August 31, 2009

Passing Thoughts

Remember last week, when I was all "why should I whine about healthy eating and exercise, when it's all so much fun?"

Well, seriously, how long did you think that would last? Anyway, it's back to more whining, and this time it's a weird one. But bear with me, perhaps another unexpected bout of cheerfulness will break out again soon!

So one of the great things about summer weather, at least if you don't live somewhere scorching hot, is that you get more chances to abandon the gym and go outdoors. Instead of logging dreary imaginary miles on a treadmill, you can run or walk actual physical miles on a trail or path. It feels great to have that tangible feeling of getting somewhere as you exercise!

Whereas if you and your elliptical machine are managing to get very far across the floor of the gym? You are probably doing something wrong.

But here's the thing: say you are outside running, walking, biking, skating, skiing, or pogo-sticking. What if you discover that you are not alone, and there is another person traveling the same portion of the same route, in the same direction, at the same time?

Either you both need to go the exact same speed, to maintain separation, or the faster person is going to have to overtake the slower person.

If there is enough space, this is not a huge problem.

However, in many locations, such as narrow trails or congested paths, some co-operation may be required between the Passer and the Passee. Particularly if either travels in groups. Being a cranky misanthrope, I sometimes have issues with how the whole passing thing plays out.

Anyone else?

I Have Opinions About Everything

This includes how fast I travel. I don't want to have speed up to keep from being in someone's way, nor do I want to get caught behind someone meandering along when I'm in a hurry to get somewhere or am trying to keep my heart-rate up.

So "adjusting my pace" ain't gonna happen. If there is someone else going my direction on the road, trail, or bike path, some sort of passing is going to take place.

Nothing Personal, But Get The Hell Away From Me!

Combined with my go-my-own-speed stubbornness is another trait which makes the passing thing such an issue: I hate to share my personal space with strangers, no matter how nice these strangers might be.

I am happy to smile and wave and comment on the weather or the scenery; I even like these friendly interactions. But I do not want to travel alongside, right behind, or right in front of other folks. I do not want to hear their observations or smell their cologne or stare at their lycra-clad asses. Ideally, the Passer(s) should speed up during the passing process, and the Passee(s) should make way and perhaps slow down a bit until optimal separation is again achieved.

And because I find this process awkward, if I am hiking and there is someone coming up behind me and getting closer and closer, I am hyper-aware of it. If I hear voices, or the crunch crunch crunch of footsteps behind me, I want nothing more than to squeeze off to the side and let folks by.

The poor Lobster, who is not as hypersensitive about personal space when hiking, has been many times interrupted in the midst of a perfectly pleasant conversation by my alarmed cries of "there's someone behind us, let's move over!" As though hiking trails were entirely populated by serial killers, zombies, and life insurance salesmen, requiring constant vigilance to avoid any dangerous or costly interactions.

Likewise, if we are hiking and come up on a person or a group ahead of us, and there's no room to skooch around unless they move over, I immediately start worrying about whether they'll let us pass. Also, being shy, I dislike making confrontational announcements. And I know, to say: "Excuse me! Can we get by?" might not seem confrontational to a normal person. But to me it feels exactly like I'm bellowing "Hey You Lazy-Asses, We're Comin' Through, Get the F*ck Outta Our Way!" I tend to use this technique only as a last resort.

So anyway, in my mind, here the top trail "offenders":

The Inexcusably Oblivious

The most common trail-blocking phenomenon happens when a single person or a group is taking the entire width of a trail or bike lane or whatever, unaware that there is someone behind them who wants to pass. Now if it's a totally remote location where company is not expected, this behavior is completely excusable, and therefore, not irritating.

However, if it's a heavily used route, and a group spreads itself out across all the available space, then it is my opinion that they should be vigilant about faster runners or hikers or bikers coming up from behind, and when hearing approaching voices and shuffling feet, should take the initiative to move over!

The Stubbornly Obstructive

These are even worse. They hear you coming, look around to confirm that you are approaching, and then refuse to move over, figuring you can just wait until they're ready to take a break to get by.

In this case, I will abandon shyness and bark out the icky: "Excuse Me!"


The Laid-Back Parents and the Hyperactive Kids

It's so wholesome and adorable when family groups take to the hiking trails! Except when the parents allow their exuberant children to run freely ahead, "racing" the hikers ahead of them and crowding past, then turning right back around and returning to their parents, then racing past again, then returning, over and over and over again. Sure, eventually they tire of this game, but in the meantime they are learning this valuable lesson from their parents: "You do not need to worry about whether you might be irritating other people with your behavior or not. Other people do not matter!"

The Overly Competitive

So I'm going to be sexist here and overgeneralize: this seems to be mainly a male phenomenon.

Some men hate to be passed by anyone, but especially by women. They will speed up to avoid it, even if they have to struggle to maintain their new, faster pace.

Which would be fine--go ahead and have a heart attack if your ego is that important to you--except that often they will forget after a while and slow back down. And then you have to clear your throat and cough to prompt them to speed up, or you have to pass them again, knowing that this will just incite them to pass you again in return.

Dudes: if you're getting passed by people, male or female, who come up from behind it probably means they are faster than you. However hard this may be to deal with, how about just take a deep breath and get over it?

No can do? Well, if you are a male runner and it is truly important to you to pretend women can't run faster than you, here's an idea: employ the Emergency Windsprint Fake-Out Maneuver.


1. On discovering that a Girl is about to pass you, pick up the pace and break into an all out sprint, as though you'd been doing an interval workout and your real running speed was just your "recovery" pace.

2. Continue sprinting past the Girl for as far as you can until you are almost ready to throw up. (But stop short of actual barfing as this move is not all that impressive.)

3. Check your watch and act like "oh whoops, look at the time-- guess that's it for today!" even if you just started your run. Walk around and do a quad stretch or something to drive the point home as the Girl runs by.

4. Once she's out of sight, jog at your own pace back to your starting point and finish your run in the opposite direction. Think about doing some intervals For Real next time.

5. Repeat every time a woman attempts to pass you until you either get faster or get over yourself.

Is anyone else this nuts about sharing trails and paths with other people, or is just one of those special Crab neuroses?


  1. YOU ARE SO FUNNY oh Crab with selfproclaimed neuroses.

    #3 cracked me up.

    And Im always the one who is lapped :)
    if Im running then Im lapped.
    if Im ambling with childintow we are lapped.
    if Im waking with husband and child in stroller we're gabbing so much we're lapped.

    People must hate to see our collective arses ahead of them on a path----Id never thought about that!

    My apologies Austin!

  2. And then there are the self-involved runner-walkers. I've got nothing against runner-walkers, especially as I've been one. But don't for the love of Bob run past me (as I'm plodding along at my slug-slow running pace), and then immediately drop down to a walk right in front of me!!

    This behaviour actually provoked a "Hey!" out of me in my race this weekend. Hello, you just ran past me! Shouldn't you know I'm there!?!?

  3. There are so many things to love about this post I don't know where to begin... least of all the photo of the peely-wally Scottish runners at the start :)

  4. As I walk to the store, there's this one stretch on a narrow sidewalk between a fence and parked cars with traffic lights before and after.

    I HATE it when someone else is waiting next to me for the light to change. . As soon as it's about to turn green, I can hear a phantom voice announcing ON YOUR MARK, GET SET...GO!!

    Then it's a race to see who gets the lead and sets the pace for that long block. And I have to act cool no matter who becomes alpha-dog, because chances are I'll be waiting at the next traffic light with the same person.

  5. wow. You've hit a nerve with me today, and I'll tell you why:

    We have, along the mountains, a beautiful paved trail. It's wide enough for three or four people to walk abreast. There are "fitness stations" along the trail where you can stop and do exercises on bars and beams. There are benches where you can stop and sit and enjoy nature. The trail is buffered from the houses and the Tramway by green space... green space the city is now thinking of reducing because people want an even wider trail.

    Families use that trail. Serious runners and bikers use that trail. The elderly use that trail. I guess the guy speeding up from behind just can't bear to walk break his stride enough to run around the elderly with walkers... or that they shuffle to the side way too slowly.

    Perhaps it's the elderly who don't want to see the kids running up and down the trail when they should be inside sitting on their expanding butts watching TV.

    These trails aren't divided up into trails for the more and less capable. Nor should everyone suffer the loss of green space (and have only more tar and cement to look forward to rather than the parklike beauty) because some people just can't bear to share the trail.

  6. OK FREAKIN HILARIOUS! I love the play by play man-sprints. that's great. what I HATE, is when I'm riding on a skinny bike path and I see two people (on separate bikes) riding next to each other coming my direction, the one closest to us REFUSING TO MOVE EVEN AN INCH! oh it just makes my blood boil as i'm in danger of falling off the tiny one inch of the path I am on and into the grass myself! Bastages.

  7. "I Have Opinions About Everything"

    ...and this is why you shall never run out of blog posts.

    I, too, am hyper-aware of my personal space. This turns simple tasks such as grocery shopping into events which require timing, planning, and precision.

  8. I think this happens more frequently when swimming laps in a pool.

    As for the running, I have been motivated to speed up at times, cause, like Satchel Page, I don't like to be passed :-)

  9. Reason #2,305,876 I am glad I live in the country. The only reasons for me to move off the cow trail are big, brownish-green lumps..... or cows! :)

  10. Crabby, in theory I like it that people get out and enjoy nature and exercise outside. In practice I hate it that they do it the same time I do.
    I agree with your points and will add one of my own: those who get out for exercise and have a smoke or five on the hike. At least it provides comic relief.

  11. I'm with you. I can't stand it when people are right in front or behind me while even in the grocery store. Or even while driving for that matter. It's common decensy. If I wanted you with me, I would have invited you for the walk (or run in your case :).

  12. I want people to stay away from me! After all, how hard is it to be polite, and use some common sense!

    Of course I may feel that way because I am super slow when I run, but speedy when I walk!

  13. Very funny about the guy who doesn't want to be passed. I know all too well groups of people who spread out to take out the whole path, and are surprised when I ring my bike bell, yell "on your left" so they can give a foot of room for me to pass, and they're always startled.

    I think you also forgot the oblivious dog walker, who lets their dog roam randomly full length of leash, regularly cutting people off and making cyclists screech to a half. Not every pedestrian wants to meet your dog, either.

  14. Very funny! I loved the man-sprints! I so know the type!

  15. "Optimal separation"!!! LOL. I love it. I'm not quite as sensitive as you are but it totally bugs me when people would run right on my butt without passing. Esp. if it is a man. Also, I'm secretly really competitive and I feel compelled to pass everyone. And then be really embarrassed when they lap me later 'cause I burned out early;)

  16. Was the elliptical moving across the gym floor a dig at my ride on the rower?

    Also on my list: people who run up behind you, and only go around to pass at the last momment. I'm tempted to make a fart noise every time it happens.

  17. Tell ya what; you can babysit my kid for just ONE afternoon and if you can keep her completely At Your Side the entire time you're walking/running/whatever, then I will bow down to your superiority.

    Until then, sorry... I can't/won't put a leash on my kid when we're OUTSIDE. She generally runs ahead (or she and my husband run ahead) and then they wait for me to catch up... she does know enough to go AROUND other people rather than plowing into them or, say, hitting them in the arm with a skateboard while she's biking on the sidewalk and carrying 2 skateboards and trying to squeeze a pedestrian into the 4 lane divided highway (happened to me yesterday. I have a LOVELY bruise on my arm from being clipped...)

  18. "Nothing Personal, But Get The Hell Away From Me!" would make an excellent bumper sticker.

  19. Great post. Funny and true (the best) and completely understandable.

    I hate when I'm out walking the dogs (two on leashes) and the folks going slower ahead of me completely ignore that we are coming. And look shocked when I call out:

    "passing on the left!"

    But I also hate the bicylists and skateboarders who come racing up and pass me without giving any auditory warning. My one dog will lunge at you and try to bite the bike/skateboard. He's a herding dog-it's instinct.

    It is courtesy to call out when you are behind someone and plan to pass. Call out loud and proud.

  20. I am a slowpoke when we are out walking so it doesn't bother me at all to keep to the right and let everyone else pass...

  21. Exactly right! As a runner, I've encountered all of these, especially guys who can't handle getting passed by a girl. This happens in races too and the guy has fewer places to hide (can't pretend he's done when finish line is 2 miles away). He'll try the sprint past a few more times and completely wear himself out. "Run your own race man," I wish I could say!

    Another problem I have is when to announce your presence when passing. Seems like if you are too far away, they don't hear "on your left" and when you get closer, you scare the bejesus out of them when trail/road isn't one that is well-used. One evening on a run, it was almost dark and I was running behind a walker on a road near my house(turned out to be my neighbor). No sidewalks on the road at that stretch, plenty of room to pass but he still jumped 10 ft. as I passed him, even though I was on the other side of the road when I passed. I felt bad and he was embarrassed because we know each other and now he looked like a wimp. Don't know how to avoid this sometimes.

  22. Trail etiquette is a huge pet peeve of mine!

    The rule is simple, and any adult who drives a car already knows it: slower traffic keeps right (if you're in the US) and faster traffic goes around to the left.

    It amazes me the level of rudeness out there on the trails.

    People run in a pack or side-by-side narrow trails where no one can pass them.

    People walk their dog on the trail instead of the side (when it's available) so that the poor dog and its leash get in people's way.

    People take double-wide strollers to parks with narrow trails, mowing down runners and walkers ahead and blocking people behind.

    Large people (sorry, no other way to say it) walk right down the middle of the trail, blocking everyone, and sometimes swinging their arms vigorously for good measure, ensuring no one else can pass safely.

    I'm all for companionship, dog-walking, losing weight, and exposing young children to a healthy lifestyle, but we all pay for the public trails and sidewalks and we all need to be courteous. It's usually not hard to keep to the far right and then pass on the left when needed.

    And don't even get me started on the ones who come up right behind or beside you and then decide they like your pace and are going to be your shadow for the next few miles. If you want to be my running companion, introduce yourself and ask nicely, like a civilized being! Anything else feels like stalking and it's creepy.

    Finally, I have a personal "most harm" rule, which is that if I and the passing person can't both stay on the trail safely, the one most likely to get hurt by being forced off the trail stays on, regardless of the "keep right" rule. Rules never substitute for awareness, common sense, and a little concern for your fellow humans.

  23. This is just what walking down the street in NYC is like on my way to work. :-P (*grrrr* the tourists who amble along three and four abreast while I'm trying not to be late to rehearsal...)

  24. I could have written everything you said - and I think I have in the past. I'm hypersensitive to other people around me, whether it's on a trail or during a race and lack of consideration for others is a pet peeve.

    I take walk breaks during my runs and always check around me to make sure I'm not going to trip anyone when I slow down. I don't think it's too much to ask others to show me the same politeness.

    If someone slower is in front of me (that would normally be the elderly, families with small children or very slow walkers) I'll go into a faster passing gear and make sure there's a large enough space before I pull back over to the right and resume my regular pace. But I won't slow down below my normal pace after the pass since I don't want the person to have to pass me in turn.

    Extendo dog leashes, bicyclists coming from the other direction who won't move over, extremely quiet people zooming up behind me, people who think they're in some other country and use the wrong side of the trail, teenagers blocking an entire trail, large groups running or walking together, over-friendly strangers, people with headphones who are in another world, people who stand in the middle of a trail and chat. Aargh.

  25. +1 to everything said. I'm out on the bike/running trail around here as a cyclist and pedestrian and I not to do anything that other people do to drive me nuts- which actually kind of stresses me out, haha.

  26. LOL I love your posts!

    At a race a few weekends back there was a guy who refused to let me get ahead of him. So he'd keep sprinting ahead, get about 2 feet ahead of me, and then slowly fall back, desperately clinging to my personal space, then sprint back ahead again. It didn't help that all this exertion made him sound like a wounded moose, making it very hard for me to get into my running groove as he was huffing down my back.

    But then I ended up doing the same thing to some poor boy. We reached a long stretch up a mountain pass, and I just didn't have the energy to pass him...but I didn't want to lose my momentum by slowing down. So I ended up shadowing him for a good 3-4 miles until he slowed down.

    And I hate cycling by pedestrians. 4 times out of 10 when I yell, "Passing Left!" They jump to the left. But they're still better than the jerks who walk like they're playing Red Rover on the paths. Grrr..

  27. I am SO GLAD to read this post (and all the comments)! I thought it was just me, lol!
    We live just off the Bay Trail, and I'll often ride mt bike to work. It drives me CRAZY when people reuse the basic trail etiquette. I also have issues with personal space. (The other day at the market, a woman came up behind me in line while I was still unloading my cart, pushed HER cart practically into my butt, and started pulling out items from the cart. Then she just stood there, radiating impatience at me, waiting for me to finish so she could put hers down. I HATE that!!!)

  28. Crabby, it warms my heart to see someone who feels the same way as I do about these things. Honestly, it's not crabbiness. We're just considerate and (mistakenly) expect others to show us consideration, too. Then we get pissed off then they don't. Just reinforces my motto: People are Stupid.

    A major complaint when trail hiking is when you're headed up a steep hill and you encounter other hikers who are coming down the steep hill. The rule is, if you're going uphill (I'm talking about when it's STEEP, not a gradual incline) you have the right of way. Especially when carrying 40 lb packs. Please don't let your 3 dogs come tearing down the narrow trail, nearly causing me to trip and fall backwards, then come whistling down the trail and expect ME to move. Um, no.

    A wholehearted AMEN to the people who mentioned how irritating it is when you're passing someone on a bike and you say "on your left" and they spaz out like they didn't realize there was anyone else using the sidewalk.

    Also agree with the person who gets easily irritated at the grocery store. This is one of my worst gripes. I mean, normally I'm a rather nice person but I really turn into a b*tch at the grocery store. One lady was crowding me in the checkout line (like that's going to make me go ANY faster - no, I'll slow down just to spite you) and I actually looked at her and said "I'll be out of your way in just a minute." Dripping sarcasm, haha.


  29. Very near my apartment, there is a park with one of those fitness trails running around it. And one evening, some church or another set up shop just off to the side of the trail to dole out free drinks, candy, and propaganda.

    And that's fine, there was plenty of room for them next to the trail, I don't agree with what they were preaching but it's a free country and that's why God made smart people who invented MP3 players.

    The problem here: apparently they were dissatisfied with the number of people who were accepting their tracts and stopping their walks and runs to listen to their spiel, so they armed their children with boxes of full-size candy bars and tracts and had them stand right in the middle of the trail to hand stuff out, forcing walkers to slow to a crawl and forcing runners to either slow to a crawl or get off the trail to get around them.

    And if you said "no thank you" to what they were offering, the kids would give chase, which is a whoooooole new level of Doing It Wrong. I'm sorry, but if an adult had started chasing me after I said "no thank you" to something he was handing out, he would have gotten a face full of elbow and pepper spray followed by a fun ride in a car with pretty lights on top of it.

    I ended up going home after two miles because they would continue to badger you every time you passed them.

    I haven't seen them lately, though. Maybe someone called Parks & Rec and complained.

  30. LOL Chaobell, now I'm picturing someone macing rabid 8 year olds. Oh wait..I'm not supposed to laugh at that...

    I'm sorry, I'm a horrible person.

  31. I totally agree with you! I hate having someone on my tail, but I also hate having to follow a really slow person... People should just be more aware.

  32. This used to really bug me too, especially since I've had walkers pass me while I was jogging. (Pathetic, I know, but at least I wouldn't speed up to save my ego. I'm short. It happens.)

    Do you know what helps with this a lot? Foriegn countries. I lived in South Korea for six months, teaching English...and I almost killed some people.

    You have no personal bubble in Korea. None. I would be in the grocery store and people would butt in front of me to get a free sample - of which there were plenty, mind you. You would push into other people to make your way through an aisle. My personal favorite was people would hit me with their cart - hit me! - and not even acknowledge that it happened. You tell yourself over and over again that it's a cultural thing (they don't have a word for "please" in the language, if that's any indication), but really every time you think they are beyond rude.

    People would also ride mopeds anywhere they would fit, which included coming down the two-person wide ramps on the sidewalk to my apartment building, whether I was in it or not, without slowing down. I almost lost a limb to a delivery guy in a chicken suit. (And he didn't even give me any delicious fried chicken!)

    So, oddly enough, I find people don't bother me nearly as much as they used to. :)

  33. i stay to the right on trails and always move over (as much as is possible) when being passed.

    when i'm passing, i typically either just run past or, if on my bike, say "on your left" so x person knows i'm coming.

    my trail pet peeve is for cycling. if someone is trying to pass you, freaking move into single file ESPECIALLY if the trail is specifically cut down to two ways and it's not that wide. brandon and i, on the trail in question, never ride two abreast because there's not enough room.

    also, if you know there's a narrow area coming up (or can see a tunnel or something), move into single file EVEN IF the trail is big enough for two wide. brandon got mowed down by a couple cycling next to each other around a tight, blind corner and they made it out to be his fault.

  34. Not crabby at all! Merely rooted in cold, hard reality as I see it. I often find myself over-courteous to the under-courteous and wonder why I still bother being so f-ing nice. However, I still instruct my teen to hold doors for others, hurry if someone is waiting for him and to say please and thank you. Call me crazy but I still think manners count.

    So much of this could be applied to driving - especially the guy thing - especially if they're driving trucks. This was laugh out loud funny. I thought I was the only one who had thoughts like these!

  35. totally with you. i use my dog as an excuse to drop back though, just cause i dont like people and being near them. usually he helps me out by barking at the passerby to keep up the charade.

    good ole porkchop. keeping me antisocial since 2007

  36. Wonderfully cranky post and I love the comments. I just want someone to explain what peely-wally means.

  37. You make me laugh out loud- literally- every time I read your blog.

    I'm so with you. Someday we should go running together. And then freak out whenever we see someone else on the path. It'll be great.

    Also sometimes when I'm biking I need to speed up because otherwise runners can keep up with me. That's kind of embarrassing, I must say.

  38. "On Your Left!" is what most people in this area (especially cyclists) use.

    But you're right some people just don't get trail etiquette.

    Not only males do the "man sprints" I've had the same problem with younger, thinner females who just can't let this heavy old lady pass 'em by.

  39. "On Your Left!" is what most people in this area (especially cyclists) use.

    But you're right some people just don't get trail etiquette.

    Not only males do the "man sprints" I've had the same problem with younger, thinner females who just can't let this heavy old lady pass 'em by.

  40. I know what you mean. The park I go to sometimes has ALL of the above. I try my hardest to just find a time to go when there aren't that many people around.

  41. I love this post. I love it with the same fiery passion with which I hate zip-out dog leashes (which create Temple Of Doom-esque booby traps on multi-use trails), and cyclists riding side-by-side.

  42. When I go out, my dog comes with me. We walk on a side walk. I hate people who come up behind you on bikes and startle me and the dog. I hate people walking toward me who won't move an inch just because I have a dog. I try to be polite but come on didn't your parents teach you about sharing. And really these comments hold true when the dog is not around. People are rude.


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