The Runner’s Wave: Just another Suburban Myth?

Running shoes on. Laces tied. Head phones in. Watch set to 00:00 – and go. 00:01. 00:02.

Running is like a drug. Some people use it as a stress relief: the equivalent to a long drag on that first cigarette of the day, or that first sip of beer after a long day at work. Others use it as a simple form of exercise, a dependable way to stay in shape, tone the abs and balance the occasional indulgence in sweets and treats that come in all shapes and digestible sizes. And of course, you have the competitive runners who have made running their sport and train heavily for half-marathons, marathons, triathlons, ironmans etc.

Now, for us common folk who take to the pavement a fair amount,  running is a semi-enjoyable activity that happens to be the easiest and most affordable way to keep fit and avoid the thass: thass n. the result of the subtle merging between ones thigh and one’s ah-hem… “wobbly-bits” as Bridget (Jones) would say. Personally, my most favourite time of the day to put my feet to the ground is early in the morning, before the rest of the world wakes up and the sounds of sirens occupy the streets of the downtown core. There’s something magical about being the first one to notice the intricate details of a building’s contour, or the fog of the water lift off the lake. Not only that. It is in the wee hours of the morn when I, in the heart of downtown Toronto, am the giver and the recipient of the runner’s wave.

What is the runner’s wave?

Building a connection between runners

The runner’s wave is that beautiful moment shared between two runner’s when their eyes meet in a brief upwards glance, the lower half of their arm lifts ever so slightly, and they raise their hand, the palm of their hands facing one another for a short second in a mutual acknowledgement and respect. It is more than “just a wave”. It’s a signal that suggests you are both part of an exclusive club, the members of which are dedicated to active living and longevity.

Okay so not everyone takes it quite so seriously. Growing up in the suburbs however, where you greet everyone you pass on the sidewalks, in the store, at the mall etc, I became particularly fond of said wave. Going out for a run became both a thing of solitude and a pleasant social activity. I look forward to crossing the paths of strangers and sharing a wave. Now, I can understand why some, especially those who don’t consider themselves “people people” would hate the idea of the runner’s wave. Forced social interaction when all they really wanted was to escape the throngs of humanity and revert into themselves for the entity of their hour. You know what? I get it. But I don’t have to like it, and chances are good I’m still going to wave at you regardless.

Bringing the suburban waves to the heart of the city

I encounter this a lot here in the city. I will running by the lake and see another runner approaching. My heart quickens it’s pace and I prepare my wrist for that jolting action of raising the palm… I’m all ready for it… and i’s another one way wave.  How embarrassing. These city folk. When did the hustle and bustle of the city make it impossible for us to acknowledge the presence of another human being? But this is what the city teaches us. It’s every man (or woman) for themselves. On that note, I have noticed that the runner to wave ration is much higher when it comes to my crossing paths with men joggers. Call me pessimistic, but I have a feeling that that has less to do with the runner’s wave and more to do with a young woman crossing paths with a nice looking guy at 8am on a work day. But who knows. Is there a gender variable to take into consideration here? Are fellow women who hit the streets not comrades at all, but competition of sorts? Come on ladies. We’re all in this together, no? What about men? Do men wave to each other on the streets? Probably not, which is pretty sad if you ask me.

The end result of my experience here is a determination to bring the runner’s wave back to the streets (and sidewalks) of Toronto. To forge a land where all runners, female, male, advanced, or beginner can freely raise their hand without facing disappointment time, and time again. Where the drive to join a movement devoted to bettering oneself one stride at a time is celebrated in a unified effort and gesture replaces this snobbish, competitive, lone wolf attitude that has taken over the downtown core. Yes, it is but a simple wave but it stands for so much more! So, join me fellow runners, joggers, speed-walkers (unless you’re using alpine hiking sticks on the sidewalk. I’m sorry. I can’t wave to you – and in all honestly you don’t have a free hand anyway so it’s not like you’re going to wave back). Join me in starting something wonderful and let’s ride the wave to a happier, healthier place to live.

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