Talking Heads

"You start a conversation you can't even finish it.
You're talkin' a lot, but you're not sayin' anything.
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.
Say something once, why say it again?"

"Psycho Killers" by Talking Heads

DailyMile posted their topic of their day this week which provoked a lot of online runner discussion; "Do you have conversations with friends/strangers/yourself while racing? Why or why not?" I started to answer then thought, much different question when comparing training runs to races, before the race, after the race, and friends vs. random strangers so this turned into a blog.

We are taught at very young age, when to talk and when not to talk. You aren't supposed to talk (loudly anyway) in the library, standing next to another man at a urinal, church, during a movie (but somewhat okay during the previews,) and during a golfer's backswing. Ironically, you can hoot like a drunk frat boy once the ball is struck, "it's in the hole!" even if it may be veering off into the woods. There are even age-old sayings like "don't speak until spoken to" for children--what kind of f'ed up Puritan made up that one? It's no wonder we don't know how to act or behave when running unless you've read Mark Remy's "Runner's Rulebook" which covers everything from snot rockets to ass propulsion.

Training Runs

There are a variety of training runs and the faster and shorter they are (or if they're goal pace) will dictate much less talking. When I'm doing Yasso 800's, there ain't much talking going on until after they're done. On long training runs, most are not at goal pace and many are recommended to be at "conversation pace." Even that requires some clarification.

Without getting in trouble with the female readers, I think they may out-do the guys in this department. Guys don't typically get together and chat, but I've found that I've made good friends in the running groups I've run with that help the long runs go by very quickly by talking about your training, upcoming race, last race, or the plethora of reasons why you bombed in your last race (another blog story.) Like all things, this should be done in moderation. I've had the
"chatty Cathy" who talked the ENTIRE time. I don't put a cup of sugar in my coffee and I don't want to talk the whole time either.

Taboo topics?

There may be a guy code vs. what women talk about when they're amongst themselves, but us men don't typically go into the "deep end of the pool" on topics. A good rule of thumb for all of us is avoid the heavy drama (your divorce, failed business, lawsuit, and the like.) Many of us use running as a way to escape from life's tougher patches; at least I do. Having said that, I'm guilty of breaking that rule on occasion and thought to myself afterwards, "why the hell did I bring that up?" Buzz kill for a good run.


This is a tough one. If you're under the Boston Marathon Athlete's Village tents in Hopkinton and waiting for the megaphone to announce that it's time for you to head to the corral; this is like a runner's nightclub. It's okay to talk to people you know and people you don't. As it gets close to the starting gun, I find myself getting my game face on, getting into a zone, whatever you want to call it by rehearsing the race game plan in my head. I'm not being rude; I'm just amp'ing up for the race. In the corral, you wind up meeting some pretty cool people and most often complete strangers. If you have run with a pace group in a race, as you stand in the corral around the pace group leaders sign you seem to instantly bond as you have a common goal to hit that time.

In the race

This depends on whether you're running a marathon or racing a marathon. I don't typically know how to do the former and I'm typically pushing the pace which means that I'm not wasting a lot of time by talking. While I'm happy to see friends if it should happen during a race, the conversation is brief and I'm back to hitting my pace and rhythmic breathing. This is where Chatty Cathy should put a sock in it. Given that, I ran into running buddy Matt (@luau on twitter) at the later stages of Boston and we were both struggling. Brief words of encouragement are allowed in this situation--kind of a man running code if you will. I think we both helped each other finish a tough day at the (running) office.

Post Race

Back to full talk privileges. Revel in your accomplishments with friends, strangers and anyone who spots the medal hanging around your neck. You worked for six months training for this (or more,) and you have a right to talk about it as much as you want. Talk, blog, tweet, facebook the crap out of it. All is allowed, but there seems to be some imaginary line where you quit talking about the last one and start talking about the next one.

"All you do to me is talk talk
Talk talk talk talk
All you do to me is talk talk
Talk talk talk talk
All you do to me is talk talk"

"Talk Talk" sung by Talk Talk (who else)

Image Courtesy of


  1. Interesting post..For me, talking is appropriate when doing regular runs with friends/teammates. However, talking during a race is a big no-no. Being a former Division 1 collegiate runner, there was a sort of unspoken (no pun intended) rule where you almost never saw anyone conversing while they were racing..except the occasional expletive if someone got spiked, tripped or fell, etc. There was also the rare occasion of two runners struggling together, in which the occasional word of encouragement was completely acceptable (similar to what you mentioned in your post).

    However, when I am running alone, I definitely engage in what I like to call "mindful self-talk". In my head, I'm having a dialogue with myself- whether its reviewing my day or encouraging my body to push it just a little harder on the next uphill.

    To me, if you're racing and talking, you're not running as hard as you could be (or probably should be). People who talk to one another during races tend to be those who are just starting out or those who are just racing for fun (not to offend anyone). In my mind, there is only one kind of racing- the kind where you are focused on physically achieving your goals, a task that leaves very little room for chit chat. And if someone is chatting it up next to me, it only makes me work that much harder to run faster;)

  2. What a great post! I will be the first to admit that when I’m running, I do NOT like to talk. I am not a speedy runner and I really don’t like to waste energy being chatty. I like to focus on my runs, on form and on keeping my goal pace. I feel like talking distracts me and takes my mind off of my training. I like that running helps me tune out the stressors of life, but that doesn’t mean I want to chit-chat about someone else’s. Like you, I feel that divorces/bad relationships and troubles at work are MAJOR run downers. Unless I have specifically asked about said topic, it is best left for discussion at another place and time.

    I love chatting up with my running buddies before and after group runs and races though. I love the “after” chats which often involve, “Well, how did you do?”, “How do you feel?”, etc. I like that we all care enough to make sure everyone else is doing okay.

  3. How about "If you're running and talking you're probably out there for a reason that is different from mine, and I will run my race and you will run yours and we will both meet our goals."

    I talk while I train, I talk while I run. If I'm in it for time, I don't talk because I'm pushing it, but if I ran as many marathons as I do without talking, I wouldn't run as many marathons as I do.

    I'm also a running coach. Talking gets my runners through tough spots, and helps me to assess how they are feeling, if their pace is good, if they are struggling, if they need fuel, etc. On the races I train people for, I run with the slower or struggling runners. I can talk up a blue streak on a race like that because I'm not hitting my pace, and I always ALWAYS get a thank you from my runner because if I weren't there helping him or her through the rough spots, encouraging him, talking them through, telling silly stories, they feel they might not have made it.

    There is no one way to run a race, and comments like "there is only one kind of racing" make me sad. Not for me. I have many different kinds of races I run, but for the person who thinks there is only one way. Time and again I have seen people who define their sport in only one way give up when they can no longer perform, unless they are able to expand their mind and accept that there is ALWAYS more than one way to run a race.

  4. Great post!
    I am a social runner! And when I am not running with people I am talking to myself in my head ( "I talk to myself cause there is no one to talk to") or singing songs. During races - I talk to people as I pass by - Encouraging words if they look defeated or sometimes just a hi.
    "Everyone has so much to say they talk talk talk their lives away." - Red Hot Chili Peppers.

  5. My blogs often include inflammatory comments and it's largely due to my dry sense of humor which is intended to entertain; not insult. One particular reader didn't care for my distinction between running and racing a marathon. We all have different gears (or speeds) in a race. I have met runners who run at a very comfortable pace without pushing their limits with the goal of merely completing the race. My point is, I can run 20 miles at a conversation pace, but I train to race at the fastest possible time. For me, I would consider one racing, and the other running. Both are done in a "race." If you complete a marathon regardless of your time or pace, it's an amazing accomplishment; whether you ran it or raced it.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts