Friday, February 8, 2013

The Nod of Approval

There are a few triathlon-related things that I always do:

  • When swimming, I always splash myself three times in the face before putting on my goggles (I think this began from watching some Olympians do it several years ago). 
  • When biking, I always finish my rides practicing the one leg dismount. 
  • When running, I always give the “nod of approval” upon crossing paths with another runner.

I’m sure that last statement has many of you nodding in approval yourselves.  For the uninformed, the runner’s nod of approval is the ultimate sign of mutual respect.  Although simple, the act of acknowledging another runner with a small but friendly nod has a powerful connotation, as if to say “I feel ya.  Carry on, my friend.”  I don’t know its historical roots, but runners have exhibited this sign of camaraderie for eons. 

As in other aspects of life, there are varying levels to the nod of approval.  I had a college professor, who, although he didn’t come out and say it, had three distinct levels of approval that we picked up on pretty quickly.  If you gave what was in his mind a “good” answer, he would point his finger at you multiple times in a tomahawk fashion while nodding in rhythm.  A “great” answer earned you an open-palm hand pointing in your direction while he looked at the rest of the class and nodded slowly, as if to say “this girl/guy owns you.”  Lastly, an out-of-this-world comment earned both arms spread wide as he looked to the sky and nodded, as if to say “such an answer could only have come from above.”  I didn’t get any of those.  

So too is the case with the runner’s nod.  While I always give the nod, not all are alike.  Similar to Professor Van Mieghem, here are my three levels of approval:

1)    It’s a nice day out and I come across someone jogging comfortably.  I’ll give a friendly nod, as if to say “beautiful day, isn’t it?  way to take advantage of it.” 
2)    I cross paths with someone who’s clearly in some pain, pushing the pace or maybe just new to running.  The nod packs a little more punch, as if to say “you’ve got this... stay strong.”  Although the motion may be very similar, I’m sure it carries them through at least the next mile.
3)    My highest level of approval is reserved for rainy, snowy, super cold, hot, or otherwise adverse conditions.  These brave warriors earn a nod that is best summed up by Walt and Jesse.

So… does the nod exist in biking?  In my opinion it has crossed over to some degree, but for whatever reason is not as prevalent.  This could be due to the fact that turning to nod and/or wave on a bike presents greater risk of bodily harm.  I don’t know.  I usually give the nod on the bike as well, but it is only reciprocating roughly 50-60% of the time.  On the flip side, I’d say the runner’s nod is more like 80-90% of the time.  It’s so commonplace that when it’s not returned, I have no ill will towards the person, thinking to myself “must be dealin’ with a rookie here.”  However, in the same situation with cyclists, for some reason I often think something along the lines of “what a prick!”  Double standard??  Yeah, probably.

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