Running brings people together from all backgrounds, cultures, social levels, languages, and religions. A trail acts as a bond for those willing to connect with others. It is for this reason that you may find yourself running with any number of runners, all more or less experienced than yourself. And when you are in that position, you need to know how to help your fellow runner.
One crucial area where I personally try to be of service to other runners is helping to keep them from injuring themselves due to over exertion and dangerous speed. I evaluate each fellow runner based upon a simple metric in order to keep them safe and healthy for the entirety of their run with me. If someone is running faster than I am, I know they are endangering themselves. Once I establish the fact that their speed has surpassed mine, I must do all I possibly can in order to protect them from themselves. At this point they are their own worst enemy and I may be their only hope. And I assure, this in no way has anything to do with my ego.
Once I have determined that their speed is surpassing the healthy and safe threshold, i.e., my own speed, I have a series of tactics which I employ in order to keep them safe without necessarily embarrassing them. I want to be careful with both their body and their mind. These endangered individuals do not need additional humiliation. Just because they are unable to monitor their speed and keep within a healthy range, does not mean they are lesser people. For this reason I keep these strategies covert.
– First, I utilize the running watch. “My watch says…” and then I insert some exaggerated number, speed, vertical climb, etc. This tactic works well if you are able to convince the other runner that their data is incorrect, and then warn them of “going out too hot” or “pacing themselves.” New runners, especially those who are by some curse of nature faster and more capable than you, normally fall for this right away. However, if they show some immunity to it, the second maneuver is as follows.
– Get them arguing. Try to find some very volatile topic and bring it up. If you can find a psychological nerve, grind your highly treaded running shoes into it. Politics, conservation, bike lanes, the current global catastrophe, anything works. Just find what they are passionate about and get them talking. This should raise their heart rate and exhaust their breathing capacity. Remember. This is for their own good. Help them by arguing with them. This pairs well with the next maneuver.
– Get in front on the single track and slow down. Use this time to pontificate on some point of the argument, or switch it up and elaborate profusely on some little piece of nature that “near-sighted people run by all the time and never take time to appreciate.” This will do two things, first it will force them to slow down or stop in order to not be one of the aforementioned “near-sighted people”, and second, it will also give you a clean segue into the next tactic.
– Take a picture. It doesn’t matter what it is, where you are, or what you are doing, insist on getting a picture of this piece of nature. Or better yet, of them for their social media feed. Narcissism is your friend. If they are dangerously fast and you are extremely winded, insist on using the timer on your phone and setting up the camera so you all can be in it. In this case, the larger the group the better. This can be utilized to gain at least five to ten minutes of rest.
– The final strategy is one which I hesitate to include because I consider it quite cowardly and unsportsmanlike. Some have stooped so low as to sneak rocks and other weight into the running packs of others. Again, this is extreme, uncalled for, and very poor form. And besides, they haven’t even noticed the rocks the last few times I have used this.
As an astute and loving runner, wanting to serve the running community, keep up the good work of slowing others down. Remember, your fellow runners need you. Anyone can run fast, it takes a true runner to run slowly for a really long time. Stay safe and healthy on the trails.
*Intellectual credit for these ideas cannot be firmly placed upon my shoulders, as much as I would like to carry that responsibility. These tactics were first shared with me by a very influential outdoorsman, Pat McManus, in my teenage years. This post is more of an application, rather than an original treatment, of his seminal work in the field of “outdoor psychology.”