Since practically every runner is wearing headphones these days, I have been experimenting with speaking to runners I pass by with a "Good morning," or conversing with runners I catch up with, but the results are mixed. Fully half of runners I call out a greeting to who are wearing ear phones ignore me. It's not like the old days last decade where practically every runner greeted back. And it takes effort to get runners to converse with you if they're wearing headphones, they're so wrapped up in the wonderfulness of their own selves.
There was Ron the other day. I was running the hilly gravel path (for horses I think) that parallels the blacktop w&OD Trail when I came off the high trail onto the improved footpath right next to him. I gave him a greeting, which he ignored. I asked how far he was going to which he said, "What?" I repeated myself, louder and slower. He answered, "Not far." I asked, "How far have you come?" He said, "What?" I repeated myself, louder and slower. He ripped out his ear bud closest to me and said, "What did you say?" I repeated myself. "Two miles. I'm just going to Lee Highway." But then we had a fine conversation for a mile before he turned off at Lee Highway. His wife started running five years ago and now is practically consumed with it and is prepping for the MCM, her first, in the fall. He is a soccer player but runs sometimes so he can run races with her sometimes. He last ran the Nashville HM with her and she slowed down and ran with him. Isn't that nice? We talked fast twitch, slow twitch muscles for awhile. See what runners know about?
Then there was Bill. He was about my age, and speed, and I had a hard time catching up to him from about forty yards back. He wasn't wearing headphones and I got the impression he was trying to keep ahead of me as I came up upon him. He wasn't real communicative when I fell in with him for awhile. He answered every general question I put to him with a precise, short answer, didn't extend any conversation and asked me no questions. After a quarter mile I wished him well and ran on ahead of him. I was faster than him, or so I thought. But at my turnaround, coming back I saw that he was only thirty yards back although I had been loping along at my fast relaxed speed to get as head of him. I also saw that he made the same exact turnaround as I did. Game on! I switched gears to a higher speed and soon I had fifty yards on him and he was falling away. But a mile later, after the sharp curving hill where the W&OD goes up and over I-66 and you can't see behind you very far, on the flat bridge on top I heard a noise behind me and there was Bill ten yards back. I increased my speed and worked the downhill and I lost him. I think he turned off onto the cul-de-sac just east of the bridge because I think that's where I had first noticed him thirty minutes before, probably coming out of that cup-de-sac on his run. Bill was a sullen, competitive sort, but I caught him, then stayed ahead of him Ha!
And finally there was Phil. A bone-thin old-timer with a slow but steady gate, I had seen him from my back stoop or back window go by on the W&OD Trail several times before, always around 9 a.m. I ran by him one day on the trail and circled back and caught up with him and politely asked his age after I asked his name. I explained that I had recently retired, told him my age and said that I wanted to know how many more years of regular running I had to look forward to, with him as my model. He was 79 he said as we shuffled along at his steady but inexorable pace. Fifteen more years for me then at least, I told him happily. Then I indicated that I was going to turn around and go back the way I had been going and I thanked him for his time. He wished me well and said maybe we'll meet up on the trail in fifteen years again when I am his current age. "If I'm still here," he added.