Friday, May 27, 2016

The Passing Games

Here’s a situation played out daily on running paths around the country:

Woman is running along, la de dah, and gradually catching the man in front of her.
She reels him in, easy peasy, he’s clearly going slower than her current pace.
She passes him.
He starts sprinting until he’s passed her back.
Inevitably, because he sped up too much to make the pass, he slows.
Woman—now probably annoyed—reels him in again, because she’s been going the same pace all along and it is still faster than annoying guy.
And repeat.

I realize I’m stereotyping here, but I’ve heard many women complain of the same thing and I’ve never had the same experience when passing a woman (unless it’s a race, and all’s fair in love and racing). To their credit, the vast majority of men don’t give a crap if I pass. They often share a kind wave or smile.

But then there are the dudes that have to prove themselves.

Getting lapped in high school...  
A couple of weeks ago, a guy took it more seriously than usual. The scene played out as above: me jogging along, catching up to dude, passing him, he sprints, then slows, I pass again. Repeat. But this guy was so adamant about staying in front after the second pass he started running through red lights to ensure he stayed ahead. (I stopped, being that it was rush hour in DC and not exactly safe to be running through those intersections.) After the second red light dash, I was particularly annoyed: Let it go dude. I just want to enjoy my run without offending you every time I run by. But also, I don’t want to have to slow down just to save your ego.

Admittedly, I have certainly tagged behind guys (and girls) before to try to boost my motivation or pace. I generally try not to do it in such an annoying and obvious way (staying a good distance behind), but maybe that’s all these dudes are doing. But from the many stories I’ve heard and the sideways glances and angry headshakes I get when I pass, I get the impression that many of them just really hate being passed by a girl.

... and at the Trials. See, it's no big deal!
When not racing, do we really need to make
such a fuss over getting passed?
But the other day, the opposite thing happened. I got sucked up and passed. I don’t mind being passed by a guy (or girl) and this guy looked like he was cruising, so no biggie, he was gone.

He made it look easy, and it snapped me out of my jogging cruise control. I picked it up a hair and felt good. He was still way ahead; I had no intention of catching him.

But then he started slowing. And while I don’t mind when people go by, if you make a show of passing me and then start slowing, you’ve got a bull’s-eye on your back. (See above.)

Still, he had seemed a lot speedier than the normal dudes who try to prove their manliness. I never want to pass someone just to stick it to them, so I made sure I was still running comfortably and relaxed. I had picked it up since he passed me, but it felt effortless and smooth.

After a lot of stalling and sitting awkwardly on his butt, I passed him. But soon enough he passed me back.

And I felt like a huge hypocrite. Was I one of those dudes I hate, just trying to prove something? Speeding back to the front just to slow down? I didn’t feel that I had sped up too much to make the pass or slowed down after, but who knows. After he passed me the second time, he created another big gap. But slowly, over the next mile, I reeled him in again.

Before I could catch him, I hit my turn around spot and headed home. I was shocked to see the halfway split, how fast I had been going without killing myself. And I had enjoyed the distraction. Was there anything wrong with that? Maybe that’s all these macho guys are doing—using me to snap out of a funk or get some interval training.

And I realized another hidden benefit of these passing games that I hadn’t considered: they can also help you practice staying relaxed and taking note of your effort
 “You can’t force fast running, you relax and let it happen.” –Desi Linden
Sometimes I try too hard to lock into a pace. On dedicated workout days—tempos, track intervals, races—I often try to force it and end up missing the mark. But when I’m doing these unplanned workouts with strangers, I stay relaxed. There’s no real pressure, so no reason to overanalyze the pace or berate myself for a missed split.

Sure, we weren’t going race pace that day, but I still found a new gear that felt effortless, which was surprising given my recent slump. Maybe there’s more to this than I thought.

You’d think the macho dudes would be a bit more appreciative and less visibly annoyed…

Dream big,


  1. This happened to me this week. I slowly reeled a guy in, and he kept looking over his shoulder to see where I was behind him. As I passed, he was huffing and puffing and actually said to me, "You need to slow down."

    I think he was making a joke, but it was clear he had been trying to stay ahead of me. I was tempted to tell him, "Eh, I'm running easy today, this is slowed down" because I was. But that would've been just mean ;)

    1. Haha, I never know what to say to comments like this either, especially the self-deprecating ones. I've been tempted to say I'm jogging to the particularly rude guys, but I agree that would just be mean, best to keep it to ourselves :)

  2. Brother here (aka: a guy) great post Runner Teal. I have no idea if this occurs more when women pass guys, but I will say this also occurs when guys pass guys. I can't recall a specific instance when I have passed a woman runner and she has in turn given up her running plan for the day and suicidally chased me down, on the other hand I can count on it at least once a run (when I'm in good enough shape) with guys. (Not to go off on a tangent but I think this is an issue that only occurs when running at a certain skill level.) Anyway this is by far the best part of the run for me. Someone I just passed, when I was going my own pace now wants to race. Lolol. Ok let's go buddy. Now guess what? We're going to pick it up a bit. Whatever this is - is when I love running. If this doesn't happen on a run I'm disappointed. It's why running on a popular trail in philly or DC is worth it and running in some podunk town like port republic is hell. I've had some of the most enjoyable runs of my life in these crazy duels. The best is when you're not that much faster, maybe the other guy came from a side road and you were just a step faster, now he passes you back and before you know it your 7:30 pace is sub 6:00. You don't say anything but you're sprinting. That's when I start talking shit or giving encouragement, because honestly we're f'ing sprinting here - let's enjoy this. On multiple occasions, after good all out battles i have high fived the other runner. Just writing about it makes me want to run. On the other hand... getting passed - it happens I don't like it though and I will pick it up guy or girl I don't care, if we're not running to win something what the hell are we out here for? There are rules to this though - don't be the guy described in your blog. Don't get caught walking. Don't sprint, get in front of me for 30 seconds and then act like that's right where you planned to end your run. (Right in the middle of nowhere?). Also don't verbalize any of this, in fact probably don't even admit it in a blog comment. But while I'm breaking rules - When I was younger I ran with a guy on the ac boardwalk. We'd run before work, the same Boardwalk everyday ac to ventnor and back , we did not discuss these rules but we knew them, and.... let's just say AC Boardwalk summer 2000 - 2003 undefeated! (woman or man)

    1. Thanks for the insight, Brother. It's the sprinting and slowing that drives me crazy, but I agree the battles you describe can be fun, especially when it seems you've met a good match. I guess I see why you like racing your sister so much...