At its heart, running is a social activity. Sure, there are probably pathological loners out there who will only run solo and shun company at all costs, but, for the rest of us, meeting other runners is one of the great pleasures of our sport.
You hook up with other runners in training sessions and before and after races and you bump in to them when you’re out for a run.
You even connect in “non-running” situations - and as soon as someone finds out you’re one of the singlet and shorts mob in a social setting or at work, you’ll quickly find yourself in a running conversation.
And here’s the thing: everyone you meet who runs will be a nice person. Guaranteed.
Or, to put it another way in what I am now calling Galvin’s Law – Dickheads Don’t Run.
It’s something I’ve been turning over in my mind recently (while out training, naturally), not from any lightbulb moment but rather as a result of a series of small incidents, such as a bloke I came across while on my favourite national park training run.
I was wearing a t-shirt from a particular race and he was coming the other way on the trail, bushwalking.
“Hey, I’ve got one of those,” he said.
Naturally, we stopped to chat about races done and people we knew in common. He has a lot more experience than me but was naturally supportive, encouraging and ... nice. It was a five minute chat that made my day.
Then, last week, I had the privilege of talking to some of the amazing people from the Achilles Running Club. The Achilles runners train with people with a disability, allowing them to enjoy the experience and benefits of running.
The Sydney chapter of the club has existed since the mid-90s and mainly helps blind people get out for a run. Ellis Janks is one of the club’s driving forces and brings an extraordinary passion and commitment to his volunteering.
I asked him whether it was occasionally galling that he was pretty much invisible alongside the person he is guiding, even in ultramarathons.
“I’m used to that,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time. The focus is always on the bloke doing the real hard yards.”
In other words: “Yes, I might be knackered and hurting bad, but it’s not about me. I’m here for someone else.”
And, finally, I did a lovely race a couple of weeks ago – the Coastal Classic through the Royal National Park south of Sydney. About 400 runners took part and, at times, it was a bit squeezy along the single-track sections. But everyone was good-humoured, polite, happy and ... nice.
Niceness it seems is one of the unusual, defining characteristics of our sport.
I’ve got a mate who plays over-40s soccer and the stories he tells me of niggle, bad behaviour and bloody-minded rudeness on the football pitch are a total contrast to everything I come across in the running community.
Whether nice, generous people are drawn to running or whether running turns people nice, I really don’t know. In the end it probably doesn’t matter.
All I know is that hanging out with runners is always a good thing.
Do you agree? What is your experience of the running community? Do nice people run or does running make them nice?