The other day, I was driving home from work and I spotted a guy who didn’t look so good. He was clearly a runner – although he was walking at the time – and he was holding his head and bleeding from his knees. I figured this guy had probably taken a fall. I actually drove by him before my conscience got the best of me and I turned back. Anyhow, I gave him a ride home. He told me about someone in a car harassing him during his run, which caused him to take a spill. Now, this guy was 63 years old. Have people no shame?

I’ve been heckled on numerous occasions. The heckler is usually either a college-age white guy, a middle-age white guy or a high-school-age girl. More often than not, they are in a car. The heckling can involve shouting, name-calling, car swerving or my personal favorite, throwing objects.

There are six ways to react to a heckler:

1. Don’t do anything. Go home. Be miserable.

Unfortunately, sometimes you are stuck with this approach. If you’re on foot and the heckler is in a car, this may be your only option. Also, if you’re alone in a remote area, you may want to play it safe and go with option number one.

2. The staredown.

Personally, I love the staredown. I use the staredown all the time. Were you going to roll that stop sign in front of me? Staredown. Are you texting while driving? Staredown. Picking your nose?! Gross. Staredown.

3. The classic middle finger.

If I’m really focused on my run and don’t want to make a scene, this is my go-to. Usually, I’ll throw in an “asshole” just to make sure they look back and see the finger.

4. The angry middle finger.

I really try to avoid this one. I don’t think it’s an overreaction. However, I do think it’s better to just play it cool.

5. Hulk Smash.

Here’s the thing: If you just directed your two-ton car at me – even if you thought you were being funny and had no intention of hitting me – I didn’t think it was funny. I will hulk smash your car. I will put a dent in it and I’ll take off one of your mirrors if I’m feeling sassy. Seriously, who raised you?

6. The Confrontation

Honestly, I prefer the hulk smash over the confrontation, because usually at the moment, I’m spitting mad. However, I occasionally think the confrontation can change behavior. Who taught you to act like that? Why do you think it’s okay to act like that? Your parents would be ashamed of the way you just acted. Are you tough – do you feel tough right now cowering in your car while I’m yelling at you?

Be careful with the confrontation. Make sure you’re in public and not in a vulnerable situation, because the truth is, people are fucking nuts.


I sympathize for women out there – I know they go through so much worse. So much worse. And so much more often. And it sucks. Just know this: if I ever see you getting heckled out there, I’ve got your back. And I’m going straight to hulk smash.

For another story on hecklers, click here.

How often do you get heckled while running? What does it usually entail?

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30 Responses to Hecklers.

  1. FLRunnerBoy says:

    I get heckled on ocassion myself. I noticed more during the summer and then again during winter break. Both times are when school students … high school and college are off. It’s a 50/50 split between the male and female hecklers. I usually don’t catch what they’ve said to me because they fly by so fast and I’m focused on my run. Usually my tights bring out the hecklers when I need to wear them.

  2. Chris P says:

    As a joggler, I get a ton of hecklers as well as supporters. If they are in a car, I ignore them. If they are on foot, I usually ignore them but I may say something back to them, depending on what they say and the situation. I feel bad for that runner with the bloody knees, I’m glad you drove him home and I hope he can find out who was bothering him.

  3. telisa5 says:

    I get heckled on average once per mile although it does depend on what neighborhood I am running in. I also am almost run over by a car and/or bike once per run despite religiously obeying the pedestrian signals. Big fan of the stare down but have tried the Hulk Smash a couple times after almost being hit by a car. Often shout obscenities at the same time. Not sure any of it is effective though 😦

  4. I’m the invisible man. I never get heckled and barely get a wave from passing runners, even when I wave. Okay, once a car full of high school girls whistled at me. It that heckling?
    Many years ago someone threw a large McDonalds cup at me and it hit me on the back of my foot, below the ankle. I think I was more suprised than scared or hurt. I think I did give em the finger and a few F yous.

  5. Amy says:

    Poor guy! I don’t get heckled very often, and I’ve never been concerned for my safety, but when someone yells something at me it really startles me. I can picture myself falling like this guy did.

  6. veryrach says:

    OMG!! I’ve NEVER been heckled! This is so scary and SO SAD that people would heckle an older gentlemen who is just trying to get some exercise!! Thank you for giving him a ride when you saw he was bleeding. You restored mine (and hopefully his) faith that although some humans are horrible not caring idiots, there are still good ones willing to take risks to help other people. UGH, isn’t falling the worst too? You just feel like such a child, and it really BRINGS YA DOWN. I hope that guy is ok…

  7. Jane Likes to Run says:

    I usually just get yelled at honked at and cat called. It’s pretty annoying, rude and unnecessarily. It fortunately does not happen too often because I’m a morning runner and people are usually not in prime form at that time of the day. But I waste no opportunity to throw up the finger and yell out asshole.

  8. Wow!! I had no idea that people get heckled while running that’s horrible!! What a good samaritan you are for giving him a ride – hopefully that restored his faith in humanity a little. I’ve never been heckled but as a woman I’ve experienced the occasional cat call which I just ignore. Most often though I just get honked at by people who know me and give me a friendly wave. If I ever got heckled I think I would be so stunned I’d probably go for #1… or maybe #3 I like that one too!

  9. Angie says:

    I don’t get heckled where I live as most everyone knows everyone here. If someone were to heckle me I’d find them later and do my best to embarrass them about it. Don’t get me started about cycling though. I have been cat called when running in other places. One time, in a big city where I was for work, I was running to a trail and had this dude totally follow me and was way too chatty (in a creepy way). That freaked me out. I managed to lose him. It was daylight and there were others around, but it was still a horrible feeling.

  10. lljkline says:

    When it’s overly-rude, I prefer the smile, wave and “thank you” to confuse them 🙂

  11. chasingzatopek says:

    My favorite is for when a car rolls through a stop sign or red light and takes a right in front of me, when I have a walk signal (i.e., they’ve not even checked for pedestrians) — as they turn in front of me I slam my hand down on the trunk of their car, not hard enough to make a dent. Just says “Hey, I was here, check for me next time — you violated my space, I’m going to get yours”, it allows you to get out a bit of frustration, and they’re turning right and you’re going straight so they can’t really run you down.

  12. pauldburton says:

    I’m always very weary of making them more angry. Too many people in the US are crazy. I either smile or shout ‘what the …?’ and raise my arms in a quizzical way. If they persist I’ll give them the finger but I try to be judicious as to where I use that. Plus, isn’t running about destressing? Don’t let them get under your skin; sometimes you have to let it roll.

  13. I like the hulk smash haha. luckily when I used to run, I always had music, so I never heard waht they were saying, I could see their lips moving but thats it. Im kindof glad, because otherwise , the next time I might not have gone out running.

  14. Cassy says:

    I personally prefer the waving my hands in the air and shouting obscenities approach. It gets their attention and helps me to vent my anger. Win-win!

  15. ishouldrun says:

    I find that #3 is oh-so-satisfying. But I also recognize that it’s probably a bit dangerous down here in soflo. Ah well, if you can’t get some satisfaction out of getting heckled…

  16. bgddyjim says:

    I had an unopened 2 liter bottle of Coke thrown at me whilst atop my bike, going 22 in a 25 zone in THE BIKE LANE. Missed me by inches. I chased ’em down. Only reason they got away is the punk ran a red light to make a left turn. Laughed my ass off.

  17. I usually go with the staredown response to heckling or bad drivers. I’d never do the middle finger, because there’s a good chance that the heckler is one of my students or one of their parents, and I’d like to keep my job.

  18. Trails and Ultras says:

    I was on my first loop around town when some guys outside a pub shouted abuse at me. I didn’t do anything then, but on the second time around I saw they had their backs to me and hadn’t seen me, so I sped up and zoomed by as close as possible. I just had enough time to see them jump and hear their little startled squeals. It was a small win, but worth it 🙂

  19. Once when I was running near campus, a young guy stumbled out of a Frat house (probably still drunk from the night before), looked at me and yelled “run, Forrest, run!”. I consider myself lucky that that is the extent of the heckling I’ve received. I HAVE been run off the road on my bike, though…

  20. Scott D. says:

    If I make eye contact with the D-bag in question (as they do a rolling stop or don’t pay attention with a right turn) I will often do the index finger shake at them, like I’m scolding a small misbehaving child.

  21. Mandy says:

    This is why I listen to music when I’m road running – it blocks out the heckling and then at least it isn’t distracting. It’s most often men. I have twice had young-ish women say something along the lines of, “why are you running? You’re already in shape!” This is baffling for a lot of reasons. And when it comes to idiot drivers, generally I prefer the passive aggressive smile and wave.

  22. osarah26 says:

    I don’t really get heckled too much, (which, as a woman, is really lucky and a huge relief) but I have been honked at a few times. I choose to reject the reality of their intentions and just behave as if it was encouragement! I would probably react with either #1 or #2 – the staredown is probably my favorite reaction to bad drivers. Not while running but I have encountered a few drivers who refuse to stop even if you’re already halfway across the road – and I have responded by smacking their cars with my hands as they pass to let them know exactly how close to me they are. When it comes to witnessing other people getting heckled, I will go straight to Hulk Smash mode.

  23. I am well known for giving the finger or stare down. BUT I have also had 2 instances where I remember vividly having to throw my hands down on the hood or trunk of a car because they were THAT close to plowing me over.

  24. This story kind of shocked me. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be shocked, people are crazy, especially when they think they have the cover of anonymity, but I definitely felt a little upset when reading about this. I haven’t ever been heckled while running. I don’t know if it’s because I tend to stick to trails/paths (so limited interactions with traffic), or if residents in Colorado are just so used to runners, cyclists, etc. they don’t really feel the need to heckle that much or what. I will say there have been some crazy stories about cyclists getting harassed here in the past couple of years, but I don’t hear much about runners. Mostly, I just can’t relate. Regardless of the activity, I have never once felt the need to shout, throw objects at, or taunt another person going about their business. You mess with me, that’s another story, but I prefer to just mind my own business!

  25. That’s awful – thank goodness you were there to give that runner a ride home.
    Luckily I’ve never had an experience that made me scared for my safety or caused an incident, I just get the car honks all the time. Which bugs me to no end. But a pet peeve is better than it could be.
    I just don’t get why people do it. If you don’t care for runners, that’s fine, but please don’t interfere with what we do.

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