5 Snappy Comebacks for Sh*t Non-Runners Say

These are your coworkers at an office party. They like cake. When you tell them you like running, what do you think they’ll say to you? img via thebadchemicals.com

Here on SR we talk a lot about how much we love to run. You and I know how good running can be, how much it has changed our lives for the better, or helped us get through tough times, strengthened our families and kept us sane.

Well, when we talk about our love of running here at Salty Running we know that we’re preaching to the choir. Convincing each other that running is great is easy, but we aren’t always talking to other runners.

You know what I’m talking about. You know how non-runners can act when your running comes up in conversation… For some reason, many people get uncomfortable or dismissive about our good habit. So many times when a non-runner has said something annoying about my running I have walked away and then thought “AUGH! I should have said–!”

No longer, my friend. Submitted for your approval, are things I should have said to the most obnoxious retorts about running:

1. Knees. As in, “I want to run, but I have bad knees,” or “You shouldn’t do that, you’ll hurt your knees.”

How come nobody tells football players they shouldn’t play or they’ll hurt their knees? img via superamazing.net

If I had a dime for every time I’ve been told that some other sport was better for my knees than running I’d be able to afford my own swimming pool. The fact is, strong legs mean strong knees. Running is great exercise for your knee-supporting muscles, not to mention keeping weight off. Ever notice how a lot of people who complain about their knees are overweight? When I was an overweight runner, my doctor told me that losing ten pounds feels like losing 30 pounds to your knees. I’ve lost nearly 70 pounds now from running, so I think it’s safe to say my knees are healthier than they ever were when I was a couch potato.

My retort: “Maybe YOU would hurt your knees, but I don’t – check out my hot legs! I don’t get these muscles by sitting on my tuchus!”

2. You ran a marathon? Oh cool, how long was it?

English: Statue of Pheidippides along the Mara...
Spoiler alert: it’s 26.2. img via Wikipedia.

Seriously? I know not everyone is a runner, but I really thought everyone had learned the legend of the Marathon in school. As this ridiculous guy states it,

Legend states that way back in 490 B.C., Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory of the Greek army. As the tale goes, he ran the full 26 miles and then promptly died.

Although the truth behind this story is the subject of some debate, I would say it’s pretty widely passed around. In fact, I’d go so far as to say anyone who can’t answer the question, “How long is a marathon?” is decidedly not smarter than a 5th grader.

My recommended retort? “Oh, about a mile and a half,” accompanied by a thin smile.

3. OMG I’m a runner too! I do a mile on the treadmill after I work out at the gym once a week!

Hamster wheel
Here’s what I think of your very occasional treadmillism. img via sualk61 on flickr

Not that I don’t support anyone in his or her exercise endeavors, but … it’s a little different. I’m not some wuss that won’t lace up when it’s raining out or some seasonal bandwagonner who signs up for the corporate challenge 5k every year and that’s it. I’m not some chick who runs just to make sure I get my cardio in when my boot camp class is canceled…running is my life! It’s a huge part of my identity! It’s my favorite way to spend my spare time! I love racing and competing against myself and striving to attain a goal! I have realistic dreams of a Boston Qualification. I am a marathoner, and have made the perfect half marathon a serious project for myself. Still, cut the guy some slack – at least he’s doing it, and maybe he wants to join the ranks of the truly addicted.

My recommendation for this one is to go easy: “Hey man, that’s awesome. Good for you. If you ever want to join me on a longer run I’m training for [your next big race]!”

4. I only run when someone is chasing me!

Run for your life!
Next time I hear this, I plan on chasing whoever said it. img via stuant63 on flickr.

This is usually followed by the speaker laughing at his own joke. You know why? Because he’s the only person who thinks it’s funny.

It’s not! First of all, it gives me occasional horrible daydreams (daymares?) of being chased during one of my runs. But second, I think I hear it at least three times a month.

My retort: laugh as sincerely as you possibly can (which likely isn’t much at all) and then say something creepy like, “Well when I turn into a zombie, I’ll know who to eat first.”

5. You ran How many miles? Man, I don’t even like driving that far!

English: Segway in Paris. Česky: Segway v Paříži.
As hilarious as I think this is, it’s way not as awesome as running. Sorry.  img via Wikipedia

Yes, I know. Your lack of motivation to exercise is only surpassed by your lack of a sense of adventure. Color me impressed by your dismissal of all the hard work I do and all the passion I have.  I understand that your high school wrestling coach made you run as punishment or whatever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t support me and my passion for a sport that gives me intense happiness and glorious freedom.

My retort: “Maybe you could try a Segway. I hear it’s both lazier than running AND driving!”


What about you? Do you get negative feedback from non-runners about your good habit? What’s the most annoying thing you’ve heard?

This post was originally published on August 24, 2012.  

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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  1. I laughed out loud when I read this! I have heard every single one of these comments. I always want to be snarky, but sometimes I will say- “If I can do it, anyone can do it.” I don’t know if I believe that anymore. I think the truth is, “If you want to do to be a runner, you CAN be a runner.” It takes motivation, and dedication and focus. I will turn down a second glass of wine when I have 10 or 16 or 20 miles on tap the next day. I will go to bed at 9:00 p.m. when I have a race in the morning. (who am I kidding, I usually go to bed at 9:00 p.m.!) I love running, and I love what running has done for me. I am stronger, leaner, more energetic and happier because I am a runner. And my knees have never been better!

  2. I always say the same thing to this stuff: “people either love running or hate it. I’m lucky I love it!” That actually tends to placate them and makes them feel validated about their disdain for running and their characterization of me as some freak of nature 🙂

    I honestly think a lot of these lines come from a place of curiosity and even jealousy. Many of those people in the “hate running” camp are trying to understand what us running freaks could possibly enjoy so much about it. And some others who say they hate running only say that because of the frustration they feel because they think they can’t.

    And dude, I think the treadmill is a perfectly valid option for getting the miles in. I happen to like it!

    1. It’s not about the treadmill–that’s fine. It’s about the lack of commitment! Someone like that who calls himself a runner minimizes what it means, in my mind. To me it’s a lot like how you feel about short race courses.

      1. I don’t even know if it is commitment as much as it is an attitude/identity. To me, there is a big difference between a runner and someone who routinely logs a few miles for fitness purposes. The latter are doing it to stay in shape/get exercise, but otherwise do not identify as a runner. Analogies: I do some light weight lifting, but only in an attempt to rid myself of the flaps Nutmeg mentioned yesterday. I hardly identify in any way as a weight lifter. Similarly, I ride my bike sometimes, but do not identify as a cyclist at all.

      2. every single one of you started out running 1-2 miles and worked it up from there. I run 3 miles 3 to 4 days a week. I run! I’m a beginner but I run. I don’t pretend I’m in the same class as a marathoner, I’m not, but some day I might be! But for now I’m a beginner and I do the very best I can. To infer that a beginner is not a runner is very elitist and discriminatory and I think it is why a lot of people are intimidated by running. They think well I can’t run 13 miles day one so I must suck at this now I hate running. They don’t realize you have to work up to it, and it takes a lot of work- esp if you are a bigger person!

        1. This is a satirical post. We run silly, satirical,or generally lighter fare on Fridays. Take a look at some of our other stuff and you’ll see we are anything but elitist here. You most definitely are in the same class as everyone else here. We’re all runners trying to do our best. Best of luck to you!

          1. I’m glad to hear it! and I have enjoyed a few other articles on this site. Far too often I run into people who are judgmental of who is and is not a runner. while I totally get those people who own fancy running shoes that they wear once every three months (on their way from the gym to wendys), not really qualifying as runners- it makes me sad when people look down on dread mill runners or short distance runners. What I see the most of though is people who judge heavier runners as non-runners. I get that a ton when I go to buy running gear “wouldn’t you be better off walking?” We all start somewhere! 🙂

          2. I can’t believe someone said “wouldn’t you be better of walking?” WTH? Then you walk and they judge you for “just” walking. Geesh! It will be great when science comes up with a judgmental vaccination, so we can all live our lives without that scourge! I started off embarrassed about my run/walking routine way back when and now I find myself sometimes feeling a little embarrassed about the amount of time I take for myself to run. There never is a perfect amount for other people. We just need to find what works for us and figure out how to ignore all those judgers out there. Keep up the great work and thank you so much for your comments!!!

  3. I’ve heard all those plus various ones asking about my safety – aren’t I afraid of rapists, dogs, cars, bears, etc. I try to remain positive with people whatever they say.

    Ironically I just had my desk at work (I work in an office cubicle) adjusted so that I can work standing up. One of the guys at my work has now told me a few times and told many other people that I will “kill” my knees and will need surgery within a year. I just shrugged and said “I don’t think so” and kept walking down the hall.

  4. How could I not have a great Friday after reading this post. Completely hilarious and totally accurate. My favorite retort is #1. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when someone talks about running and knee-damage. Now I’ll know exactly what to say! 🙂

  5. Don’t forget those who constantly forward you the articles when someone dies during a race. OMG I will probably die if I keep doing this!! My favorite retort to this one was forwarding the person a copy of Tough Mudder’s Death Waiver (http://toughmudder.com/waiver/) and just told them I was badass like that. Bring on the potential for death I love this extreme sport! (rolls eyes).

    I also had a colleague who ran a couple miles a few times a week who constantly told me marathoning is just bad (but his level of running was, of course, great). He said it was just too much to do to my body. I’d always ask him how it was bad for me (my knees, my heart, my spleen?) and of course he didn’t have an answer. We both left it at: we’ll see how I am doing in 20 years. 🙂

  6. Yes, yes, yes to all of these. The funniest part is that I was the one making these comments only about a year ago (super-newbie runner!), especially the “I only run if someone’s chasing me, ha!” I’m totally stealing the turning-into-a-zombie retort… but isn’t that a reason to be running in the first place? So I don’t turn into a zombie? Mind = blown.

  7. Another one that gets me, are the people who every time you mention running say “I wish I could run”. No matter how much you encourage them you can never even get them off the couch, but they keep saying it “I wish I could run”. I’m fond of telling them to stop wishing & start working. There are no fairy godmothers coming to make you a runner.

    1. I know! At this point I just feel bad for people for people like that and hope some day they’ll get it. I hate when I encounter people in their 50’s in poor health who suddenly realize how much they took their health and bodies for granted. It’s never too late, of course, but the longer people put this kind of stuff off the harder it is to make this kind of lifestyle change! (So, if you’re reading this and on the fence- GET OUT THERE NOW!) 🙂

  8. Love this list! Re: #2, I know of a few local half marathons that are called “minis”, even further confusing people. Or you know, there are those who will call any race a marathon!

  9. Haha! So true! Another one is “Admit it, you run that much just to remain skinny, there’s no way you can enjoy running 15+ miles on a Saturday morning”…

  10. It annoys me when people say, “oh, you are running a 5k this weekend? that must be so easy for you since it’s only 3 miles.” — If you are really training and trying to RACE rather than RUN the race than (to me) a 5k is going to hurt A LOT. …not easy at all..

  11. Okay I think #3 is kind of shitty. The response is fine, but the banter leading up to, just plain shitty. I mean, come on, lets try to encourage people with the things we love that make us happy, not feel like we are some super human being because we run more than others do or can. Everyone starts out running one mile at first, and its one mile at a time after that….

    1. I agree with Sarah. Frankly, this whole article borderlines on arrogance and condescension. People that run on treadmills are doing just that…RUNNING. So do not dismiss that just because may have not run facing the elements.

      Quote: “In fact, I’d go so far as to say anyone who can’t answer the question, “How long is a marathon?” is decidedly not smarter than a 5th grader.” Wow, excuse me for not knowing the exact kilometric distance of a marathon. The arrogance of this statement is astounding.

      Quote: “Your lack of motivation to exercise is only surpassed by your lack of a sense of adventure. Color me impressed by your dismissal of all the hard work I do and all the passion I have. ” The fact that you would get your back up from someone making a comment like this is amusing. Saying “You ran how many miles? Man, I don’t even like driving that far!” is not an insult to YOU, it’s deprecating their own lack of ability. So why would you even think that would deserve a retort? If anything, it deserves an encouraging response like “you could totally do it too, its a great feeling!”

      I know this article is attempting to be clever and pro-runner, but these retorts encourage looking down your nose at people who, for all you know, may just not know much about running, but choose other forms of activity to stay healthy and fit. Wouldn’t you rather ENCOURAGE these people to start running and educate them on the benefits, instead of retorting at them implying that they are lazy and sitting on their “tuchus?”

      1. I’m curious how you came about this post. Every Friday we post our Friday 5 which can range from completely non-funny and informational to 100% satirical and silly. Out of the context of the rest of the site, I could see your point. I could also see your point if we weren’t a site dedicated to serious women runners (which is not a pace, but is a state of mind that comes along with knowing the basics like how far a marathon is and hearing the same lines about running from nonrunners over and over). Believe me, in real life when confronted by these lines, which we all are often, we are nice and encouraging, but these are the things we would say if we were bitches. This is meant to be funny to our readers and just as with any humor, not everyone gets it or laughs and we’re ok with that. Lastly, as our regular readers know we’re anything but snobs or unsupportive of beginners or those who don’t take running as seriously as we do or basically anyone who runs or wants to run. See here, here and here.

        1. Read this blog daily, and I also think it’s pretty arrogant. Most of the quotes sound like things my friends or coworkers might say to be nice/make polite conversation, and most of them aren’t hurtful, just funny to people like me who are avid runners. Before I became more serious about running I’m sure I also said some of those things. I’d rather spend my energy inviting those types of people for a run with me than calling them sh*t.

          1. Thanks for the comment, your opinion is more than welcome. Once again, this post was a satire piece, a take on the Internet meme (now web series) “Shit Girls Say.” If you haven’t seen the piece it references it’s understandable that you might misconstrue its intent.

  12. I’m with Alicia on this one. Maybe it’s because, like you mentioned, I’m not familiar to this site. #3 really struck me. Probably because strangers/friends/coworkers alike always ask, “are you running a marathon? are you running a marathon? Come on! You should run a marathon!” While I don’t have anything against marathons, they sure as hell don’t make me want to do one. As a proud single mom and proud hospital social worker, I don’t have much support or time to run. It’s usually done during my lunch hour. About 15 – 20 miles per week. With the meager mileage I manage to pull, I consider myself every bit a runner as anybody. Be it rain, snow, or heat, I adhere to my schedule and it is my passion, my outlet to purge everything going on in my life. Like another poster said, we all start somewhere. It’s my understanding this post isn’t meant to be serious, but it’s basis is that the author finds some things offensive. Obviously, I’m not the only reader that feels offended by this article. But we all are entitled to our opinions and that’s why this author can post her thoughts, and why there is a comments section here as well.

    1. It’s just sarcasm/humor. In our local running group, we all support each other every day in every way and sometimes that includes saying things like those in this post in a JOKING way. Think of it as finding something offensive and telling your friends who will get you how you wish you could have responded. And FTR 15 to 20 miles a week on a treadmill is nothing to sneeze at.

  13. Usually I am reading these posts in the middle of the night, somewhat delirious. One day later, some of the responses continue to bother me (and I realize they are old). We are runners. Some fast, some slow, some snarky….I love this site and I find the comments about how snarky this post was to be…well….snarky-er. You spice girls all run much faster than me, you all track every run much better than me, and more consistently than me, you all know your PR’s and BQ’s, AND your limitations. I am a runner every bit as much and you all remind me of that with every post I read. I don’t run 6 minute miles or 100 mile weeks, but I run. Running is a part of me. I would not be me if I didn’t run. We all have our limitations and we can’t compare ourselves to others. I am continually inspired and supported every time I read a post. You guys are real. Some just don’t get satire or sarcasm. (Is sarcasm a spice….or an herb?) It’s flava…..and I’m 55 and grateful that I have continued to run all these years…I look good, I feel good and I run good…keep up the good sharing.

    1. I’m so glad you feel supported by us! We welcome all viewpoints and paces here 🙂 This sarcastic humor isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and that’s cool too. I’m glad people told us how they felt so we could explain our intent. It’s all good 🙂