Asking Runners For Directions

I have  a rather lengthy list of driver-centric pet peeves (yesterdays post being one of the many) that I will probably share throughout the course of my blogging career. Their reveal will be in no particular order, as their level of irritation is directly correlated to my mood when the incident occurred.

Asking a runner for directions is incredibly frustrating and definitely in the top three, I have been the recipient of these queries quite a number of times. Running is a sport, just like football or tennis, and requires a focused training regimen. Training runs help us to improve endurance but also to see how well we have improved in terms of time and speed. The biggest reason that it bothers me, is that stopping for anywhere for 30 seconds to upwards of several minutes always throws off my focus and stride. You wouldn’t drive up to a tennis court, jump out, dash up to the server and ask where Maple Street is, would you? The frustration is intensified when what they are asking for, is literally right around the corner if their attention span was longer than the lifespan of a gnat. In this age of GPS and iPhones with on demand directions, stopping to ask an obvious occupied runner is annoying.

The unprepared and misplaced motorist can be handled in a few different ways:

  1. I could say I don’t speak English. I have a limited proficiency in several different languages, tourist proficiently I would like to call it. Enough that I could act as if one of my many languages is in fact NOT English. But this poses the issue of the driver actually being a fluent speaker of the language I replied in. Or I end up running into them later at another event where I speak near perfect English, leading to some serious awkwardness. (Frederick is a medium sized city but has that small town feel, where everyone knows everyone so seeing the driver again is rather distinct possibility)
  2. I could pretend I’m deaf and didn’t hear them. I find this to be incredibly rude and dishonest, more so than trying to skirt the issue with my limited foreign language vocabulary. Also, since I more than likely have headphones in playing deaf would not be very plausible or believable.
  3. Just ignoring the driver is probably the most feasible solution, however considering most of my runs are done in the street; ignoring a hurtling piece of metal on round rubber wheels is probably about as easy to do as fluently speaking a language while acting deaf.

While I rail in my head at the thoughtlessness of the driver who can’t see that I am obviously focused, sweating and Olympic bound as the fastest woman in the history of the universe (if only in my mind)….I am southern to a fault and always take the couple minutes to give directions to the person. More often then not they have gotten confused at the one way nature of the streets coming off Market Street. They really, really wanted to go left on Church Street only to learn that it is a one way street coming towards them.

Also, when I’m stopped mid run I can often sound like a babbling fool. My focus is usually on the route that I’m taking, my breathing or counting the number of steps to the next tree so when I have to switch gears and have to attempt to remember how to get from where we are to some place I have been a million times before, I can sound like a fool.

Add to that, when I’m running I’m in runners directional mode…so me saying drive up to the next block and take the path next to  Mrs. Smith’s side yard but avoid her begonias before going down the alley, may not actually be the best route for a car. Because as we all know, runners find the most direct non traffic laden route to run; which may not be the same route for a car.

Finally, I will admit that a small portion of my frustration is a safety concern. Someone slowing down in a vehicle, headed towards you, often on a quiet residential street does cause concern. Especially as a woman running solo, there is an added unsettled feeling for a few seconds. A few safety suggestions to consider, if your southern nature does not allow you to exercise any of the above suggestions:

  1. Never stand next to the car window or lean into the car to look at a map. Make sure that you leave some space between you and the car. Just envision how much space the door needs to open and add a few inches to that.
  2.  Never give information about your running route. I have had a few interestingly strange characters ask where I’m running from or running to. Be very vague. Try to limit your conversation with the person, no matter how nice they are. Not only is this a safety factor but this will also lessen the impact on your training run.
  3. Never run to the address they are looking for so they can follow you, even if they ask.
  4. If you don’t feel safe, do what we all do best RUN. Specifically run to a populated area or somewhere you know is safe and not motor vehicle accessible. (Like Mrs. Smith’s side yard…but still be mindful of her begonias) If you feel that others might be at risk, call the police.

Just keep in mind what we were taught as children when approached by strangers. I don’t want to be an alarmist, but some degree of caution should always be exercised when approached by a stranger in a car. More times than not, everything is above board and it is someone who truly is turned around; especially if you live in a town with numbered east and west streets that has the occasional one way street thrown in for good measure.

While stopping me to ask for directions while I run is definitely in the top three driver-centric pet peeves, being a  jerk makes you (and all runners by extension) the number one pet-peeve of drivers. Think of it as being an ambassador for runners. If you find that you are being stopped frequently on a particular part of your training route, perhaps you should slightly alter your route away from that section of road….or carry a handful of city maps to give to drivers that try to stop you, the choice is yours.

Have you had any humorous or less than humorous interactions with direction seeking drivers? Or maybe some ideas on how to handle the misplaced motorist?

Happy Running!




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