7 Things You Should Never Say to a Runner

Hi, Friends! Back in 2005 I had a cousin visit me in Dallas from out of town. He was in town for a work conference and reached out to me through my parents to see if I wanted to get together. He was someone that that I knew growing up, but he was several years older than me and we were never that close. I probably hadn't seen or talked to him in ten years prior to that dinner. 

He walked into the restaurant wearing a Titleist hat. I knew it had something vaguely to do with golf, but a golf enthusiast I am not. In an awkward attempt to make conversation with this person who was family, but virtually a stranger I asked him, pointing to his hat, "Are you a Titleist?" 

It was admittedly a really stupid question. As if they just give hats to the winners of golf tournaments. Congratulations on winning, here is your hat to show the world you now hold a golf title. He (righfully) looked at me like I had two heads and informed me that Titleist was a golf ball brand. Ah, OK. Makes sense. 

I don't know golf and I asked a stupid question. People do it to runners all the time. You can't fault them, really. Most of the time they are just trying to take an interest. You don't know what you don't know. I certainly can't expect all my non-running friends to brush up on all things running just so they know the proper questions to ask me, but there are silly things that people say to runners over and over again.

If you want to be informed here is a short list of things you should never say to a runner. 



Why is everyone so worried about my knees? Running is good for your health and body. Sure, running is a high-impact activity, but as long as a runner progresses properly (building milage and speed slowly over time) and participates in some sort of strength training activities, their knees will probably be fine. There is some risk in any physical activity, but it is always less risky than being a couch potato. 


We don't run races to win them. Well, most of us. We run races to challenge ourselves, to join in with a community of runners, for fun and mostly just to finish. No, I didn't win. I didn't take the podium. That was never the point. Unless they volunteer the information, you probably shouldn't ask them their finishing time either. A better question to ask would be "Did you have fun?"


I know the distances can be confusing and a lot of people associate any organized race with a marathon. A 5K is 3.1 miles and a marathon is 26.2 miles. It is an accomplishment to run and finish any race distance, but a 5K is not the same as a marathon. 


This stopped being funny in 1995 and it was never funny while being yelled out the window of a car while passing a runner. 20+ years later there should be newer ways to insult runners by now. 


I know you're trying to be funny and kudos for the effort, but this is what every "funny guy" says to runners. See also: I only go for beer runs. If you say this to a runner they are groaning on the inside because they have heard it a million times. We politely laugh but you may need to work on your material. 


Everyone hates running the first time they try it. Probably the first 20 times. If you tried running on the treadmill I don't even want to talk to you until you hit the streets or trails. Running is one of those activities that you have to give it a little time in order to adapt. It gets better, it gets easier. I promise. 

That being said, I don't expect everyone to love running. If it is not your thing, then that's fine. I encourage you to try different forms of exercise to find the thing that you do love. The form of exercise that you choose is not as important as just choosing an exercise. Anything. So whether it is running, biking, walking, Crossfit, bootcamp, weight lifting or trampoline jumping, find what you love and go out and actually do it. 


Running is a form of mediation for me. It is my quiet time away from technology (and people). It my time to unravel the thoughts, struggles and stresses that get tangled up during the day. It is how I manage stress. It is how I stay healthy. So, no. I don't get bored. 

If you don't know what to say to a runner, just say I am proud of you or congratulations on finishing your race. In the meantime I'll Google "Things to Never Say to a Golfer" so that next time that cousin is in town, I can ask intelligent questions. As long as we can agree that a marathon is 26.2 miles. Every. Single. Time. 

Runners, Did I miss anything?

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Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.