I F*ing Hate Unsolicited Running Advice

La, la, la, la. I can't hear you!!!At a local race last Sunday a woman ahead of me all of a sudden stopped running in order to walk up the steep hill we were on. I run the race course nearly every week, and I know that hill well, so I went full steam and plowed ahead. As I passed the woman she turned to me and said, “You shouldn’t breathe with an open mouth.”

Seriously? Seriously!

I was shocked that she had the audacity to say something like that to me. I wanted to say something snarky back but I didn’t have time because I was the one actually running in the situation, and she had to stop running to walk in the middle of a race. Uh … hey lady, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m the one with the experience to pace myself correctly to run throughout the race. But it’s cool, you just go ahead and tell me how you do it, because clearly that’s better. Obviously I need your help here.

I fumed. Who in the world races with a closed mouth? I need OXYGEN when I race. Plus, who the hell does she think she is just walking around road races chiding strangers about their running technique?

Granted, there are situations where it might be appropriate to give unsolicited advice, but there aren’t many of them. Nonetheless, the know-it-alls persist.

I know it would never be you, dear reader. But if you know someone who regularly offers unsolicited advice, here’s a handy dandy flowchart to follow:Should you give advice?


Unless the runner explicitly asks for it, maybe you shouldn’t give advice with an open mouth.

Have you been offered unsolicited running advice?

I'm an academic, a runner, and a New York cliché. I write about the science of exercise, training, and the culture of running. My current goals are a sub-23:00 5K (achieved on 4/22/17 with 22:48) and a sub-1:45 HM (achieved on 10/1/17). Now what?

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  1. Omg! This is fascinating on so many levels! What is wrong with people? When I think about it, that comment comes from the same place as so many other daily small aggressions when people take out their frustrations on others. Oh sure, you think you’re so great running up the hill, but you’re doing it wrong so ha! Don’t feel so great now, do ya? I mean I assume this is the underlying attitude. In any case, UGH.

    Also, I’ve seen that advice before, not to breathe through your mouth, and it makes no sense to me because yeah. Oxygen.

    1. When I told other people about this, they said that they also had heard it before. It was the first for me. Makes no sense whatsoever. I also had no idea why she chose me when there were a half a dozen other people also breathing with open mouths

      1. Ok, I breathe with my mouth about 90% of the time while running, first off and second off…thank you for writing this! I have had people in the past give me advice without me even asking and it’s frustrating. Sometimes I don’t even know how to address it (usual it’s just a an eye roll in my head and a wonky smile on face with a head nod).

    2. I have read that breathing through your mouth can stimulate your autonomic nervous system in a way that negatively affects your running economy. That being said, I feel like I’m doing my nasal passages damage when I’m trying to run hard and breathe through my nose only, so I breathe through my mouth at anything above an easy pace.

      I’m so lucky I’ve got an excellent RBF (running bitch face) so people leave me the hell alone. I don’t think anyone has ever offered me unsolicited running advice, thankfully!

  2. Don’t breathe with an open mouth, wtf?!

    This drives me nuts. My elbows kick out to the side a little when I run and I get sooo many comments about them. Keep your comments about my form to yourself unless you’re my PT or my coach!

  3. I don’t even like giving advice if I am asked for it! At least advice that is specific. Every runner is different. When people ask what I do I give a generic answer like “run lots of miles”.
    I do have an experience with one specific runner, an old feller who is well past his prime and one of those race every weekend type of guys with tons of stories. He is the most annoying runner I’ve ever met, but he LOVES to talk to me. I used to get so annoyed I would avoid group runs. Then I realized that he just likes to feel important, and it means something to him to talk to me about running. Now that I feel compassion toward him, I can grin and bear his advice.

  4. Hee, I picture you in the top picture saying “la la la la la” to someone telling you to close your mouth. Huh? My nose is always running when I run, so there’s no way on earth…I’m 100% with Caraway on this. It’s a case of someone putting you down to make themselves feel better…so much about advice, running or otherwise is validation. Hear me! Listen to what I have to say!
    Which is very hard when you’re exerting yourself (at any pace!) and doing your best to get up the darn hill…I stick to compliments. I like them, and I find others like them too…advice I leave to my fabulous online community here.

    1. LOL, that photo has been used in a past post where I talked about how uncoachable I was and I didn’t listen to advice. Hmmm . . . there seems to be a theme in my life.

  5. Hahahaha I love the diagram! I totally agree though. One time, my friend Jen and I were zig-zagging through people as we did a half marathon and negative splitted it… we passed this dude who abruptly told us that we needed to run tangents (which we were but the entire course was winding left and right, it was hard to know where to be running at times). Like, how rude dude. Plus, we passed him like he was standing still anyways….

  6. During a public tune-up for a race once, two women who were running nearby decided to loudly inform me that I was landing too heavily and sounded like an elephant, and I should run more like them. It was actually really upsetting and I was quite embarrassed. I wish people would think “gee, I’ve never spoken to this person before, maybe I shouldn’t pass judgement on their running style at random”.