Don’t Encourage Me

Hey guys!

I’m glad you enjoyed my 13.1 thoughts from 13.1 miles on Monday. I might have to do that more often. Although, I don’t know if you really want to know what goes through my head during every single race. A lot of it should not be published.

Wallis Sands Half Marathon 2014  HappyFitMama.comAwesome action pic from the race photographers.


I’m not done thinking just yet.

During the race on Sunday, I had a few runners pass by me at different points in the course. As they did, they said something to the effect of –

Nice job. Keep going. Almost there. Looking good.

To some that would seem like words of encouragement, a motivator.

To me, it did not.

Don’t encourage me as you pass me by effortlessly.

I knew it was the nice way of saying “I just passed you and you are slower than me.”

I’ve never liked when other runners hand out those comments during races. It feels like a slap in the face. I’m sure 99% of the people don’t intend for it to be anything but nice. During my first few races, I thought I was being overly sensitive.

Was it part of the runner’s code and I was breaking the rules?

Maybe I needed to try it out for myself on other runners?

So I casually threw out a “Keep up the good work” as I passed a woman at my next race.

She said nothing but I felt like a complete and utter jerk face.

I’ve never done it again and don’t plan on doing it anytime soon.

I’d rather save my words of praise for the runner who unknowingly was my pacer. Someone who gave me the push to finish strong and run hard towards the finish.

Of course, I’d wait till after we crossed the finish line to tell them.

There is one form of encouragement that I WILL always accept – cheers from the spectators.

If you come to watch a race, don’t just stand there on the side of the road and smoke a cigarette (that always kills me).

If you yell any of the above statements at me as I run by (in agony or effortlessly gliding), you will give me an extra push in my stride towards the finish line. As you stand there, you should shout loudly, clap, give a WOOOHOOO,ย clang your cowbell and fire up the runners.

Now that’s encouragement to me.

What do you think –

Should you offer encouragement to another runner as you pass them?

Do you like it?

87 comments on “Don’t Encourage Me

  1. To each their own, I guess. I love it when other runners pass me and do that. In my head, I’m thinking “gosh I’m so slow, I bet those fast people don’t think I should even be here.” But when another runner says something nice, to me it says, “We’re all here together”.

    1. I agree with this- It’s just like when there’s an out and back route and one of those “elite” runners are hitting mile 9 when I am only at mile 5- last summer (and even in a 10K this year I had a half marathon finisher pass me on the 10K route) and their encouragement to keep on going was what I needed to keep on going.
      Tami Grandi recently posted..Sunday Inspiration- WordsMy Profile

  2. I’ve always liked when people speak to me as they go by, but when I’ve thought about doing it myself I was afraid I’d sound like a “jerk face” ๐Ÿ™‚ So, I usually don’t say anything.
    AmyC recently posted..Weekend WorkoutsMy Profile

  3. I don’t mind the encouragement; however, if I pass people while running, I definitely won’t say anything. Chances are, they would pass me again and I’d feel like a smug fool :). The one time I did mind encouragement was during a 10k last Summer, I had slowed down my pace to go up a hill and a much older guy ran by and said “it’s supposed to hurt, I’m old, I shouldn’t be passing you!” I had some choice words for him inside my head!

  4. I didn’t know people feel this way. I don’t generally say anything to anyone until the last mile or so of a race BUT it is actually one of my “don’t die, Angela” strategies… If I tell someone to keep going then I cant stop in front of them. Its a game I play with my own head. In the races I have run I have to say I have gotten more good responses from the people I have than bad. Of course, I don’t know what is going on in their heads so maybe I am making them mad.
    Angela recently posted..What I neededโ€ฆMy Profile

  5. I agree with you. I have never given encouragement as I have passed people, unless they look under distress. It is very common at the Disney races, that are not meant to be competitive, to hear lots of encouragement! I never say anything as I pass runners because I also think it is a slap in the face, “haha I’m faster than you are.”
    Pam recently posted..Today I meet LucasMy Profile

  6. I totally get where you’re coming from and I’m always a bit perplexed as to say something or keep my mouth shut. Everyone is different and you never know how other runners may take your comments. We’re so fragile when racing, aren’t we? Ha ha. Usually, when I pass, I don’t say anything. Often times, the person I’m passing will say something to me and only then do I respond.

    I also love to see people smoking on the sidelines of a race. Really? Or the people who have a dog who obviously hates runners (or wants to join us!) and is barking incessantly. It’s so cruel.
    Allie recently posted..No One Gets Addicted to LettuceMy Profile

  7. From my experience, if someone is going to offer any form of encouragement while they’re running, they genuinely mean it. I find it hard to believe other runners are out to make someone feel beneath them by offering words of encouragement. If they were, they should probably go with something more along the lines of “I’m faster than you hahahaha” and THEN I would want to trip them ๐Ÿ™‚
    Cori @ recently posted..What Makes A Good Product to Review?My Profile

    1. I definitely don’t think any runner says those things to be mean. Those words just don’t motivate me at all.

  8. I always give encouragement, whether someone is passing me or I am passing them. I feel as a community we need to support each other in whatever way we can. I really enjoy connecting with runners on the course. And I’m pretty slow.

    Turning someone’s positive action into a negative in your head says that you lack confidence. You are so busy judging your own capabilities that you cannot accept praise or compliments from others.

    That’s my 2 cents. *shrugs*
    Irene recently posted..WOW # 27My Profile

  9. I agree 100%. It during my first couple of half marathons these words of encouragement actually made me feel worse as the other runner just ran right on by. The cheering crowd is enough for me ๐Ÿ™‚
    Stacey recently posted..Quick Check-InMy Profile

  10. I only run 5ks so this is obviously different, but a lot of them I’ve done feature a turning point where you momentarily see the people ahead of you running the other way. I’ve never had someone cheer me as they’ve past me but I have had people cheer me as they start back the opposite way and I’ve cheered for others I see when I turn back too. It’s always greeted with smiles and cheers. Maybe because it’s a 5k and we’re all just going YAY exercise! haha
    Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie recently posted..Life LatelyMy Profile

  11. I would feel the same way. I have my headphones in so I haven’t heard this but I’ve also never done anything longer than a 5K and the fast people are already ahead of me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Lol!! Yes I feel the same! Unless I’m keeled over on the side of the road pass silently please!! However I do love a good comment at the finish when I find someone has been chasing me! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Fancy Nancy recently posted..Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  13. While I think people are saying something to be nice, I don’t want to hear it. I do a running class every week with my workout studio at the local track and I am almost always dead last. As people pass me {and these are people I am friends with} they always say something encouraging, but it makes me feel like the kid in class who got picked last for Dodge Ball.
    I’m all about encouragement AFTERWARDS!
    Maureen recently posted..Kale, Mushrooms and Onions with Black BeansMy Profile

  14. Ahh Angela I am so glad you posted about this, as I had actually commented on it on my blog a few months ago. Not so much in races, but when I am just running in general I want to encourage people and say good job when i know they are out their busting their butt, but I had a feeling it came across as patronizing, so I hold my tongue. I was informed that a smile and hello/good morning, is much better to hear from a “real runner”- that was the exact reply I got from a reader. What do you think?

    I do enjoy it in races when I am passing someone and they say something positive and encouraging like “great job girl” or “keep up the good work” that shows they are positive and not selfish about their own running.
    Tina Muir recently posted..May is Osteoporosis Month and Sunshine Burgers ReviewMy Profile

  15. Really? I don’t mind it at all. Especially when I’m struggling! I’ve had people get me moving again–just that little bit of encouragement. And when someone is struggling, I’ve done it to them and been thanked! So I guess it depends when you offer the encouragement?
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted..HappyMy Profile

  16. Since I don’t pass people, I get passed I have never said this to anyone. And since I usually hang in the back of the pack, people don’t usually pass me. Also, I am way to focused on my own thing to make the comment or hear the comment. Good perspective!
    Tara Newman recently posted..SuperMom is DEAD. I killed her.My Profile

    1. I can’t say I’ve ever been annoyed with anyone. It just didn’t really do anything for me. Actions speak louder than words to me. If you pass me, I’m going to try to catch you.

  17. hmmmmm interesting โ€ฆ I never thought about that before

    I was watching the Toronto marathon this last Sunday and I’ve seen lots of other spectators give a little encouragement to runners that they see walking โ€ฆ I was at mile 8 so first half. I kind of wanted to tell the other spectators “hey leave them alone, maybe this is their plan!” From someone that always incorporates intervals (as recommended by my coach) I was a little bit in a huff that the spectators would have assumed that these runners gave up at mile 8.
    Wildly Morgan recently posted..Favourite Things: Off Season WorkoutsMy Profile

  18. That’s funny – I was thinking about that a few weeks ago when I ran a marathon (so much time to think about things in a full marathon!!). Near the end I got some of those words of encouragement. I know they meant well, but I thought “wow, do I really look that bad??”. I’m sure I did look that bad. Oh well, it does make me chuckle to think about it, and every now and then, I get to be the one to say it to other people!

  19. I feel the same way. Generally I don’t say anything and I don’t particularly notice or care if someone else says something to me if they pass me, unless I’m really struggling then I want to scream. But I think that it’s my own issue versus anything about the passing runner. And spectators? YES! If you’re out there watching, cheer! It drives me crazy when there are lots of people on the sidelines and it’s quiet.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Ginger Green SmoothieMy Profile

  20. Ummm….I usually say something either way (when passing or being passed) – I like it when people encourage me so I want to do it, too.
    And, I think cheering on the side is as much fun as the race itself – I can’t imagine just standing there and not yelling for everyone!
    Kim recently posted..Pushing Past Failure in Order to Fulfill a DreamMy Profile

  21. I’ve never had this happen to me during a race (probably because I haven’t done that much racing!) but have when I was out for a training run. Do you do this? When you pass someone on a trail or path, do you give them encouragement or a high 5? It seems awkward!
    Darilyn Weiss recently posted..Here’s the Thing About Lane SwimmingMy Profile

    1. I always, always wave, smile or say hi to other runners. I totally think that needs to be in the Runners Code Book. A high five? Maybe if the time was right. ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. It really depends on how I’m feeling during that race. If I feel strong, the encouragement gives me a push. If I feel like I want to stop and crawl, it feels like a slap in the face.

    I’m more likely to encourage the frontrunners (and people behind me) on an out and back course than I am to throw out a comment as I pass somebody, for the same reasons you mention. The last thing I want to be is a jerkface.
    Tammy recently posted..52 Minutes?My Profile

  23. I could understand this! It seems that the running community is overall very supportive and encouraging, so I’m sure they didn’t intentionally mean for it to be a knock toward you, but I can totally see how you’d feel that way.

    During my half marathon in March, a gal came up alongside me and encouraged me as we both conquered a major hill. But, she didn’t just blow right past me, she ran right along side me. That was a HUGE source of encouragement for me! She may have blown past me after that, but I didn’t care. I thought it was super sweet of her to stick by my side throughout the hill.
    Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries recently posted..Gimme Sugar & Carbs!My Profile

    1. The running community is pretty awesome. That’s awesome that the girl helped you. Whatever it takes to get up those dang hills!

  24. I hate it when spectators smoke on the sidelines, so rude! I am not a fan of encouragement by other runners and I don’t usually do it. I have to admit that I have said encouraging words to those who were walking/struggling, but not often. A couple of things I have said to teenagers/cross country kids…
    You aren’t going to let a lady in a dress beat you are you?
    Sprint to the finish! ( to a young boy who ended up beating me in a foot race;)
    Not sure how they took these comments;)
    Rachelle Q recently posted..Is That too Much to Ask?My Profile

  25. I use it as motivation. There will always be people that are faster and slower than you are. When I’m mentally and physically fatigued, it pushes me to work that much harder to catch them. Maybe I am too competitive. ๐Ÿ™‚


  26. It used to piss me off big time. But more recently I take it as encouragement, honestly if someone passes me they are a) faster than I am & have trained harder than I have and I respect that or b) are running a smarter race than me and have paced themselves really well, which I also respect. So either way if I’m getting passed I feel respect for that person regardless of what they say to me. And sometimes if I get passed it lights a fire in me and I want to keep up with them and I’ll do my best to race. I don’t usually encourage other people as I pass them, but I think it depends on the circumstance…like a when I ran Hood to Coast. It’s not like we’re competing its just a relay so I thought it seemed nice to encourage people, so I did and others did the same for me. It was nice to hear, especially on the night runs. So I don’t do it, but it doesn’t bother me when other people do.
    Sarah @runfargirl recently posted..Training Update+Unplanned Rest DayMy Profile

    1. It doesn’t piss me off. It’s just kind of like – why bother saying anything? I agree with lighting a fire. The action of someone passing me encourages me more than words.

  27. I think encouragement is so very personal– how is anyone to know what is motivating to a total stranger?- I am one of those odd balls who does not like cowbell, mindless chatter from a stranger, or screaming people on the sidelines (there were even times at Boston that the crowds were too much for me) I am very sound and smell sensitive, additionally, I’m very focused when I race– and yes, if you pass me please don’t talk to me, you better not have BO, and above all, you had best not blow and go. I sound selfish, and like I had better enter a race called the Solo marathon if I don’t want these common offenses to occur.
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  28. I’m always the one whose getting passed ๐Ÿ™‚ But as I slink to the back, I don’t mind encouragement. I love giving it as well…
    I think people are just sensitive in different races for different reasons.
    Can’t hurt to be nice – right? … but I’m sure even then, someone could find offense.
    Rebecca Jo recently posted..Pushing…My Profile

      1. I get that… some people are in a zone… you must a zoner ๐Ÿ˜‰ You rock it too – so maybe I need to become more of a zoner ๐Ÿ™‚
        Rebecca Jo recently posted..Pushing…My Profile

  29. I don’t pass all that many people anymore, but i used to. I always though it was kind of rude to pass by a person without any acknowledgement, so I would usually say things appropriate to the moment. Come on, you’ve got this, we’re almost there. Or even just a nod of the head or a smile.

    I have had people come up behind me and say similar things. One I like was “I’ve been following your ponytail for miles, come on now! Let’s go…

    Anyway, I never thought about it until now. Don’t worry Angela, I’m not fast enough to pass you, but if I did I’d just smile and say nothing ๐Ÿ™‚
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..My Yoga Works..It Really Works! Plus a Spring into Yoga UpdateMy Profile

  30. The only time I have felt a little “jerk-ish” after the fact was when I made friends with a runner in the last mile while we were feeling the struggle and then I pushed past her in the end to the finish strong. I wasn’t trying to beat her at all, just that I always try to give myself that last little push since emotion is high at the sight of the finish … but I didn’t like how I felt after that. I could have spared a little time and went in with her, I wasn’t on a mark for a PR with that race. Race etiquette is tricky!
    Christina recently posted..New running shoes, Fall marathon registration, new running topsMy Profile

    1. It is! We are all different so who knows if someone takes offense. I’m sure the other runner in your situation didn’t even notice.

  31. I have mixed feelings. During one of my events when we hit a hill near the end someone near me started coaching a bit, “Don’t give up, almost done, take a deep breath” and it seemed to help me. It was very hot and when I saw how red i was when i was done I figured that’s why she started talking to me. I have ran near a few yellers, they clap and applaud everyone and that can drive me crazy. I usually take off and try to get away from them lol
    karen recently posted..Logging and LoseitMy Profile

  32. I feel the same way, and I feel awkward saying anything encouraging to people that I pass. BUT I sometimes say nice things when runners pass me because then it can’t sound patronizing
    Karen recently posted..done done doneMy Profile

  33. This is a great post and when you think about it, it makes sense. When I’m racing hard I typically don’t talk to anyone, let alone give praise. I do try and thank the spectators that are cheering me on though. It gets hard and sometimes all I can muster is an arm wave.
    Robin recently posted..Mississauga Marathon #4 – Pacing DutiesMy Profile

  34. Wow, I don’t take it that way at all! I feel like it’s more encouraging a sense of camaraderie, like “we’re all out here and doing it together, go us!” It’s just a convenient time to talk to someone because you’re right next to each other. It would make me sad to think people are just encouraging me because they are faster than me (because I’m definitely not doing it to others because I think I’m better/faster than him)… does anyone really think that maliciously?

  35. It depends.
    If I’m working out hard, then I’m focusing on me.
    If it’s someone I know then yes.
    If it’s a random, well it depends, sometimes you know when they need it.
    Matilda recently posted..In 10 Years TimeMy Profile

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  37. I agree with you on this. I don’t like to talk at all while racing (or running really). I also don’t like encouragement from anyone but the spectators (and maybe my husband when it’s a loop course and he is blowing me away). I don’t offer encouragement for this reason. The only time I break that rule is when I see a child, especially if they look like their having a hard time.

  38. I am with you on not being encouraged by a comment from someone passing me, but I also understand feeling the need to say something nice to someone you are passing — you don’t want to be in-your-face about it.

    On the other hand, I also love encouragement from bystanders including cowbells, which I hate under any other circumstance.
    Coco recently posted..Five Fitness TruthsMy Profile

  39. I’m never a fan of the keep it up, keep going, nearly there brigade.

    I have, sometimes, tried to encourage someone who looks like they’re struggling but even at that point I sometimes feel like a complete tool.

    I was on a recovery run the other day. 5 miles at around 11 minute mile pace. Granted, to some people it may have seemed like I was going at snail pace and they probably felt sorry for me. As I ran through the local park another group of runners passed me and one of them shouted “Keep it up, you’re nearly there”.

    I had a few issues with this.

    1) They have no idea who I am, what I am running for or what my training regime is.
    2) They have no idea whether I am coming back from injury or not.
    3) They have no idea whether I am nearly there or not. I could have just started and still have another 13 miles to do.

    It’s almost become endemic that runners have to say something to other runners as they pass.

    To some your words may be encouragement and may give them a lift. To others…they just want to be left alone to run….alone.
    Steve recently posted..#sexnoises โ€“ Adidas Thunder Run 2014.My Profile

  40. I read enough comments above to change my routine. I formerly would have words of encouragement (if I could even muster the ability to talk). Now, I will say “Great race! if it helps. Otherwise, forget I said anything.”

  41. Haha! Totally agree. I thought I was just being over sensitive ! Thanks for being so honest! Love your blog!

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