Dear PoPville – Obnoxious Runner

Photo by PoPville flickr user Néstor Sánchez Cordero

Dear PoPville,

I was walking home Monday and was in front of the wide and quiet (meaning maybe two people in somewhat close proximity to me with no one in front or behind me) sidewalk in front of Luke’s Lobsters when all of a sudden I feel a sudden grab at my arm. It scared the shit out of me–who grabs someone? Ends up being this young woman jogging behind her friend who was passing by me. Startled, I yell after her to not &%&ing touch me.

She doesn’t turn around but I see her and her friend stop at the intersection just ahead and, because I’m a fast walker, I catch up with them (they were heading in the same direction as me so I didn’t go out of my way) and stop her and tell her what a stupid idea it is to grab someone like that. She snarks back, “well if you weren’t in the middle of the sidewalk…” First, it’s a wide sidewalk and most people walk toward the middle instead of right next to the buildings, second, I was walking in a straight line at a good pace, not meandering, and third, all she had to do was either *use her voice* and say, “on your right” or “excuse me” like a normal person OR slowed her pace for half a second to allow for whatever room she lacked to get by without grabbing a stranger.

She clearly didn’t get it and stared at me with a dumb grin on her face, then told me she wasn’t interested in talking to me when I tried to explain that she was very lucky not to get an elbow in the nose attempting something like that. I’m so annoyed by the stupidity in this city sometimes. Is this a common practice among runners? I walk EVERYWHERE and have runners go by me all the time, on crowded and not so crowded streets and not once has any of them even brushed past me.

93 Comment

  • Oh boy, this should be an interesting conversation. Did anyone make popcorn?

    • “…and then after I cussed out that biznatch, I walked over to Chinatown Coffee to order my favorite drink – espresso over ice. You won’t believe what happened next…”

  • Life is too short to get hung up about dumb stuff. S-it happens. My 2 cents.

  • I hope you make a speedy recovery. Best wishes during this tough time.

    • Well said. I don’t understand why the city tolerates these animals and refuses to hold them to account for their behavior. Lock up the parents too for all I care.

      • it’s not their parents; it’s government policies that encourage dependency that are at fault here. Also Phil Mendelsohn – living in McLean Gardens, he never has to deal with savage behavior such as that experienced by the original poster.

    • +1

      Understandable for the OP to feel annoyed, but go ballistic? Let. It. Go.

  • You are right that nobody has the right to grab you—completely agree—and choosing a running path in Penn Quarter where there are busy streets and sidewalks and then getting testy with pedestrians is ridiculous.

    Have to say this, though: Urban sidewalk etiquette is to mimic traffic: Keep to the right when walking down the street, pass on the left. If a sidewalk is narrow, make room to allow for folks to pass by without slamming into them and then crying about it. (Yes, I’m referring to those who walk two-plus abreast and expect pedestrians coming in the other direction to jump into street/scale walls so that they don’t have to break rank.)

    • Couldn’t agree more

    • Emmaleigh504

      And look behind you before passing a slower walker, someone faster might be passing you.

    • +1000

      Completely agree. Some people are just plain rude when it comes to sidewalk etiquette. When a group of 3+ people are taking up the entire sidewalk and see me running at them but make no attempt to move, it pisses me off. It happens all the time in this city.

      • I’d be willing to bet that many of these 3-wides are tourists. The closer you get to the Mall, the more prevalent they become. I agree that it ain’t right, but these people are passing through and largely unfamiliar with city etiquette for sidewalks, Metro escalators, ordering at Potbelly, etc.. They annoy, but they also fuel our economy, and efforts to educate them are wasted energy. Live and let live.

        • It’s pretty common sense. Tourist or not (there are plenty of DC residents that do this), if there is someone coming toward you and you are taking up the whole sidewalk, then you move to the right. Metro escalators – yes, they may not know what to do, but most places in this country have sidewalks.

  • Things could be worse. At least she didn’t follow you home, dig through your trash to find out your name, and tape a passive aggressive note to your door.

  • Agree this shouldn’t become a huge discussion, but I do hope this runner gets a good shove and learns to be civil next time.

  • I agree that kind of behavior is obnoxious, and she could have gotten punched in the face or pepper sprayed if she’d done it to the wrong person. I get jumpy when someone runs up from behind me, even if they don’t make physical contact. It’s unnerving! Hopefully she got the message and won’t touch random people again.

  • “Is this a common practice among runners? I walk EVERYWHERE and have runners go by me all the time, on crowded and not so crowded streets and not once has any of them even brushed past me.”

    You answered your own question.

  • Dear letter writer: this is called life. Let it go.

  • I don’t think this is a common practice. I think it is just a thing that happened.

  • Make it a practice to punch anyone who ever touches you, and then hire that poverty-stricken $250K guy to mount your defense. Clearly he needs money.

  • Ridiculously pointless conversation.

  • She should have just yelled out “To your right” or “Right behind you” or something like that. But seriously, it would be great if people just walked to their right… I hate it when someone coming towards me messes up my walk flow haha!

    • The recent tragedy notwithstanding, shouting “on your left” typically does the trick on trails, but if you have ever tried it on a sidewalk, you’ll find that it works 0% of the time. Most pedestrians ignore you, stop and turn around, move to their own left, or some combination of the three.

      • When I’m a pedestrian I prefer that runners just go around me. The yelling thing is better than grabbing, but it’s still startling.

  • Or politics. The runner was probably a Koch supporting, Romney voting teabagger!

  • Best part of this post…reminded me to order new Vans. Thank you.

  • I imagine that the runner grinned back at the OP because the OP was acting like a lunatic.

  • Runners are just bicyclists without bikes.

  • I’m an avid runner and have to say no, this is not common practice.

    You happened to encounter a self-centered, egotistical jerk of a runner. You gave her a piece of your mind, and hopefully she realized she better not keep grabbing people unless she eventually wants a pop in the nose.

    Now get on with your life.

    • Yep. In biker form this would be the one out of a hundred that thinks it’s funny to slap cars.

      The “dumb grin” the OP mentioned is probably one of those smirks that says “I’m so much fitter than you are so I don’t care what you’re saying.” It’s annoying, but thankfully most runners are repectful so this isn’t a common problem.

      • Or a nervous smile as she was being confronted for her bad touch. As a non-stop walker, there are many things that annoy me on a daily basis, mostly cyclists that ignore traffic laws and crosswalks. Life is hard sometimes but we are the country that won world war 2, I think we can handle the slings and arrows of walking on the sidewalk.

  • I love the fact that this lady tried to get in the runners face and argue with and the runner just did not care. Noting infuriates someone who wants to argue then the other party not being interested.

    and News Flash: You probably were in the way…because in reality no one want to touch you.

    • My dear, you are a moron.

    • Agree completely with Dr. Goon. To me there’s nothing more satisfying than ignoring someone with their knickers knotted up and thereby further enraging them.

      • And you my dear are also a moron. I’d like to see how you would react if a total stranger came up from behind and grabbed your arm. It can be very disconcerting and scary, even.

        We’re not living in a small town where we know everyone. We live in a town where personal assaults happen frequently.

        I probably wouldn’t have gone after the runner, but only because I’d have already punched her.

  • Seems like you answered your question whether this is a common practice – nope it isn’t.
    Relax, breathe and move on.

  • This is what you get with too much Facebook and time inside: people who don’t know social norms/how to interact properly with folks and people who are apparently deathly afraid of slight physical human contact.

    • Just curious: What would your first thought me if someone ran up to you from behind and grabbed your arm? My reaction would be that someone is trying to rob me. Even if it was just some dumb runner that doesn’t mean it was an irrational conclusion to jump to. If the runner had any sense of courtesy she wouldn’t have made the person feel, if only for a split second, like something horrible was about to happen.

      • I wouldn’t like it, and I would probably say something to the runner. But I wouldn’t email a blogger about it and ask him to share my experience so people could publicly ridicule me.

        • Well sure, but I think the part about being “deathly afraid” of being touched is quite reasonable.

      • +1 I think my instantaneous reaction would have been to try and do something to whoever grabbed my arm, because, yes, I would automatically assume that a person who grabbed my arm while I was walking down the street meant me harm. The runner should be thankful that she didn’t get punched, or thrown to the ground.

        • I agree with you, and I also think that some of you are making a joke of this because it hasn’t happen to you. Some of you make it appear as if the runner tapped this individual on the arm and said “excuse me”. This runner made a sudden grab for the individual’s arm which for me (being a true Washingtonian) means go into defense mode.

          • I too would assume I was about to get jacked. It’s happened to me before and has made me acutely aware of my surroundings.

            Like I said above, the runner deserved being yelled at and is lucky she didn’t touch somebody who took a defensive skills class.

        • I was hit from behind when mugged in our fine town. I most definitely would have instinctively been fighting from the moment my arm was grabbed. Terrible idea.

      • figby

        I would probably scream and reflexively pull away or smack her.

  • gotryit

    I run, and I wouldn’t do that. People walking have the right of way, and if I can’t get around them then I’ll walk until I get a clear path to run.

  • PoP are you just trolling us today? This is insane.

  • As others have said, OP over reacted. But, I certainly wouldn’t have touched her arm. I run, and if someone slower is in my way I either say “excuse me” or run into the street to go around them.

  • Hey bikers are more obnoxious. I generally try to stay to the right at all times. Its just more effecient for everybody.

  • Did you happen to write a letter last week to a cyclist w/o a front light?

  • The runner’s actions were completely reasonsable and warranted. This is a very frequent practice among runners in DC. If I do not get grabbed on the arm by a runner as I walk down the street I am surprised.

  • I am sorry, but you just looked like you wanted to be grabbed!!! It was my first time also.

  • Did the OP not have any friends to take this story to instead? The outrage probably wouldve been better shared at happy hour over a drink…

  • Unsolicited sidewalk etiquette advice for the letter writer: Don’t chase down and confront people who touch you (accidentally, it seems?). That’s creepy.

  • I run all the time in pretty densely packed areas (the zoo, Dupont, etc) and I wouldn’t dream of touching anyone who was in my way, no matter how annoying it can be to slow down or stop my run to yield to pedestrians. I realize that I’m the one choosing to run in these areas and not on a trail, and am ok with adjusting my pace from time to time to compensate. That said, there’ve been pleanty of times when I’ve been shot dirty looks/yelled at with angry comments for running around pedestrians period, which I generally choose to ignore. I chalk it up to the fact that there will always be easily irked/entitled people wherever you go, and try not to take any of it personally. I still get to take a fun run through a great city, which always feels pretty awesome.

  • If it hurt, I’d say to call a whaaaambulance!

  • For me, I’m afraid my instinctual reaction would be to immediately try to flatten whoever grabbed me from behind. So frankly, the runner is lucky the OP didn’t do that. That being said, now get over it.

  • I run almost daily, and pass through some dense areas on my way to less dense areas, and I’ve never physically contacted a pedestrian EXCEPT when they did something unexpected (sudden stop, sudden direction change) and we collided.

    Watch where you are going. Don’t touch strangers. Don’t confront and threaten strangers. Let go of the things that don’t matter.

  • She’s wrong; you’re right. ‘Nuf said.

  • Wait— is this a gentrifier vs. native tale?

  • thebear

    There are asshats like her *EVERYWHERE* these days. Pull your knickers out of your crack.

    Frankly, you kinda were in the wrong. One is supposed to keep to the right on the sidewalk when walking, not in the middle…like when driving. And, you also must adopt the modern mantra of “situational awareness.” She, OTOH, had absolutely no reason or right to touch you, and even less right to have an attitude about it. Just as there are some bicyclists who refuse to pay attention or follow rules or extend common courtesy, we have runners in the same brain-dead “get out of my way because only I matter” realm.

    I have tipped more than one cyclist who was being a jackwagon on a crowded sidewalk…and I’ve redirected some oblivious jerk runners right into a sign post or parking meter. However, I limit such misanthropic deeds to only those who are looking right at me, have absolutely zero excuse for not veering a smidge left or right well before a space-time coordinate conflict, and clearly have the attitude that priority on the sidewalk goes to them. Ooops.

  • I’ve been mugged before and would have freaked out, screamed and punched the person who grabbed my arm.

  • This is why I only try to hit pedestrians with my car. Cause they normally can’t catch up to me, and if they do i roll up the windows and lock the car, and just text away.

    This person was a idiot for grabbing, just an entitled moron. Has nothing to do with runners and definitely nothing to do with bikers. Damn it, hearing people belly ache about bikers is getting very old, and now runners are taking the same flack.

  • If someone had done that to me, sure I would have been annoyed and perhaps tell them not to touch me and WALK AWAY. No need to try and lesson them, really. Especially since she wasn’t “interested”. People that feel the need to grab someone’s arm probably won’t ever be, anyway.

  • For the life of me, I will never understand bikers or runners in this town. They act as if what they’re doing is so damned important. It’s just excercise. Get over yourselves.

    • +1

      If I’m walking faster than the person in front of me (which happens often) I slow down and make a wide arc around her. I wouldn’t grab her arm, or shout “ON YOUR LEFT!” or do anything else that would force her to leap out of my way while I barreled through. I know exercisers are trying to keep their heart rate up or whatever, but it’s not so important that a path needs to be cleared just for them.

  • In other news, last week I was crossing the street with the light when a driver turning right on red honked at me and yelled “walk faster” out of her window. This incident pissed me off and caused me to call her a very, very rude name under my breath.

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