With the balmy 6°C weather afflicting Winnipeg this past week, I have been reveling in the chance to run outside without being weighed down by my re-purposed winter army jacket. I am also lucky enough to live near a major bike and walking path frequented by joggers and runners day and night. This is important because for all the talk distance runners give about how intensely isolated their hobby is, the reality is that there is one critical action that brings together runners of all types (except sprinters…sprinters are strange). I am referring to The Nod. Not to be confused with “a nod” or simple crooking of the neck, I am referring to The Nod; that beautiful act of acknowledgement that runners share with each other whenever they cross paths. As their paths are crossed and personal space reaches its lowest point, it is a time honored tradition that runners make momentary eye contact (or stare into one another’s dark glasses) and provide a slight lowering of the chin; smiling is optional.
What may seem like a simple reciprocal lowering of the chin to the untrained observer is in fact a bonding experience between runners; an act that acknowledges the pain, hardship, and outright insanity of forcing your body to move at an uncomfortable pace despite having nowhere to go and lacking any sort of pursuer. The Nod is an abbreviation on the statement: “hey buddy, I am just as crazy as you”. This acknowledgement is important because without the subtle acknowledgement of The Nod, runners may begin to question they run. After all, when you run you are in essence dedicating your free time to devastating your body; pounding pavement again and again as your chest heaves, legs angrily swell, and skin cries salty tears. As we approach this motivational precipice however, there is another runner reassuring us, egging us on in the most time effective and breath saving measure we know of (runners are all about saving their breath). The Nod is ultimately an acknowledgement of shared consciousness, a motivational treatise stating that while we may not have a pursuer or destination to push us along, we hold a passion in running that we pursue day in and day out, regardless of our body’s complaints.