Running Rituals: To Wave or Not To Wave?

waving and running

It’s a beautiful weekend morning. The sun is steadily rising to signal the start of the day and the crispness of the morning is starting to thaw out. You are running. Over the horizon you see a figure making their way towards you. It is another runner. 

As they get closer, what do you do?

According to the Runners of the Six community, most would instinctively wave. Over 90% of individuals who answered our most recent poll on Instagram indicated that they wave to other runners on their run. In line with being a friendly bunch, about 97% of ROT6 respondents stated that they would wave back when others initiated a wave too.  

Pictured: @adventurous_bc_runner Photo Credit: Harpreet Singh

Why do people wave?

Why would someone decide to enthusiastically say a hello to a complete stranger while others prefer to run in peace without interaction and eye contact?

In our poll, a large percentage of the comments indicated that people waved as part of an unwritten rule. Some didn’t care if they didn’t get a wave back — the joy was derived from cheering others on and feeling connected in a non-intrusive way.  

When asked why she waves to others, Aneesha Narang, a runner who has been running since childhood and is currently working on faster paces for her 10K and Half Marathon distances, stated:

“I like to be friendly…Runners are a part of a community, but where you run is also a community. I believe we all treat everyone [as] a part of the same community and be friendly and kind to all people in our lives, be it strangers, friends, teammates or family.”

This is a sentiment shared by Danielle Metlitz, who has been a distance runner for two years and is currently training for a spring half marathon and a full marathon:

“I love waving to other runners because it creates a sense of understanding. We are all on the same journey together supporting each other and working on our own version of our best self!”

Waving seems to create a sense of community between strangers who might otherwise just pass each other without any acknowledgement. It is a symbol or badge of pride showing that you are not alone on your running journey and there is mutual support. 

Why do people not wave?

There are many reasons why people do not wave, the most obvious being that perhaps they didn’t see the other individual. In our Runners of the Six poll, many people indicated that they may not wave back because they were too tired, too focused, or not paying attention. 

A lot of individuals also felt shy and not comfortable making the first move. Others didn’t want to wave or wave back if the other party wasn’t making eye contact or if the route was too busy to wave at everyone going by. Of course there are those who just preferred not to wave; running was their quiet time to themselves. 

Interestingly there was an element of safety in people’s responses too.  Many people did not want to be perceived as “creepy” and thus didn’t wave. Some people had parameters on their wave initiations — no night time waves, or waving to individuals in strange unknown neighbourhoods. Others were worried they’d have to stop and talk to the person.

To wave or not to wave? 

The etiquette and courtesy behind the wave is here to stay. It is an easy and subtle way to cheer your fellow runner on, to acknowledge their efforts and accomplishments, and to provide encouragement that could mean the world to its receiver. It is an unwritten understanding in the milliseconds that you pass that there are common goals and unspoken camaraderie. In these times of COVID, it is also a way to engage others who are out pursuing similar interests as you without contact and physically distanced.

And if you’re not a waver that’s okay too. It seems like most runner’s understand and don’t take any lasting offence to it. It’s likely you have your own ways of feeling like part of the community and making others feel welcomed. 

So whether you wave or not, give a small hand flick or an all out flap, the running community welcomes you!

LEAD PHOTO CREDIT: @downsviewparkrun Pictured: @belovedrunner @lemonada