The Definitive Social Phobe Running Guide To (Not) Dating

Because I am actively avoiding admitting that this upcoming weekend is Snowshoe Racing Nationals in Woodford, VT and I’ve been sick and out of sorts since last Thursday, I thought I’d mix it up with something a little more light-hearted while still on theme. And so, without further ado, I give you:


The Definitive Social Phobe Running Guide:

To (Not) Dating

As I mentioned in my opening salvo last week, dating is hardly an easy thing when you’re mildly terrified of all social interactions, but, there are some things that I have learned over the years that can apply to the various ways that people recommend for searching for that special someone. So, breaking it down by setting in vaguely chronological order, I give you my tips:

High School

The main tactic for dating as a social phobe (who happens to be a tomboy too) in high school is to really try hard to be as far from feminine as possible. You don’t really understand the whole “makeup” thing and, try as you might, giggling coyly isn’t up your alley. Make friends with guys you find attractive, but never, ever, EVER let them know that you are interested. Be surprised when this strategy doesn’t work. Misinterpret signals both from people who are into you and people who aren’t. Write some angsty poetry and read it at an open mike night despite your social anxiety. Somehow, through a message chain of about fifteen people, end up “dating” a guy who doesn’t live in your town you met a few times visiting a friend. Never actually be in the same place. Break up without actually ever seeing each other.

Go to the prom with an amazing friend who is kind enough to invite you since he knows you won’t go otherwise and have a great time despite your general dislike of such things.


Graduate high school single but excited about how much better college will be.


Use the same strategies you used in high school, but maintain you are doing things differently. Expect different results. Take advantage of going to school in a country where the drinking age is lower to boost your confidence to go out dancing. Enjoy being young enough that the day after consequences aren’t as catastrophic as they will be later. Try to ignore that you’re still just dancing with your housemates. Makeout with a random guy once after having a few too many. Regret it. Meet a cute guy. Become friends. Never let him know you are interested. Wonder why nothing happens. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Leave college. Real life will be easier.


Because you are more mature and legit, change up your tactics. Spot an attractive guy and don’t even acknowledge him at all. The friend thing didn’t work. The “being completely invisible” plan is the next logical step. This fails.

Again, because you’re an “adult,” realize quickly your plans aren’t working. The next time you cross paths with someone you find attractive in a work setting try a different tactic. Make sure you walk past really really fast whenever you see him. This will make him think you are important and on a mission. Try to trip over at least one thing while in his line of sight. This will make him realize you are an approachable, fallible human who isn’t afraid to show it (not realizing you’re just a klutz). Make sure you were heading away from him so he doesn’t see how amazingly red your face can turn. If he happens to speak to you, forget that English is your first language. Struggling to speak will make you seem exotic and intriguing. Pretend you just got a really important text and get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. Start going the opposite direction the second you see him from now on. This also won’t work.

Online Dating

Eventually your friends will convince you, with glamorous stories of their own success, that this is a good idea. This goes to show your friends are probably all certifiable. Sign up for a dating site. Get really excited since this is an opportunity to be on a site where other people are looking for the same thing you are looking for in a relationship. Quickly realize that relative anonymity is also an excuse for random people to send you some pretty forward propositions and unwanted photos (seriously people?!). Wonder if anyone on online dating sites actually knows how to read since no one seems to actually bother to read profiles.

When you get promising messages, make sure your social anxiety kicks in so you overthink your response. This will encourage awkward conversation, which is key to encouraging someone to want to meet you in person. Put too much thought into how quickly or slowly to respond and how much information to offer. Get excited when you actually get to the point where you arrange to meet in person and then realize what “in person” means. Freak out.

Meet in person and realize sitting with a stranger over a beer is a terrible idea. Think you were overreacting. Repeat. Realize the same thing. Get frustrated. Try “dates in motion” with walks, bike rides, etc. This is marginally more successful, but doesn’t really go anywhere.

Acknowledge that online dating is actually stressing you out more than helping. Sign off all sites.

Completely Insane Ideas

Get kind of cranky about prior lack of success with traditional and more modern dating methods. Consider the viability of dating women. Realize this doesn’t make sense since you’re not attracted to women and they are just as terrifying as guys. Additionally consider that you’re overthinking this whole thing. Take a deep breath.


Deep breath taken, you remember that all the memorable (in a positive way) relationships you’ve had before have happened more organically, when you weren’t trying so hard. When you were out there being you, enjoying life.

You met him when you first got into mountain biking and he was there when you face planted into a rock and ended up needing to replace 90% of one of your front teeth. (He also taught you that a shot with a lemon drop chaser to deal with an injury isn’t a good idea with an exposed nerve root.)

You met him rock climbing. He made you laugh and didn’t mind that you had a tendency to swear and kick the wall when you failed for the 500th time working a route. And he gave you the tip to figure it out so you finished that unfinishable 5.10b route you never thought you could do.



You met him hiking. He didn’t even bat an eye at your dumb idea to hike 4 high peaks in a day where the base temperature was sub zero. He carried homemade snacks that hit the spot when you came off the highest summit where winds were too aggressive to stop. He gave you a quick wink before charging down the mountain like a little kid, not phased in the least to slip and slide. He knew enough not to ask for a slice of the large cheese pizza you ordered for dinner. He knew you were going to eat it all.



You met him at a bike race. He crashed and broke his collarbone in front of you when you were marshalling a corner at a crit race. You contacted him to see if he was okay and things went from there. You raced together and hiked together and explored small towns and historical sites. Without him, you would never have raced mountain bikes as a Pro. You would never have found the career you love.


So (because I think I promised tips?), I’m following my own advice now: filling my life with the things that I love and bring me happiness. Because that is what has worked in the past. I’m running races, taking language classes, planning hiking trips, designing an insane home garden/patio with enough plants to reverse global warming, and cooking up a storm. I’m more comfortable in being me now than I’ve ever been.

But, I’m still going to change directions quickly or walk really fast past you if I think you’re cute. And I promise I can speak functional English if you give me long enough to get comfortable!