I never feel like I know what to do when I’m running outside.

I mean, I’ve got my running that I’ve still got to focus on so I don’t hurt myself. I know I need to pay some amount of attention to where I’m going, but when encountering people I always have to consider what I should do.

As a very slow runner, there are very few people that I pass, but on occasion there will be a walker going slow enough for me to overtake them. If I were on a bike, then I’d know to call out a friendly warning about passing them, but as a runner, should I say something? I feel so loud, in my breathing and my footfalls that they should be able to hear me coming from yards away. It also makes me feel a little ridiculous, even when I’m on the bike, to yell out the classic, “on your left.”

And if the walker has a dog, my apprehensions just get compounded. Sure, most people’s pets are not aggressive animals, and everyone is supposed to keep leashes on the river path, but really, you never know when it comes to other people’s pets. Especially when you’re ‘sneaking’ up on them. Especially when you’re inciting the instinct to chase.

Then there are the much more common appearances of people going in the other direction. I try to smile at people, sometimes offer a “good morning” or a nod if I’m out of breath, but it’s hard not knowing how I’ll be received. In my head, there are thousands of possibilities, and somehow I refuse to cut off the majority despite the fact that I’ve encountered maybe ten possible responses in the years I’ve been running.

Sure, my brain says, usually they ignore you, nod or smile back, or check out your butt, but this could be the time that the dog slips the leash and BAM! You’re running for your life, you lose your form, collapse in pain, break your ankle and get rabies and permanent facial scarring from Sweetiepie the German Shepherd!

But brain, I protest, that’s not going to happen.

But it could!

By this time, the decision of what to do when passing is moot, as, even at my snail’s pace, the opportunity is long gone.

What can I say?

The system works.

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