can read about halfway down the article’s page. I must disagree with a couple of his conclusions, mainly that groups wave (as I myself do not wave as much as when I am alone) and that age matters, meaning older runners are more likely to wave (my experience has been pretty mixed if not leaning toward younger runners waving more). I completely agree with his points that time of day and weather matter. The earlier the run, the more interaction I’ve noticed. And the crappier the weather, the more likely people are going to say something to you, even nonrunners!
So what’s your experience? Are you a steadfast nonwaver? If so, what do you think of wavers? Do you notice certain situations where you or other runners are more or less likely to interact? I’m interested to see how my experience compares to guys, for example, or people in other cities, different age groups, and so on. Let me know!!