How to Pass Someone the Right Way When You’re Running

How to Pass Someone the Right Way When You’re Running
Photo: sportpoint, Shutterstock

Running is usually a chill solitary activity, but if you’re the type to overthink your social interactions, it also poses a few problems. One is what you do when you encounter another runner coming toward you (you nod or give a half-wave). Another, trickier question is what to do when you’re about to pass someone else.

Sometimes that person is another runner; other times, they’re a person just strolling in the park, maybe with their dog or a group of friends. Here’s how to pass politely.

Decide on a side

Typically (in the U.S.) we pass on the left when possible — just like if you were changing lanes to pass someone on the highway.

But this depends on the exact situation. If the person you’re passing is right up against the edge of the road or against a barrier like a fence, it’s not smart to try to squeeze through. Also consider whether there’s a safety or politeness reason to choose one side over the other. If they’ve got a child or dog on their left, plan to pass on their right.

Adjust your speed

You’ve got a goal pace for your run, most likely, and you’ll want to stick to it as an average. But that doesn’t mean you should spend minutes slowwwwly overtaking that person who’s running at a 10:00 pace while you’re running at 9:45.

When you’re a reasonable distance behind the person, get ready to make your move. You’ll want to speed up so you can pass them efficiently, making sure time your surge so you’re not doing it at the same time as another distraction like a passing car.

Announce yourself politely

The correct way to pass somebody is to shout “on your left!” if you’re coming up on the person’s left, but not everybody can process those words in the split second it takes you to approach. They might just hear “…left!” and be unsure of whether you’re passing on the left or whether they should move to their left. (There are also a non-trivial number of people who take a second or two to remember which side is their left.) The runners of Reddit agree: Almost half the time, people will step into your way by accident.

A good way around this dilemma is to announce yourself a little further back (to give the person more time) and then see which way they move. A cheerful “Good morning!” can do the trick, or something like “Excuse me!” or “Coming up behind you!”

Some runners like to deliberately scuff their shoe on the ground, or cough or clear their throat — anything to make the person realise you’re gaining on them. If you want to be a jokester, though, there’s always “BEES!” or “Hot soup coming through!”

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