I always run from social situations and so I found it odd that I am so social while running.
As I waved and yelled out “Good Morning” to the neighbor lady across the street whom I run past while she is outside tending to her yard, I thought about the other friends I’d made by waving and calling “Hello” to them over the past year and a half that I’ve been running again.
The power walking lady that works at the elementary school who always cheers me on as we pass each other. The two male friends that walk everyday together and are always fashionably dressed. The shirtless dog trainer who lives at the corner house with his eight well-trained dogs of various breeds and sizes that bark as I run by. The old fella with the George-Hamilton-tan that always works on his lawn in short-shorts. The guy across the street a few doors down that yells things –I think friendly – though I can’t be sure because I can never make them out over the sound of his mower. The gal at the corner who is out chasing down her dog that gets out of the backyard practically every day. The older, spunky lady who is adding some sort of plastic or tin outdoor décor item to her yard each day. The guy with Hawaii license plates who is always friendly and the couple next door to him with the baby who, likewise, always have a smile and a wave.
My route is quiet for a while until I get to the school where I usually pass a very fit and pleasant mother – having just dropped her son off for the day – who gives me a cheerful greeting before heading to –probably – the gym. Then there’s Frank the bulldog and his owner slowly moseying down the street at Frank’s pace. The crossing guard always says something about me making him tired just to look at me while laughing and waving me on. After the crosswalk, comes the old lady with a haunting walk – slowly and with her arms out to her sides. She crosses to the other side of the street whenever she sees me coming, though she does wave and smile back when I wave and smile at her, making me hopeful that she is still with the living and not some early morning ghostly apparition. Finally, the guy who walks every day but never wears workout clothes. He dresses in business casual and stops to smell the mimosa blossoms on the tree planted in the yard of the corner house on my street. He, without fail, says, “Have a good day!” as I turn off the road and into my driveway.
I am an introvert but I am an extrovert when I run. It is the perfect social set-up for me:
- I don’t have to make small talk.
- I have no time to say something awkward and embarrass myself.
- There is no misinterpreting what the other person is saying to me. Or anyway, if I am misinterpreting it, it doesn’t matter because I move on before either of us know about it.
I am the friendliest, most outgoing creature as long as the interpersonal interaction is kept to no longer than 5 seconds in length. Given this one social parameter, I have acquired two dozen friends in my year and a half of running as opposed to the years it usually takes me to acquire one friend when I am standing still.
Granted, these new friendships are of the shallowest sort. We don’t actually know each other and merely exchange pleasantries each day. But I got the same basic relationship depth when I was on social media. The difference is when I’m running:
- I’m actually interacting with other people face to face.
- There is no virtue signaling in our interactions.
- Not once have I been told to “Educate yourself”.
- The relationships are shallow and friendly but don’t pretend to be anything more.
It is no wonder that I want to run away at the first hint of social interaction in that it is while running that I am best at it.