Now that I run on a fairly regular basis and sometimes even use the runners around me as pace setters for my runs, I feel a certain kinship with all runners. When I see a runner, I feel the need to cheer them on in their journey and let them know that they are awesome.
This is how it has gone.
1st time: I was on a run and at this point, about 2 miles away from home when I saw a man who was running sprints on a hill. When I got to where he was walking off his last sprint, I smiled and said, "Good running!" while giving him a thumbs up. The man repeated it back to me, "Good.uh..running." He seemed confused, not that I was complimenting his running but I could tell from his face that he wasn't sure if this was a common greeting in America among runners or not. (I don't know what a common greeting among runners in America is either.)
2nd time: I had run to the grocery store and was walking my way home again, groceries in hand when I saw another runner. Since I was still in my running clothes and so recently finished from my run, I wanted to cheer him on. Thinking back to what I want to say in America, "Jia you!" I decided to use the Japanese equivalent. When he got near enough for him to hear me, I smiled and said, "Ganbatte!" The man looked at me for a second before responding, "Hi." I wasn't sure if it was meant to be "Hai," which means "yes" in Japanese or a simple English hello.
Those two times, it was me suddenly bursting out a phrase and the runner responding in a somewhat surprised manner.
3rd time: I was on a park path and it was ridiculously humid and hot. A man came running towards me and he and I caught each other's eye. He was middle aged and looking quite hot and sweaty and slightly tired. His look seemed to say, "I'm not entirely sure why I'm out here." I felt that I was also communicating my own thoughts, "Wow, how can you run in this heat?" So I smiled at him, put up my fist and said clearly, "Ganbatte!" The man's face brightened. He smiled and then he laughed. I laughed back. It was our own little joke.
4th time: Yesterday, I was on a narrow path that only comfortably fit one person when I noticed an athletic man in an Argentina football jersey running towards me. He and I looked at each other for a split second before I jumped off the path to let him know I was giving him clear space to continue his run. I jumped off the path early enough for him to know he didn't have to move but so early that I actually had to wait for a few seconds for him to reach me and pass me. So I smiled at him, raised my fist and said, "Ganbatte!" The man gave me a genuine smile and said in clear English, "Thank you!" as he kept running.
These most recent times, it's been like we're sharing in some little secret or understanding that is all our own.