A Reminder Of Phrases Most Runners Don’t Want To Hear

A Reminder Of Phrases Most Runners Don’t Want To Hear

Wow, that’s so cool, you ran a 5K race! I would never be able to run 5 miles without stopping!”

How many of us runners have ever heard phrases like this before? Athletes everywhere hear so many silly, rhetorical and inaccurate forms of “support” when we honestly wish our friends and family would do their homework before commenting on our running achievements.

Congrats! Keep up the great energy!” and “You’re such an inspiration,” are obviously more positive affirmations that we want to hear after we’ve finished a race or long run. Most runners aren’t seeking validation, compliments or even excessive attention! We’re here to challenge our stamina and prove to ourselves that we can persevere and continue to do better. We also enjoy garnering the support of fellow runners because we know how hard we work to train and test ourselves every time we head out the door.

Granted, the running community has its own “language” of personal record finishing times and numeric explanations breaking down our runs (for example, we understand splits/split times and intervals during rough courses). Just like with any other sport, we don’t expect “outsiders” to understand or translate our competitive language, notes, and numbers.

Non-runners may also not understand why we push ourselves or what the purpose of running is all together. However, there is a slew of phrases and sayings thrown at us in the midst of our training that is humorous, mythical and sometimes slightly ignorant – and that really makes us scratch our heads! Maybe these sentiments are only being echoed figuratively and in jest – or maybe some people don’t really know what else to say to add value to their supportive comments. It’s hard enough for some runners to stay consistent in their training, let alone listen to kudos sprinkled with confusing phrases and sarcasm.

So what are among the weirdest and out-of-context statements runners hear all the time and still don’t want to hear? Here’s just a few – along with some detailed explanations of why these phrases just don’t hit the right note!

“When Are You Running Your [Next] Marathon?”

(And You’ve NEVER Ran A Marathon!)

Runners surveyed online express that this awkward phrase is like an annoying fly in our face!

Friends and family who ask when our next “marathon” is – when we’ve only been completing 3 to 10 miles per run – may not have the common knowledge to assess that an actual marathon is a whopping 26.2 miles! Perhaps the word ‘marathon’ is frivolously thrown around so much nowadays it’s overused or misused simply because we’re running, sometimes non-stop, from one destination to another.

What irks us about being asked this question – particularly if we’re not actually running marathons – is that you will know if we’re running or training for a race that could last up to 5 hours! Besides possibly being bad at math and not knowing how to convert kilometers to miles, some people just don’t get it – that marathon training is strict, rigorous, time-consuming and changes a runner’s life/routine in so many obvious ways.

A 5K is not a marathon (what’s worse is to be asked “When are you running that 5K marathon?”) and neither is a 10K race. Too many non-runners don’t want to bother converting metric distances, assuming we ran 5 miles or 10 miles when we’ve actually ran kilometers. It’s uncertain why officials adopted and kept the UK metric units for common distances, but explaining time and time again that we’re not competing in a marathon doesn’t seem to fix anything. Marathons are not for everyone and some runners will never aspire to trek this distance, and that’s okay! We know it’s exciting to be part of a marathon, and some us have a goal to run that distance at some point in our lives.

Simply inquiring, “When’s your next race and how are you training for it?” is a safer way to show interest and support. Also, trying to make someone understand that half marathon is 13.1 miles could be frustrating.

The eye-rolling conversation can go something like this:

Runner: “I’m not running a marathon. I’m running a half marathon.”

Non-runner: “What’s the difference, it’s still a marathon.”

Runner: “No, it’s actually not. There’s a big difference between running 13.1 miles and 26.2 miles!”

If you’re already giving yourself an imaginary face-palm over this dialogue exchange, the frustration runners feel from having to explain the technical distances over and over again is just a small nuisance for us to straighten out.

“I Don’t Know Where You Find The Energy!” or “I Wish I Could Do That!”

We get it – work, family and domestic obligations can suck the life out you!

Runners are a unique breed of individuals in that we’d rather be completely exhausted from a 10 mile run instead of being wiped out from a day at the office. There’s a different expenditure of energy we need for running and many of us genuinely look forward to the physical sensation of running along our favorite path while listening to music and feeling the fresh air on our skin. For many of us, running is the only time we can burn off the day’s stress and have time alone to be in another “zone.” Sometimes, even if we’re running and don’t have the physical energy to go as fast as we want, it still feels good to get outside of ourselves and break away from the negative energy the day or week has produced. We FIND the energy by embracing how we can leave “the real world” behind, so to speak.

Physiologically speaking, it’s also a no-brainer – most of the energy we have for running stems from craving physical activity and the endorphins it produces/releases. We definitely get “addicted” to the surge of chemicals racing through our blood and we know that once we achieve that “runner’s high” it will be worth dragging ourselves out the door.

What makes this phrase sort of condescending and annoying to some runners is the concept and implication that we shouldn’t have the energy to do much else aside from our day-to-day tasks. Another component that makes this phrase a tiny thorn in our side is that many people don’t understand or appreciate the long-term effects of running and exercise.

Once you start running and make it a regular part of your life, you can’t picture spending your energy – or “wasting” your energy – sitting around and not being physically active.

“I’m Too Old To Start Running”

How old are you – 90 or over? Unless your ‘old age’ has brought on a physical disability/ailment or you have a handicap that prevents mobility, runners know that the success of more “mature” athletes has nothing to do with their age.

Running also isn’t for everyone, no matter what age you are. We get that too – some people just don’t want to be runners or maybe they have other hobbies that get them moving – that’s fine! However, saying you’re “too old” for anything can seem like an unrealistic crutch and an excuse to not take care of yourself as your body changes.

Strong and passionate runners still hit the pavement well into in their 60s and 70s – and have competed in marathons all over the world. Of course, if you’re going to start running after you’re 50 years old, there are different factors to take into account and different ways you have to take care of your body, but that doesn’t limit your ability to put one foot in front of the other! If the popular phrase “age ain’t nothing but a number” means anything, those who support you should know that this rings true in the running world.

Of course, older individuals have to train different but their bodies and minds can benefit from running, as physical activity has been clinically proven to ward off conditions such as osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s Disease.

 “I Hope You Finish The Race On Time” or “I Hope You Win The Race”

This sentiment is not only a funny yet awkward form of support, but it also demonstrates that the person uttering these words has no idea what it means to actually compete in a race! We can’t very well tell our friends “I finished 125 out of 500 runners,” as it would sound like a strange way of explaining how you really performed.

We appreciate the good wishes on our trek, but it’s important to acknowledge that running is more of a self-competition of timing and it is not a team sport. We’re all going to cross that finish line at some point, but finishing times differ from one runner to the next.

Will we finish the race on time? Well, yes and no. Our personal targeted time is our main goal at each race while the competition itself can continue for hours until the last runner crosses the finish line. Sometimes a runner will get frustrated if they completed one competition in a slower time than their last race. Our miles-per-minute have to be on point and we’re our own competitor most of the time.

Our friends and family may not care or have an interest in finding out how far of a distance we’re running and how fast we want to complete a race, which makes these phrases moot and meaningless. And who wins the race? The only athletes who literally “win” any race are the fastest runners who cross the finish line first. 

Chances are if you’re an average runner with an average pace – say a 9 or 10-minute mile – you’re not going to beat that top athlete who’s able to sprint past the race clock with a 4-minute mile. Whether or not this is tangible for non-runners to comprehend is just like understanding the technicalities of any other sport and how players earn points.

In a sense, everyone running “wins” a race in their own way, especially when they felt like they didn’t have it in them to keep going but they wound up making amazing timing. Some of us don’t literally “win” – we just do better than we did before. For us, it’s a victory that many won’t understand.

Let’s Hear It For These Supportive Sentiments!

So what should be said to a runner when someone has no clue about our dialogue and ‘conversions’? If you’re not going to research a runner’s vocabulary, you can simply say: “That’s a great distance to conquer!” and “Glad to see your training is paying off!”

Is your friend running a race? Just to play it safe, cheer them on with simple sentiments like “Crush your goals!” “You can do anything you put your mind to!” 

It’s not hard to apply supportive phrases to a sport you don’t know much about. Paying attention to the way a runner speaks through their social media posts is a good way to piggyback off of their “vocabulary.”

Another thing non-runners can do to support their loved ones is to do their research! Looking up a few statistics about races – and even sending them a link to a race they may be interested in running – is a great motivator! Even if friends and family don’t know what an 8-minute mile is, they DO know the hard work that goes into competing – especially if it’s constantly being posted all over social media!

It doesn’t mean non-runners have to take an interest in the sport – or commit to joining us on a run to truly experience what we’re going through. We’re only asking for non-judgmental comments that don’t have arrows of ignorance clearly aimed at our love of running.

Of course, we love to inspire others to pursue their goals and our ultimate goal is to motivate family and friends to excel in anything that’s a challenge  (which is something that running teaches us to execute in other areas of life). No matter what the “challenge” is, no one wants to hear silly phrases that don’t match their journey.

Regardless of what words you use to give us a “boost” make sure it’s well thought out, makes sense in reality and keeps us runners pushing for our goals. It’s the best support in the world!


  1. Active: 12 Things You Should Never Say to Runners
  2. CBS News: NYC Marathons Oldest Runners: How’d They Do? 
  3. Run to the Finish: How to Run in Old Age 
  4. Web MD: Study Links: Runners to Lower Alzheimers Death Risk