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Running Radar

Ever noticed how so many of us have Running Radar?

Radar_screen I’m talking about that built-in device that listens for and hones in on any sign we might be in the midst of other runners.

My running radar kicks in regularly.  I can be in a room full of strangers and my running antenna activates, sensing for a sign that nearby is a runner I'm about to meet.  Simultaneously while holding a non-running chat with friends or co-workers, my eyes and ears work the room like an audible google key word search detecting running chatter in the air.

We’re not talking amateur running radar.  I’m way beyond merely listening for variations on the word "run," "running," "runner," etc.  I can hover on the fringe of a conversation, seemingly engaged with others, and pick up crystal clear jargon like taper, pronate, motion control, lactate threshold, cross train, plantar fasciitis, IT band, chip time, and GUIn the checkout line at Target or at our work cafeteria, I can detect the slightest hint of a running conversation, and pick up the context.

Office_shrine The same goes for visual cues.  I step into an office or cubical and scan walls and desks for hints of running—a race picture or bib.  Once while interviewing for a job with a company president, I spotted his sports watch, inquired about his running, and the rest of the interview was all mine. 

I love a good conversation about running, but my mother taught me not to intrude on others' conversations, and I've never been one to really flirt very well.  But when appropriate, I seize nuggets with a prospect for a running conversation, and find myself engaged in running chat.  Can't tell you how many times I've rescued fellow runners from ordinary, boooorrrring small talk.  The runners' gleam darts into their eyes and their faces break out in smiles.  In an instant they're engaged talking enthusiastically about their running, races, PRs, and their injuries.

My wife warns others, “If you want to lose an hour of life you’ll never get back, just get Tom talking about running with you.”  She’s right—up to a point.  More than talking about my running, I enjoy listening to others talk about their running.  I usually learn something, and others often reinforce something I’ve heard, considered trying, but never got around to.

Yup, my wife has witnessed my running radar at work countless times.  After coming away from mingling with new-found runners, she asks questions like,

“How did you find out Jim ran Grandma’s Marathon?"   or

How did it come up that lady Barb has shin splints?"   or

"How is it you just met those complete strangers and now you’re joining them at the lake trail for a run?"

It just happens.

You can’t shrug off Running Radar.  It’s a gift.

Radar tech on Flickr by Velvetwink

Office bibs on Flickr by Moojieturtle


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bill carter

Excellent article Tom. I have the bad habit of doing this with my patients. My techs even laugh about it and say Carter has been in with that patient so long they must be a runner. You have to admit that we do have a certain look about us. We may come in all different sizes and shapes, but we typically are sporting Timex Ironman watches, running shoes, and even an occasional left over gel pinned to our work pants(just in case). Yes, we are a little odd.... but its nice to know that there are a lot of us out there.

Sempre Libera

"Once while interviewing for a job with a company president, I spotted his sports watch"

Wow, very perceptive. Good catch!

And the running "with strangers" thing - there's a strange, immediate camaraderie there, isn't it? It's one of the weirdest, but best things about being in a running club - people seem to materialize from out of nowhere, but somehow they're not really strangers.

pat monahan

As a matter of fact, the last two parties I went to ended up talking to runners or triathletes. I guess I'm getting my radar up.


I had that "communing with fellow runners" experience this weekend...remote island...early morning...who is up but the running crowd (and a few cyclists).


My radar is weak, but it's getting better. I fear the "I know more than you know" conversations that happen with any subject, but I'm learning more and more than MOST (not all) runners don't think like that. We're all in this together and learning something at the same time.

Laura Catherine

You are so right - Mom does frequently comment about people losing an hour of their life when they get you started talking about running. From the looks of the site though, people do not really seem to mind chatting about running after all :-) Great looking blog!

Michael Day

Hi Tom,

thanks for being the first to comment on my new blog. I have a very well developed fly fishing radar, and I suspect after I actually run a few races I may actually develop "rundar" as well.



Thanks for posting and checking out my blog!!

I totally have "running radar". I teach school and on meet the teacher day, guess what the topic of conversation was with the parents....running!!! ha!!!

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