Runner’s World

In Utah, runners smile and say hello. In Massachusetts, we studiously look at the ground when someone goes past. Is this a cultural difference that has to do with religion, or is it merely regional? (Or maybe it’s just that I look so wrecked when I’m trying to run at high altitude that people just want to make sure I’m still able to speak?)



  1. May be an East/West thing. Runners say hello in California, but they do seem friendlier in Utah.

  2. I spent a large part of my childhood in Mass. I say it is a regional difference. After living in the south as an adult for almost 15 years I break out in hives when I have to go to New England. There is something closed off and bleak about the place and the people (and I am one!).

  3. Im from Utah an I always say hi to people while im running! I guess I just feel a connection to our shared goal, our exhaustion and the climb itself. A lot of people I know have Team trained for marathons, triathalons etc so it becomes a habit (it seems) to connect and say HI or Good Job or, at least, wave.. :)

  4. I think it’s a regional thing. Massachusetts isn’t the friendliest place around, but that’s how we like it. ;-)

  5. observer fka eric s says:

    Good one. It’s interesting. When I run around the lake path in the city I live in in CA, people smile and say hello. But when I run the riverbed just two cities over, it’s all business between runners and there is no greeting. One thought I had about this is that the river bed jog usually has an inordinate amount of college students running on it. The doods don’t say hello to other doods. And maybe it is uncomfortable for college chicks to be saying hello to older joggers like myself. Dunno. But at home, in the burbs, there’s no akwardness or hesitation with the greetings.

  6. In Ohio, we focused on the running, not the fraternization

  7. This has nothing to do with running, but I will always remember my first trip to Massachusetts about 20 years ago. My wife and I had heard that people from Boston are not the friendliest (we are from California). One evening we decided to take a public bus to a place for dinner. As the bus pulled up and we entered, it soon became obvious that our bill money would not be accepted and that we needed change, which we searched for frantically in our pockets and bags. I was thinking the folks on the bus are going to kill us for the delay as the bus driver waited. Then a nice man came off the bus, smiled at us warmly and genuinely, and handed us some change. Definitely a stereotype buster experience for us.

  8. Chris Gordon says:

    In Denver, if you’re running you’ll at least get a friendly nod (because, you know, runners here are so hard core they don’t have wind to actually vocalize a greeting), but more often than not a hello. If you’re running with a dog you get a big smile and a hello. If you’re running with a kid, you get almost as big a smile and hello as if you had a dog. But not quite.

    Probably more to do with east v. west than Mormon v. non-Mormon. I remember my first trip out east I was blown away by how hurried and seemingly impolite people seemed. I had several people explain to me that it’s not a matter of politeness, it’s just the hurried nature of life out there–bus schedules, train schedules, etc. drive a lot of people’s schedules and therefore the tone of their “getting about.” Not something we deal with all that much out west.

  9. In the South we generally smile or wave, I guess because people are generally friendly. But the subset of runners that wear headphones hardly ever do.

  10. Yeah, I think it is regional. I have run in LA CA, El Paso/San Antonio TX, Albuquerque NM, Salt Lake and Utah counties UT, Las Vegas NV, Central Park NY, and Dabury CT.

    I always say hi to fellow runners (although probably not always smiling). In UT, other runners usually say hi to me before I say hi to them. I only spent 6 weeks in Danbury, but I do remember people would not say hi to me unless I said hi first and sometimes they gave this weird look like “huh? Can’t you see I am minding my own business?”

    I think it is cultural/regional.

  11. One could argue that as running is more popular in MA than in Utah if you waved or said “Hi!” to everyone you came across you’d never stop waving.

    But I think this is just an example of larger cultural differences between regions. Try going through a drive-through in Boston. The people taking your order are belligerent, unhelpful, and say as little as possible. I’m often unsure if they’re even listening to me. It is as if they loath me for speaking to them.

    Similar experiences are had in any environment that requires customer service.

  12. Sonny–I find that story unsurprising. My own gloss on the famed NE coldness is that New Englanders are deeply kind, but not inclined to superficial display of friendliness (or much of anything else). I sort of like it that way, and prefer it to the compulsory gregariousness of folks in my hometown (Nashville). It may be just that my shriveled, misanthropic soul is most truly at home among wizened Puritans ;)

  13. I’ve had nothing but kindness from other runners. What I hear most from them is “Should I call you an ambulance?”

  14. If you think Bostonians are reserved in their displays of friendliness, visit Moscow some time.

  15. Everyone says hello or waves when running or cycling here in Chicago. The contrast between here and NYC was a bit unsettling at first (Do I have to make eye contact? What if I’m alone and the other runner is a big man?), but I’m used to it now and I kind of like it. Camraderie of the tortured…

  16. Nods for runners and bikers here in Missouri. If you’re both regulars, a wave is optional.

  17. Peter LLC says:

    In the Alps, greetings are linked to altitude; the higher and further away from city folk/tourists you are, the friendlier your encounters become.

  18. observer fka eric s says:

    In Anaheim, CA it is customary for a runner who is passed by another to give the passing runner the Bird as a competitive gesture.

  19. Not a lot of runners in my area besides the Utah-moms trying to replicate the environment. Cycling seems to be the sport of choice.

  20. @18,
    I thought that was only in the Disney district of Anaheim, no?

  21. Where I run in So Cal, it’s mostly men, and we simply nod to each other. Waving and saying “hi” is for people who aren’t running hard enough.

  22. When I run here in Utah I always say hi to the people I pass, they usually greet me in return–unless the path is crowded then the greetings drop off. It may be that there are few enough people running in Utah that it’s more practical to give the few greetings that present themselves.

  23. When I run in SoCal, I always say hello to the male runners I pass, unless they have their shirts off and are really buff-looking. Then, I cower in shame and try to act in invisible. When I pass female runners, I ignore them entirely, because my wife and I made a promise on our wedding day that we would never speak to members of the opposite sex again, lest we fall into temptation.

  24. In my vast experience as a runner, I’ve found the following: Runners in Boston do not smile and wave, unless they’re not from Boston (like me). In Virginia runners smile and wave, but in DC they don’t – head nods, though, are appropriate. In London everyone ignores each other, but in Scotland they nod, and sometimes smile (but no waving). In Iceland they smile and sometimes wave. It is very complicated to remember all these rules, so I am constantly either being rude by NOT smiling and waving or waving at people who glare at me.

  25. Here in NYC we never have to smile or wave at total strangers, but can live in our own little worlds without being bothered. But, if someone needs help, even a blankety-blank tourist, we are all ready to lend a hand.

    Heck, I even used my little bit of opera Italian one night to try to direct some tourists to the Brooklyn Bridge. They may still be lost in Bed-Stuy, but I gave it my best shot.

  26. It’s a cultural thing.

  27. That’s funny Boz. My wife and I made the opposite pledge, that we would always speak to members of the opposite sex, especially when sweatty, because our love is so strong it can overcome all temptation.

  28. I noticed it this summer when I went running in Chicago and Minnesota. In Chicago and Minnesota there were hardly ever any other runners (in comparison to the hordes that line the streets here on the east side of SLC between 5-7 on any given morning) but the ones that were out kept their eyes on the road. I would think the runners in those places would be friendlier– because like they’re a peculiar minority, but instead when we passed I was all friendly, waving my hands and smiling like an overeager puppy and they avoided eye contact, which made me feel dumb. On the other hand, when I ran in Alaska this summer, the one time I ran into another runner (on a road outside of Skagway), she stopped me on the side of the highway and engaged me in a chat about the Boston Marathon.

  29. “And this is good old Boston, The home of the bean and the cod, Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots, And the Cabots talk only to God”

  30. I live in Wyoming and if I even see any other person running two days in a row while I am on my daily run, I consider changing my running site.
    Just thinking about having to be social during my run makes me say Ew!

  31. Its regional. An east coast thing.

  32. I’m inclined to think it’s regional, too. On my flight to Utah, though, I was sitting by a woman from here who has a kid in school in Utah, and goes a lot, and she described the phenomenon as of a piece with the “aggressive friendliness” of Mormons in general, and thought it must have to do with being part of a proselytizing church. I’m skeptical, but wanted to see what others thought. Thanks for the data points, all!

  33. Kevin Barney says:

    I don’t run, I walk fast, but when I’m going on the track around the lake near my home, I make it a practice to say “hi” to anyone I encounter (the first time around the track only). (I go counterclockwise around the track, like in high school, but a surprising number of people go clockwise, and I’m thinking to myself, didn’t they ever have track class in high school?) My guess is about 40% happily reciprocate; the rest pretend they didn’t hear me. Part of my experience may be that I’m a pretty big guy myself, and I can’t very well blame a lone woman for not wanting to interact with a stranger. But I still say “hi” to everyone. Maybe I shouldn’t.

  34. When I lived in NM, the drivers even waved to every other car they saw on the road, much less the runners.

  35. I’m in Texas. People say hi or do the acknowledgement head bob. At a park with a mile circuit people talk, say hi, and make friends that way-it’s the same 10 people coming at 6am

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