How to Spread Kindness in Your Running

Leaf Peeper Half Marathon Race Recap (Rise.Run.Retreat 2016)

I love how social media offers the opportunity to connect with others, but the vitriolic nature of social media during the recent election disheartened me. I believe in loving one’s neighbor as one’s self – even if that person has different beliefs, different skin tone, or different gender. 

I also believe that love, goodness, and compassion has the power to change the world for the better. Acts of kindness are like bricks – one may seem insignificant, but they accumulate to build something great. So, as an antidote to all the hate we’ve seen spread on social media and other forms of media and conversation over the past several months, here are a few simple ways that you can spread kindness in your running. 

1. Smile and wave at other runners, walkers, and cyclists.

Greeting those you encounter on your run is simple yet powerful. You look them in the eye, acknowledge that they, just like you, are a human being, and exchange a smile, wave, or nod to affirm that. I think we can so easily get wrapped up in our own little world that we don’t always connect with others, even in this smallest of ways – but those connections are powerful, though they are brief. 

You never know what type of day someone is having, so don’t become upset if they do not smile back. For all you know, your kindness may have lifted their spirits and bettered their day. I find also that greeting others makes me feel better if I’m having a down day.

Leaf Peeper Half Marathon Race Recap (Rise.Run.Retreat 2016)
Photo Courtesy of Jesica

2. Thank race volunteers and spectators. 

The people handing out water at the aid stations, placing the medal on your neck, and cheering you on during a race all took time out of their day to be supportive – so take the time to be supportive back. 

3. Don’t sacrifice being a good person for being a good runner. 

If you are training so hard that you are irritable and irascible or if running becomes a priority over family, career, and friends, you may want to reassess your priorities. You CAN train to achieve your goals and still be a good person/loving family member/functioning person of society. This doesn’t happen to most runners, but there are some who let their priorities shift out of order – don’t be that person. 

Even during an intense training cycle for a big goal race, take the time to just be a normal person and build community with others. Go out for drinks with friends, have a date night with your spouse, or hike that mountain with your family. 

4. Pick up litter on your route. 

I see gel packets, food wrappers, and other random pieces of waste on many of the routes I run. I’m a bit of an environmentalist, so when I can I pick up the litter and deposit it in the nearest trash can (which sadly, sometimes isn’t that far away). 

We all share a common home – this good earth – so let’s take care of it together. Especially on an easy run when your pace doesn’t matter, stopping for a couple of seconds to make the world nicer is worth the time and effort. 

Spreading Kindness through Your Running
Old photo, but I literally once found this much litter on a summer run.

Likewise, please properly dispose of any waste you accumulate on a run. Sticky gels will wash out of short pockets (trust me). 

Of course, don’t pick up dangerous, sharp, or gross objects that should be removed with precaution and safety gloves. Use common sense. 

5. Encourage others. 

There’s enough tearing people down online. Instead, use social media for good and raise others up with supportive words and kindness. Encourage fellow runners during a race or group training run. 

Rise Run Retreat 2016
Photo Courtesy of Angela

In short: go the extra mile in treating others with kindness. Even if you’re having an awful race or a crummy day, look beyond yourself and treat others as you wish to be treated. 

“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.” – Dorothy Day, journalist & social activist.

What else would you add to this list?
How are you going to spread kindness today?

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17 Responses

  1. Love this! Sometimes when I am running I forget to smile or wave at others, or am too caught up in my own thoughts to even think of it. But I have been trying to be better at this. I know if I wave and don’t get a wave back I try to remember that the other person may just be caught up in their own thoughts, or having a bad day.

  2. I can’t even grasp the craziness right now taking place on social media. it’s so insane! what has happened to people?! what makes them feel it’s necessary to freak out via their newsfeeds?! no one wants to read it or see it! lol

  3. I had a similar comment on FB yesterday–runners know how to bring out the best (and yes, sometimes the worst, but far more often the best!) in people, and now is our time to shine. We are out there in the world, literally running through it–we have so much opportunity to make an impact.

  4. This post is awesome! And so needed right now. Too many people are caught up in the negatives, but remembering to spread kindness (regardless of how the vote went) is important.

    I like to smile and wave at cars that look out for me. Usually, I’ll get a wave back or even a honk and cheer! On long runs out in the country, cars are few and far between, but when that happens it totally cheers me up!

  5. Yes to all of these things, especially being nice to other runners and thanking volunteers. If races did not have volunteers we would not have races. And you never know when a smile or wave to a runner will make their day and encourage them. I will say most people here do that but it seems to be a southern thing.

    I think registering for charity races is another way to spread kindness. Personally, I am very picky about what I sign up for and where my registration dollar goes. I will pick a race for charity over one that does not give anything back.

    1. People in Seattle are fairly friendly on runs I’ve noticed – we’re all out there in the rain which is already a common bond! I think charity races are a great way to give also.

  6. great advice! i try to do all of these things, not at the same time though, im not a super hero 😉 but yeah more people need to just try to be kind, a little kindness goes a long way

  7. Recently a local race had a pretty major screw up with their course (it was a marathon), and of course, people took to Facebook to ream them in the comments over it. I obviously understand the frustration of an incorrect course, especially at that distance, but the comments I saw disheartened me and really reinforced a specific way that we as runners need to be kinder to each other.

    Race organizers and volunteers are people just like us. They work hard, but sometimes they make mistakes. They try their best, but sometimes things go awry. They have feelings, and they don’t wake up each day with the sole intention of ruining our races just to get their jollies. If a race does something wrong and you need to make a complaint, please do so with respect and tact, give them CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, and give them a chance to respond and rectify before smearing them all over social media. People feel way too justified and self-righteous in their anger these days, and look where it’s getting us. While an incorrect marathon is a huge and disappointing inconvenience for those of us who have goals, in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that important. It’s a gift to be able to run it at all. Please, everyone, just treat others how you want to be treated.

    1. Exactly – everyone makes mistakes and it can happen to volunteers at a race. That’s why I also think it’s important for runners to know the course if they can, or at least roughly know how it will go. People are so mean on Facebook that it breaks my heart. It’s okay to be upset over something like an error in the course, but it is not okay to attack others out of that anger. People are always, always more important than a finish time.

  8. You’re the best. Okay, so…challenge accepted! I’m going to call my mom today. I have a REALLY HARD TIME talking to her, but I will call her. There. I said it. Now I have to do it.


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