Mr. B and I went off the beaten path this weekend. Well, at least figuratively. I’ve probably put hundreds of miles on my running shoes on this trail. But I’d not yet ridden that portion of the trail on my bike. My low-end, seven-speed, casual cruiser of a bike. And Mr. B hadn’t yet been on that portion of the trail. It was a gorgeous (but chilly and windy) Sunday morning, and the trail was calling my name. I didn’t have to work hard to convince Mr. B it was calling his, too.
So we strapped the bikes to the bike rack on the back of my little red car and headed to the trail. We had no real “goal” for the ride. Unless spending quality time together outdoors counts as a goal. To Mr. B’s chagrin, I had on my GPS — though I did forget to turn it on for part of the ride (luckily I know the trail well). I wanted to have some kind of an idea how far we were riding. Even if we didn’t have set mileage to reach. (We went 10 miles.)
While we were riding — Mr. B several bike-lengths ahead of me for most of the ride — I noticed a few things.
- Spinning in the gym is nothing compared to riding a bike outside. I suppose it’s much like running on a treadmill is quite different from running outside. (In my book, being outside always wins. Unless there’s lightning.)
- While I knew this was true, Sunday’s ride made it painfully obvious: It takes so many different muscles to ride a bike than it does to run. Holy quads. On. Fire. And my nether regions? I can’t even go there. I mean, my families read this thing.
- Being on the trail is definitely a community experience. So many people were out on Sunday. Walkers, runners, trotters, bikers — you name it. But I noticed something interesting. And that, my friends, is the point of this post.
I’ve only been running a year and a half or so. And as a new runner, there’s something I’ve been very thankful to notice: Runners are a kind, supportive bunch. No matter when I’m running or how far I’m going, I am always pleased to find other runners who greet me with a “hello,” head nod, finger raise or “great job.” I know I don’t look like a typical runner. But I’ve never, ever felt out of place on any trail I’ve been on. Runners are a welcoming group of people, and I’m so glad — because I like to say hi to others on the trail as well.
But when I’m running, I hardly ever get a return “hello” or head nod from bikers. They always seemed to have a special skill of looking right through me. Were they just that focused on their ride? Did I look scary or threatening? Was there something in my teeth? I had come to the conclusion that bikers, as a group, were an unfriendly lot.
Until Sunday, that is.
As I was pedaling my bike on that trail, I was pleasantly surprised at all the finger raising, head nodding and “hello”ing that passed between bikers — myself included. So many smiley bikers! What the what?! Was there something about Sunday that made the bikers extra friendly?
Except something was amiss … as I greeted the runners on the trail, I may as well have been talking to a tree. No response. Well, there were some grunted “hey”s and miniscule head movements. But it was not like what I typically experienced.
Then it dawned on me. Maybe runners and bikers don’t like to mix. I realize that there are, of course, exceptions to every rule. But was there something about cross-discipline howdying that made people uncomfortable? Was there a reason bikers were friendly to other bikers and runners friendly to other runners — but not the other way around?
Perhaps this was just my experience. But Mr. B admitted to noticing it, too.
I suppose I could still be a trail newbie and don’t understand the intricacies of being “A Cyclist” or “A Runner.” But I say anything that gets people outside and moving is something to be celebrated. Everyone should feel welcome on the trail — no matter how they’re moving, how fast they’re going or how long they’ve been doing that activity. Walkers, runners, bikers, dancers (I’m talking to you, Rosebud), jogglers and skippers. And the love should be spread across disciplines.
So that’s why I’ll always spread the trail love. Don’t be surprised if you pass me, while I’m huffing and puffing, and I say “hey” or “how’s it going” or “keep it up.” Because — even on my worst days — I still feel so much joy at being out there. And I want to share it, whether you return the favor or keep your focus on the fascinating air behind my head.
*Of course, this is just my personal observation and no scientific survey was done to find out if any of this has any basis in reality.