Mark Matthews, an author and Salty friend, recently posted a hilarious essay about his reaction to strangers running through his neighborhood.
“Yes, if you run by my house, my nose will detect your scent, I’ll watch you like a junkyard dog, my spidey sense will tingle, and I’ll be thinking, ‘Wait, why don’t I know you? You are a bit of a stranger here? Did you just move into this neighborhood, did you run farther than you thought, or is this perhaps your first run ever? You are running through my neighborhood. I don’t know you, and I should.”
This resonated with me, first because it’s funny, and second, because it’s so true. What runner doesn’t perk up a little little, like a guard dog, when we detect motion in front of our homes, especially if it’s motion that appears to be wearing Lycra?
Instinctively, we want to know who goes there. But in reality, even when we see a fellow runner repeatedly, we may know her pace, but have no idea what her name is, or even where she lives. That would require stopping, something we runners are loathe to do.
Worse, it would require asking another runner to stop, which, as faux pas go, is right up there with asking if you can take a sip from a stranger’s water bottle. Also, runners are famously solitary souls, so for a lot of us, connecting with an unfamiliar runner is as appealing as a bout of plantar faciitis.
So even though we have an extremely major thing in common, we pass each other repeatedly with only a wave or a nod, if that. We’re intimate strangers. But we don’t have to be.
A few months ago, I had an idea for a party. There are about a dozen people on my street that I see regularly out walking or running, people that I know little about, even though we live in walking or running distance from each other and share a love of the road. How cool would it be if we actually knew each other and had a network of sorts? These are a dozen people who could, for example, be counted on to call the police if someone was hauling away my valuables in a U-Haul truck while I was on vacation. Or maybe we could one day meet to pick up trash, beautify the street that gives us so much enjoyment.
We belong to a community of runners. Wouldn’t it be nice if that was more than just a phrase, if we actually had a community of runners, beginning with the most important ones, those in our own neighborhoods? So my party idea is this: to hold a drop-in for the walkers and runners of my neighborhood. To hand out invitations over a period of a few weeks, whenever I spotted one of our tribe. Nothing major – just to say, come have a cup of cider or a glass of wine and meet your fellow walkers and runners, get names to go with the faces. Maybe learn where we all live. (Maybe get rid of all my Christmas cookie leftovers. Yeah, still have some!) Haven’t done it yet, but it’s one of my New Year’s running resolutions … to make “the running community” more than a nice sentiment.
SALTIES, is there value in knowing the runners and walkers on your route? Or is all this potential socializing just going to slow us down?