Monday, May 23, 2011

How To Meet Women On The Trail (Guest Blogger Vince G.)

[Ed - This post brought to you by guest blogger Vince G., who is seeking advice from both men and women trail runners. All feedback appreciated!]

Dearest trail running community, I need your advice. I'm a newbie to the sport, and although my slightly overweight, plodding-but-smiling form could use some pointers, it is in regards to our social norms that I seek your counsel. It's going to sound cliche, but you see, there's this girl...

I know, I know...pathetic, right? It's bad enough that I'm 44 years old, divorced (and thus knowing a thing or two about what NOT to say to women), and trying to get in shape for the first time in my life, but now I'm as fear-frozen as a teenager trying to get up the cojones to ask a girl to the prom. She appears like an angel once or twice a week on my daily trail run near my house, and just the obligatory nod-and-hey gets my heart rate going faster than the fire road climb. I take a breather and try to convince myself that sweaty palms, a dry throat, and inability to make eye contact are all a part of trail running, but who are we kidding...I've got a crush with a capital "C".

But how do I start a conversation with her? What can I say without being creepy? When greeting a woman on the trail, I get the impression there's a thin line between "friendly" and "that's when I doused his face with bear spray". Plus I want to be respectful of our sport and not break the rhythm of her run or solitude. All of my ideas either sound too cheesy ("leave some flowers for her where you last met eyes"), or just downright ill-advised ("casually follow her to car so there's a natural place to start a conversation"). HELP!!!

Before you answer, I feel like I should clarify one thing. When I say "girl", what I actually mean is "age appropriate female with a youthful spirit". It's bad enough I may be "trail trolling", lest the additional agent orange mist of mid-life crisis perversion. Scott will vouch that I am far from that guy (right, wing man? Buddy?). She is something special, though. Her effortless smile is always present, with kind green eyes nestled in a tapestry of tan lines that bare proof that she has laughed in the sun at every opportunity. Her face wouldn't dare, or require, a single spec of make up, and her pony tail joyfully bounces to its own beat, unable to contain it's wild grey strays. This is a women in touch with her youthful spirit, and by God, she is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

I'm a bit of a romantic, which makes this a particular challenging conundrum. If you ask my ex-wife, I'm an "unrealistic romantic" at that. Unfortunately, I have to agree with her on that one, at least in that I used to be unrealistic with my expectations of love and romance. I had that belief that love could cure anything, including any issues with the marriage itself. But it turns out that a marriage, like any relationship, needs time and attention, not belief in a superhero that comes swooping in to save us in the nick of time. It's a lesson I understood too late, but one I certainly will not replicate. Oh no, I will NOT fuck the next one up. Like the trail runs that are part of my daily life, I am ready to invest fully in my greatest adventures. For that, I am already a better man.

The trails had a lot to do with unearthing the better me, digging deep, having faith in every step, finding solace and discovery in even the muddiest, coldest days. It is my sanctuary, my springboard, and my double-dare all rolled into one. Perhaps I am obsessed with this woman simply because she is out here, finding her own source of joy, adventurous in her own right, and on her own terms. Or maybe it's because I'm old enough to know that women like her are far too rare, and from what I understand, men who can appreciate that are even more so. Life, and the trails, gives us opportunities, but it is up to us to see and grasp them.

I guess I could just say that the next time I see her. But odds are I'll get the bear spray. :)

Thank you in advance for your help!

- Vince G.


  1. Wow, I'm 42 and have been there. On the trail, I was never quick enough to tell the difference between a friendly smile and a flirty smile. Ask her a question about her training, if she's planning to run a race. Starting a conversation should give you a better idea if she's interested or already attached.

  2. If you see her on the same trails frequently, just stop and say something to the effect of, "Hi, I'm Vince. I always seem to run into you and wanted to put a name with the runner." Leave it at that unless she starts talking more. Then the next time you have a much smoother segway into conversation with less bear spray potential. Good luck!

  3. Hi is always good. :) I find it easy to talk to men on the trails if they have a dog. Or if we stop at a great viewing point. I've been asked where else I run. If I've done any races lately or if I'm trainig for one. We've talked about gear and shoes and weather and food. If it's running related, it's a pretty safe topic and won't scare me away. ;)

  4. Aw, sweet, my hubby met me on the trail. I did the talking though. What did I know about the rules? :) Anyhow, seriously, Phil may be giving the pointers on topics, and any of them are good, it's how to actually get to the time when the words come out...Can you run same pace and keep up without being out of breath? Try and time running same direction, and as either you pass, or she does, say something "can't help but notice you run often", or "what a beautiful morning, don't you love it!". Have an open-ended sentence that will require more than a nod, but not forcing far. It may strike first time, may take a few more nods after that to try again. Good luck!

  5. Phil, but how do you stop a woman in the middle of her workout to start this conversation?

    Vince, I would say cool off a bit. Sure she's a hottie and an active hottie is even better, but you don't know her at all. You are only going strictly on the physical. We males tend to do that. I would keep it very simple. As she passes you stop her, tell he you've seen her running before and introduce yourself. Don't do anymore, even if you feel a "good vibe", and you will feel some sort of vibe. Let a week go by, maybe a couple more "making eyes" at each other if things are going well, then you should know if it is OK to stop her on a run and ask her out.

    Good Luck Vince! If this works it gives me hope!! ;-)

  6. This is GREAT! Thanks so much for the suggestions. All good stuff on the topics, and I'm beginner enough to actually WANT to know the answers to most of those questions.

    Matt hit the nail on the head though - it's about _when_ to ask that is the bigger issue. It seems awkward to stop a runner. And what if she has headphones - does that change the protocol?

  7. I think there are some great advices above. The idea to say you've noticed her running and then switching to running related conversation is your best bet I think.
    If you only meet her while she runs you'll have to start slow with small phrases here and there.

    The only other thing I can think of is the "out of gas" idea. Pretend to be in need of something and see if she can assist you (once you've thrown out a few sentences out to her). Like say you have a cramp, or are low on energy and see if she has anything that can help. It can backfire but it could also get her attention.

    If you want to play it romantic, then make signs. Carry a sign with you like "Nice stride" and then pop out the sign when you see her coming by.

  8. Vince:

    I'm a single guy too (30's and naive vs 40's and wise to women's ways), and let me put in my two cents by telling you a few do's and don'ts:

    1) Don't WINK. It screams "old dude" and is gross. It also instantly ruins her favorite running trail thinking some gross dude is going to be out there on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    2) Don't leave a note on her car. No matter how you phrase the note, all it says is "I know all about you (insert creepy laugh)...". Stalker vibe. You would be surprised how many women think they are hot enough to deserve (and fear) a full-time stalker.

    3) Don't ask about her favorite trails or where she usually runs until you get to know each other. Again, the stalker vibe.

    4) Don't use any club pick up lines. 'Nuf said.

    Here are some do's that have worked for me:

    1) If you see her coming up the trail in the distance, stop, step off the trail, and retie your shoe. If she makes lots of eye contact as she approaches you, introduce yourself. If she stops, you have permission to ask another question. I would recommend "are you training for a race or just out having fun?". If she is training for a race, ask if it's a good one for a beginner like you. BTW, if she doesn't stop or show any interest, then you made the right call to not engage while on the trail.

    2) Once I wanted to meet a woman who always wore headphones, so one day, I wore headphones too. As we approached each other on the trail, I pulled my headphones off, which signaled I wanted to talk. I introduced myself, asked what music she was listening to, then hoped she had a great run. Every time after that, if I saw her I would just ask about the music she was listening to. It set the basis for a good conversation.

    3) Sign up for a race! The great thing about races (besides the food) is a chance to meet people before and after the race. After the race is best.

    And whatever you do, don't give up!


  9. Now that is a conundrum! I would try to run a similar route on the trails to increase my chances of a "chance encounter". Its easier to strike up a conversation with someone going the same way. Be as natural as possible. If its "meant to be", it'll happen without much effort. Don't get your hopes up too high though. Good women are like parking spaces. The good ones are usually taken and the rest are handicapped. =)

  10. "Life, and the trails, gives us opportunities, but it is up to us to see and grasp them."
    so inspiring thought Vince!
    GOOD luck Vince!

  11. The parking lot is always a good place to strike up a conversation...while getting water, changing shoes etc.. As a woman, I don't feel pressured by short, friendly chats this way. Also, sign up for some trail races around town. Usually the same bunch do the same races. Standing around pre- and post- race are always opportune times to chat. Good luck!!! You sound like know what you want...just go for fear. That's for running and for life.

  12. I think the question here is how to start up a conversation on the trails with a specific woman as opposed to meeting women who run on the trails. I can help you with the latter, since I belong to a trail running group that seems to have about a 60/40 ratio of women to men and since we start and finish the same place, go the same direction and have to deal with the same sort of obstacles on the trail, there are an endless amount of things to talk about. I have also noticed that during evening runs or in areas particularly secluded, women (and some men) feel more comfortable running in the company of a man. Check meetup or join a running club, plenty of fit, fun and outgoing women there.

  13. "nice stride" ha!

  14. I started trail running after I got married, so I have no first hand knowledge. But the trail race suggestion would definitely be a good idea for the "meet women who run on trails" problem. As for the getting to know one specific woman problem, I have to say the more you're fixated on her, the lower your chances probably are.

    Assuming you're local, try Pacific Coast Trail Runs and Coastal Trail Runs, since each offers a good variety of trail runs around here, and at varying distances.

  15. You could hire a private investigator to find out her name, marital status etc. If she's single, once you know her name, you could look up all the local races and see which ones she has entered, then enter them yourself.
    Or maybe you find out she's married to Chuck Norris and you move on.

  16. Scotty what is your email address? I would like to mail your a question

  17. I'm

    scottdunlap [at] yahoo (dot) com


  18. I have a wonderful memory of a guy on a trail, we were running in opposite directions, he held out his hand and we high fived, that was all, no words. He made my DAY!! Might be a nice way to make first contact. Best of luck!

  19. "You could hire a private investigator..."


  20. Just sayin.........Don't hate the player, hate the game.

  21. This is GREAT STUFF!!! Thank you all for your help. Here's what I'm going to try:

    1) High five for sure.

    2) Stop on the trail, perhaps to tie a shoe, and if given the opportunity, introduce myself and ask to "place a name to the face". Then I'll shut up.

    3) Next opportunity, ask about if she's training for anything, any favorite or recommended trails, etc.

    4) Sign up for a local trail run, and cross my fingers to meet someone great!

    My sincerest thanks...V

  22. here is what i would do
    get a t-shirt that says
    'i want to talk to you' on the front
    'maybe next time' on the back :)
    if she is interested and sees the t-shirt every time, she might turn her head when you pass her to realise you really thought it through :)
    then the next step is hers...

    apart from that, my only advice, keep it simple and honest! :)


  23. Just leave the poor girl alone :-P

  24. Get a puppy. I've been known to slow down even an intense tempo run to love on a cute puppy. Besides, if it doesn't work with the girl you will have a great running companion for many years to come!

    Good luck,

  25. You find yourself creepy having a conversation with the woman in front of you? Well, practice how to begin a conversation and how to end it naturally. Keep eye contact and smile to her. This will make her interested.


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