How to Navigate the Awkward Water Cooler Chat (Once Your Co-Workers Find Out that You Run … FOR FUN)

SCENE: Several co-workers mingle around the water cooler before an onsite lunch meeting. 

Co-worker A: I hear that you are a runner.

Runner swallows some water. Nods head in agreement.

Co-worker A: So, how many miles do you run each week?

Runner: It really depends on whether or not I am training for something specific, but I’d say probably 50 to 70 miles per week.

Co-worker A: Laughs. I don’t drive that many miles in my car. 

Runner: Forced laughter.

Co-worker A: I mean, what are you even running from? I only run if something is chasing me!

Runner bites tongue. Tries to suppress unfriendly thoughts regarding Co-worker A’s current chances of surviving if something chased him.

Co-worker B: I used to run. I mean, I don’t anymore, but back in the day, I was pretty into it. How fast do you run a 5K?

Runner: Usually around [X] minutes.

Co-worker B: Hmm. Yeah, that’s decent. You’re really getting there. My best time was [X – 1 minute].

Runner: That’s impressive. Why did you stop running?

Co-worker B: My knees. Running is just so bad for your knees. I didn’t want to end up needing a knee replacement.

Runner bites tongue. Tries to suppress unfriendly thoughts regarding all the things that are worse for your knees than running. 

Everyone wanders into conference room for lunch meeting. 

Co-worker C: How far is your marathon this weekend, Runner?

Runner: It’s a 5K marathon.

Co-worker C: So, like, how many miles is that?

Runner: It’s just over 3 miles.

Co-worker C: That’s a long way to run! Do you think you’ll win?

Runner: I’m not sure.

Co-worker B: I don’t know if you heard me talking about it earlier, but I used to run and I won races all the time. I even ran an [X – 2 minute] 5K one time.

Runner: I thought you said your 5K time was [X – 1 minute]?

Co-worker B (gets a little flustered): Oh … uh … yeah … no, that wasn’t right. It was [X – 2 minutes].

Runner bites tongue and makes mental note to ask him about his 5K time again in the future.

Runner: Wow! That’s quite fast. What race was that?

Co-worker B: It was the 1990 Jingle Bell Jog.

Runner bites tongue and makes mental note to do some internet stalking.

Runner: Cool…

Runner, in own head: …story, bro.

Co-worker A: Give Runner two plates. She’s going to run it off anyway.

Runner: Oh, no. I’m fine, really. One plate will be just fine. I eat two breakfasts, but I try to limit myself to one lunch most days.

Co-worker C: Oh, come on, you can afford to eat some extra. If I ran like you, I’d eat everything in sight.

Runner chews food silently.

Co-worker B: Just because you run doesn’t mean that you can eat everything in sight. Back in the day when I ran my [X – 3 minute] 5K, I had to really watch what I ate. That whole “garbage in, garbage out” thing is true.

Runner (finishes plate and gets up from table): Well guys. It’s been real. I’ve got to cut out a little early today to get a few lunchtime miles in.

Co-worker A: Run, Forrest, Run!

Runner: Bye…

Runner, in own head: FELICIA!


How many times have *you* had this exact same conversation?

I am a running and racing enthusiast. I love racing everything from the 1 mile to the 50K! I work as a CPA in public accounting. I enjoy running (obviously) and spending time outdoors (especially near the water). I am also a big fan of coffee, naps, puppies and sunsets.

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  1. So accurate! I HATE when non-running-colleagues ask your time and then make some sort of humble-brag brush off!

    that being said, i’ve also had super supportive colleagues – even those who don’t understand running. When I did Boston this year, I told my hockey-coaching boss about how everyone’s bibs come in order of their qualifying time, and when I got back, he told me he’d tracked me all day, and was so excited by how much I’d “beat my bib”!

  2. My strategy is just compliment the fake 5K time and move on! 🙂 Fortunately, my current co-workers are really supportive of my running, even though they don’t do it or understand it, and I don’t mind being the weirdo.

  3. “You’re so lucky that you love to run” is what I get most often. Yes and no. I’m lucky that I found exercise that I MOSTLY want to do. But the implication that it’s somehow easy for me to run the way I do, just because I love it, is sort of insulting.