Trail Etiquette: Preaching to the Choir

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a runner, so in many ways I’m preaching to the choir. However, I have included a tidbit about acknowledging fellow runners.

As an educator I’ve learned to try to put things in the positive. Supposedly you’ll get a better reaction from your students and they are more likely to do as you ask. ie; “I know that text from your boyfriend who you just saw 5 minutes ago is really important. I’m just going to take your phone to be sure all of those texts are nice and safe in my desk drawer. I bet it will be more rewarding to read all of those texts at the end of the day.”

  1. I’m really glad all 5 of your friends are side by side across the entire trail. I bet your conversation was so engrossing which is why you didn’t hear the 5 times I yelled “On your left”. I didn’t mind running through the dry knee-high brush. You know, I bet you’d all hear  each other better if you walked closer together. Maybe two in the front, three in the back and staying on the right of the trail.
  2. Wow! That’s an amazingly huge shit your dog left in the middle of the trail. It’s so environmental of you to not use those plastic baggies the Parks Dept. so generously provides. Did you know they are actually biodegradeable? I bet you’ll feel a lot better about picking up your dog’s shit. Oh, and if you have your dog shit off the trail, you’ll actually be closer to those generously provided baggies

.dog poop

3. You know more dog owners should allow their dogs a big lead on the leash so they can roam all over the trail. That’s okay that your dog darted out in front of me. I didn’t need that skin on my knees and palms. It will scab over and regenerate, no problem. And gee, without those scars, I wouldn’t have a good story to tell.

Tripping a Runner with Dog

4. I get it, you’re tired, maybe your music is loud. It actually feels good to wave and say good morning to my fellow runners and not even get a nod in reply. That guy who waved and smiled when he ran by was probably some kind of crazy man. People always say I’m crazy for running. Yet, it would be nice if all us crazies could be crazy enough to give a simple smile, nod, wave, hello. It just makes everyone’s day and run a little brighter.


It’s a little obvious I’m fluent in sarcasm and profanity, but I was just trying positive behavior modification. Please don’t think I don’t like dogs. I really do. I’d give anything to have a dog to run with, but I know it’s a big job to have a dog. With a big job of my own and two kids, it will have to wait a while. I’m thinking lab, retriever mix.

Despite a few mishaps, my run on the Lafayette-Moraga trail was beautiful. And I really did appreciate the few runners who did wave, nod, say hello.


Is it a hill or isn’t it?

I started running in middle school when I lived on Camp Pendleton in California. My dad was a career marine and both of my parents ran marathons, so I’m no stranger to the insanity of running. There I was, 12 years old, already 5′ 6″ and skinny as pole, side-by-side the with the rest of the fools on our first run up a hill the marine recruits called Agony Hill. It was like running a 300 foot sand dune. I was young, skinny, a good ocean breeze and I was flying up that hill, then swooshing down the sandy slope like I was skiing Mont Blanc.

Here’s a pic of it today. It’s also called Reconridge and the Grim Reaper. I remember it sandier, but you get the idea.


Now I’m much older, a couple inches taller, and most definitely not that skinny. I’m also not that naive. It’s called Agony Hill for a reason. I don’t need to revisit it.

Running wisdom says we should run hills once a week, but what constitutes a hill? When is it a rolling incline or a mother-lovin’ monster of a mountain? Today, I can’t run anywhere around my house without running up and down hills (thank you San Andreas fault). See the elevation change in this morning’s run below:

I’d consider the majority of this rolling hills. Short quick strides for 20 seconds and I’m up, but the last one is a challenge, a 206 ft elevation gain. It burns the thighs, but I’ve done it so many times I know I can make it so I keep telling myself, “suck it up, you’re not walking, you got this, your body is powerful, think how good you’ll feel.” Yet I can’t help but wonder, does this constitute a hill or am I just wimp? I’ve run much more challenging hills in races, the kind where most people are walking. So I ask my fellow runners, what constitutes a hill and how much time should I be ascending these hills to gain significant benefit? Thoughts?