Don't Ask, Just Run

The occupational hazard of working for a polar bear who dabbles in Mad Science. Yeah, you better run.

Maxim 2: A Sergeant in motion outranks a Lieutenant who doesn't know what's going on.
Maxim 3: An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks everybody.

Don't Try This at Home exists for a reason: some things are best just left to the professionals. Firemen, policemen, bomb techs, seasoned military veterans, even action heroes and superheroes, put their bodies and lives on the line in the course of their job dealing with lots of dangerous stuff.

So when you see the seasoned professionals making a full speed run for it, you don't want to stop to argue. You don't make them explain what's going on. You don't yell at them because you're their superior officer and they are so getting court-martialed if they don't get their ass back on the front line. You run the hell away with them. To do otherwise is likely to be harmful or fatal; when the tough guys run like that, it's often a sign of impending Incendiary Exponent or Stuff Blowing Up. Or worse.

Sometimes the seasoned professional isn't running; maybe they need to stay behind and make a Heroic Sacrifice, or they're just finally letting loose. In these situations, they usually turn to the weaker members of the team and invoke the trope name or something similar.

"Oh Crap!" sums these moments up quite nicely. Anyone ignoring this advice is arguably Too Dumb to Live. A very appropriate reaction to a Hero Killer.


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  • The Weather Channel lampshaded the public's perception of their prefered field reporter Jim Cantore as being a form of this trope merely by showing up someplace, in an ad where he goes to the beach on vacation and everyone who recognizes him evacuates, fearing an incoming storm.

    Comic Books 
  • For those unfortunates who lack the level of Genre Savvy to identify these situations, the Marvel Universe has technical support, as seen in Young Avengers.
    Helpline operator: Technical support. You're speaking to David Alleyne. What's your probl... Elektra, you say? Can you run? You should run. Seriously, you want to run.

    Fan Fiction 
  • While he doesn't run, when Harry Potter in The Havoc Side of the Force notes that five different groups of bounty hunters have attacked him and HK-47 corrects him, saying six groups have, Harry immediately dives behind cover rather than ask what HK is talking about. A few seconds later, the sixth group start shooting.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • From Tremors 2: Aftershocks: They trap the monsters in a garage, Earl rigs every explosive Burt has to explode, all 2.5 tons of them. Everyone runs for it, then hides behind a wooden shed a distance off from the garage, except for Burt.
    Burt: No No No keep going! It's gonna be big!
    Kate: Is he serious?
    Earl: Burt knows his bombs.
    • When the bomb does explode, the shock wave shreds the shed they'd been hiding behind.
  • Inverted in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, where it's the person who doesn't know what's going on refutes the need for an explanation. When Sam's parents are dropped into the battlefield as part of a trap, and are subsequently rescued, the elder Witwicky tells Sam, "I don't know what's going on but we've gotta move!"
  • The first Hellboy film has Liz gaining full control of her powers near the end. As she immolates herself, she tells her companion "You should be running."
  • In the movie version of The Sum of All Fears, one of the technicians at a Russian nuclear weapon disassembly plant is seen by Jack Ryan. The guide with him translates the Cyrillic shirt wording: "I am a bomb technician. If you see me running, try to keep up."
  • In Avatar Grace has this reaction when Jake first encounters a Thanator, the apex land predator on Pandora.
  • The movie version of The Lord of the Rings has Gandalf essentially say this when the Fellowship encounters the Balrog in Moria, sparked by ominous roaring and a creeping orange glow that makes the horde of goblins surrounding them run like hell. Gandalf's only explanation is "This foe is beyond any of you. RUN!"

  • Lampshaded in Callahan's Secret, where a rookie to the New York City bomb squad specifically thinks "If he's running, I need to get the hell out of here!" when he sees his superior, Sergeant Noah Gonzalez, take off running in the middle of a defusing operation.
  • Also in Terry Pratchett's Johnny and the Bomb, where, during the Battle of Britain, an explosives expert is working on an unexploded bomb. Some falling bricks tumble down and hit the bomb, which starts ticking. A policeman asks, "Once they start ticking, how long until ..." then realizes he's talking to an empty space where the bomb tech was a moment ago.
  • Discworld
    • Alchemists must be smart and athletic. Smart enough to know when their experiment is about to explode, and athletic enough to get behind cover before it does. The smart part also includes running when somebody else starts running.
    • Wizards, particularly more senior ones who still operate active magic, are also quite fast, despite their generally large girth. Slow ones generally don't live long enough to become senior wizards.
    • In The Last Hero, Rincewind, when asked why he was fleeing for his life through the Hublands, admits that he doesn't find out why people chase him, as asking would get in the way of running.
      Rincewind: Oh, I never stop to find out why people are chasing me, sir. I never look behind, either. That'd be rather silly, sir.
  • In Brightly Burning by Mercedes Lackey, foreseers see Lavan's final firestorm just in time and all the Heralds start frantically calling the retreat to get their army out of the way before all hell breaks loose. Most get out of there as soon as they realize it, only those who care for Lavan hesitating but still get hustled along.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, when the Fellowship hears the Balrog in Moria, Legolas starts freaking out. It's not that he is old enough to remember them, but his people are, and they told him about them. At the time there are still several people alive (such as Glorfindel, who actually killed one and Galadriel, who didn't) who remember the war with Morgoth, and therefore remember the Balrogs.
  • Mentioned in World War Z, when a survivor is recounting being in a South African slum during one of the first mass zombie attacks. He remembered seeing people running and screaming "They're coming! They're coming!" People with not so sharp survival instincts stood there confused and asked "Who is coming?", while those with better survival instincts knew that you never needed to know who "they" were: if "they" were coming, you ran. It also makes sense that many of the older people were the ones who started running immediately; they were all survivors of Apartheid, and could remember the days when "they" were the government and soldiers coming to round people up.
  • Lampshaded in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, when the aforementioned captain consciously kept his pace to one that said 'I am late and in a hurry' (because he was) instead of making the full-on sprint that would indicate 'The building behind me is about to explode.'
    • Later on, as the ImpSec building disappears down a sinkhole, the onlooking head of ImpSec wails about his people deserting their posts as a stream of men pour out of the building. The former head of ImpSec who is standing beside him figures those are the fellows who grew up in earthquake country. He then adds, "The ones still inside, you'll want to commend. The ones outside, those are the ones I'd promote..."

    Live-Action TV 
  • A fifth season CSI episode, "Down the Drain", has the team working with the bomb squad to clear a suspect's house that's stocked with homemade explosives. The bomb tech passes on to Grissom the timely (and some say traditional) advice: "Only one thing you need to worry about: If you see me running, make sure you keep up." (And if you don't think this gets invoked in the same episode, you don't watch enough TV.)
  • Shows up in the first season of CSI: Miami as well.
  • Of course this would come up on MythBusters, working with bomb techs as much as they do. The quote below is from the YouTube Special, when they were trying to ignite a million matchheads at night.
    Adam: Can you imagine if this went off while we were here?
    JD Nelson: Uh... if it does go off it's time to de-ass the area with a quickness.
  • From Prehistoric Park, a stampede crashes through a wall, releasing the monsters. Nigel watches from the control room:
    Nigel: Bob, do you read, over? Matilda's behind you. Don't look, just run!
  • The amount of running involved in Doctor Who is something of a Running Gag (sorry).
    • To the point where "RUN!" is the Ninth Doctor's first line in the new series.
      Donna: He saves worlds, rescues civilizations, defeats terrible creatures and runs a lot. Seriously, there's an outrageous amount of running involved.
    • Several classic Doctors use the line, "When I say run, run... Run!"
    • Also inverted — on several occasions, the Doctor has made the villains of the episode retreat just by introducing himself. Best exemplified in "The Eleventh Hour": "Hello. I'm the Doctor. Basically... run."
  • Carlos Mencia on Mind of Mencia referenced this trope regarding the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. A child at a resort apparently saw animals that were natural enemies running away from the water and remembered a nature documentary that said animals can often sense danger before humans. He told his family this and they ran for the high ground just before the wave hit. Mencia said something to the effect of "If you see a dog sprinting somewhere, with a cat on its back and a mouse hanging onto its tail, FOLLOW THAT ANIMAL!" He then took this one step further: "If you see a cop, a black guy and a Mexican holding hands and running, RUN!"
  • Danger: UXB. Lt. Ash is working with a naval officer to defuse a parachute-dropped German mine. He's told that if he hears the fuze running, he's to run like hell. Being an Officer and a Gentleman, Ash refuses to leave the other man behind, causing him to snap, "Don't be a bloody fool! When I say run, you run!" The reason is the naval officer will be running as well, and Ash hesitating means that he'll get in his way and get them both killed.
  • The Colbert Report lampshaded this trope when Richard Engel, NBC News' Chief Foreign Correspondent, was a guest on the show. Engel has been sniffing out (and reporting on) trouble spots all around the world — but mostly in the Middle East — since the 1990s, and has a reputation for always being in the middle of wherever the world is going to hell in a handbasket that week. So Stephen wanted to know if local governments go "Oh Crap!" whenever they see Engel coming. (Turns out, some of them actually do. When Engel turned up in Lebanon at one point, the government wanted to know if he'd had advance warning of something bad coming their way. He hadn't, fortunately — but sure enough, two weeks later...) Not coincidentally, Engel's third book (published 2016) is titled And Then All Hell Broke Loose.

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • Seth Myers' bit at the 2012 White House Correspondents' Dinner played with a variant of this. He noted that the less Anderson Cooper is wearing, the more dangerous things are (and the more heroic he's being), ranging from wearing a bulletproof vest in Iraq's green zone to wearing the too-tight black t-shirt while dodging bullets and pulling babies out of rubble.
    "What I'm saying is, if you ever see Anderson Cooper with his shirt off, turn of your television and run."
  • Dave Attell did a joke about how a bullfighter's pants were torn off and he ran without bothering to cover himself.
    "If when you leave here tonight, you see a pantsless man running with his thing flapping everywhere, run with that man! Because there is some scary shit coming the other way."

    Video Games 
  • In The Lost World: Jurassic Park Light Gun game, the second level requires the players to shoot their way through Site B's Visitor Center to locate Ian and Sarah. They find them, and one of the player characters asks what's going on (Ian and Sarah are running towards them). All they get is a "RUN!"
  • Witches in Left 4 Dead deliberately encourage this attitude in players. Averted in the game's intro, where Louis asks whether they should run or shoot. Despite the large, rather impenetrable looking horde of infected charging at them, Bill replies, "Both."
  • At one point in Mass Effect 2, there's a hilarious Renegade option to tell a guy working in a storage place to "Run! It's gonna blow!" to get him out of your way. He's at first confused but then begins seriously freaking out and sprints off, with Shepard snickering afterwards, "I can't believe that worked." The fact that Shepard's armors slightly resemble an explosive ordinance officer outfit probably helped.
  • You are advised by the Pigmasks in the Chimera Laboratory in Mother 3 to GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE if you see the Ultimate Chimera (described as being the red one with the teeth). This is for good reason; should you attempt to approach it, you don't even get a Hopeless Boss Fight; you lose, right then and there.
  • Canabalt in a nutshell. What's going on? Don't ask, just run.
  • When you spend too long on a Tartarus floor in Persona 3, your Mission Control will tell you (paraphasing), "Death's here! Run for it!" They aren't being symbolic, either - it's the Reaper, and you're all dead if you don't get to the stairs now.
  • Pikmin 2 has a situation quite similar to the example above in the form of Submerged Castle. If you spend too long on any floor in this cave, the Waterwraith comes down and attempts to steamroll you. It isn't fun.

    Web Comics 
  • Schlock Mercenary
    • Maxim 3 of the Seventy Maxims for Maximally Effective Mercenaries]] reads "An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks everybody." In the strip giving us the maxim the ship's demolitions tech has set up perimeter mines designed to trigger in the presence of large heavily armed vehicle (the fail-safe was left as a project for the junior officer). Cue the large, armed robot who happens to be the team's assignment to protect...
    • In an earlier storyline, Breya's starship was being repaired in a stolen-and-resold Ob'enn fabbery. A pair of Ob'enn Thunderhead Superfortress-class ships were bearing down on them, causing Breya and Kevyn - onboard the ship - to hit the throttles and tear out of there in the hopes of at least DISTRACTING the attackers. Aboard the fabbery, Warrant Officer Thurl sees the ship leave, and immediately heads for the lifeboat at a dead run, encouraging the rest of the engineering squad to keep up. He comments, "If the Athens left like there's no tomorrow, then there probably won't be."
      Crewman: So when that little voice in your head says "run," you just run?
      Thurl: Do you see these gray hairs, kid?
    • Lt. Pibald may be certifiably crazy, yet he knows what it means if Sgt. Schlock suddenly bounces by, a plasma cannon in grasp and not stopping for explanation:
      Pi: Wait, are we having a Maxim 2 moment?
      (running after Schlock)
      Pi: Stupid, Pi, stupid! If you have to ask, then yes, you're having a Maxim 2 moment!
  • In this Freefall strip, Florence is running because of a "Eureka!" moment rather than an "Oh Crap!!" moment. The others in the room don't realize this, though, so away they go.
    • Meanwhile, although he's technically incorrect in his assessment of the situation, this shopkeeper nonetheless shows good survival instincts.
  • Bob and George: Bob reminds George of his superpowers and reacts appropriately. So do Proto Man and Doctor Wily. The commentary explains.
    Dave Anez: As for the people that didn't get it, I would respond by pointing out that if you were Dr. Wily or Proto Man and you saw Bob running past you like that, would you wait around to ask questions?
  • Exterminatus Now has one:
    Lothar: Runs pretty fast for a fat nerdy dude.
    Eastwood: I'm gonna say that when the interdimensional quantum physicist bolts for the exit, we should probably follow his lead.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Doc has to explore an ancient temple in order to help prevent what he thinks is an oncoming apocalypse. A note left by previous explorers is taped to a statue; it reads:
    We have no idea how to keep these things from turning on — JUST RUN.
Subverted when he does figure out how to solve the puzzle and keep the guardians inert, allowing him to take his time. At least, until that one persistent not-a-pterodactyl comes along and activates it anyway.
  • Sluggy Freelance: Riff and Dr. Schlock had their own word for this in case one of their Mad Scientist inventions went wrong in a way that required it: "Code Boom". Torg and friends would later adopt it for their exploits in the Research and Development Wars for similarly dire situations.
  • The Whiteboard: Doc, the central character and polar bear who runs the paintball shop, dabbles in Mad Science on the side. His friends and colleagues quickly learn that when something goes wrong at the workbench, you don't want to be anywhere in the blast zone, a fact being demonstrated here to new hire Sandy.
  • Girl Genius
    • Jägers live for centuries around their Mad Scientist overlords and know how to act:
      Agatha: CLEAR THE BRIDGE!
      Maxim: (picks up Lars and runs) Gorl like dot—
      Dimo: (picks up Augie and runs) — ven she say move —
      Oggie: (picks up their freaked-out horse and runs) — hyu move!
    • Another example latter. When the tech operating some Mad Science tell you to run, it doesn't matter if you're a Spark or a prince: you run.
  • Discussed in xkcd, "Bridge".

    Web Original 
  • Marble Hornets
    • In Entry #26, Alex says this to his girlfriend Amy after she inadvertently summons the Operator to their new house by watching a distorted tape on Alex's old camera.
    • In Entry #42, Jay shouts this to Alex after having an encounter with the Operator. Its... funnier than it sounds.
  • Worm has the following conversation regarding Contessa:
    Weaver: What's her classification?
    Prefab: Thinker. Don’t worry about the number. Just run.

    Western Animation 
  • Invoked by Guardian Bob of ReBoot in a crashing game:
    Bob: Huh. It's an infinite if/else loop.
    Dot: Which means?
  • Dash gets this from his hero Danny Phantom when they're both shrunk. Because he's losing his powers from said incident, Danny can't fight any obstacles in his path, so he tells Dash to make a break for it. They pretty much do this for the majority of the episode.
  • Danger Mouse has a directive when confronted in a dire situation: "Do what you were trained to do. PANIC!!!"
  • Humorously referenced to by Snap in a ChalkZone episode when clowns first seen setting up a bundle of fireworks are next seen running screaming.
    Snap: Oh, boy. When clowns run scared, you know you're in trouble.
  • As seen in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Best Night Ever", when Fluttershy bursts into the room — disheveled, wild-eyed and chasing a horde of scared animals while demanding their love — and Princess Celestia herself tells you to run, you'd better do it.
  • In The PJs episode "Boyz' N the Woods" Calvin and Juicy find themselves lost in the sewers and start following rats thinking it will lead them straight back to the projects. When the rats start running off Juicy complains to Calvin that he said rats were smart. Calvin says they are smart as they are running from a giant ball of burning sewer gas. Closeup on Juicy as he asks why they aren't running and when the camera pulls back he sees that Calvin has already bolted. Cue Bruce Willis shout out.

    Real Life 
  • T-shirts:
    • Military example: "Explosive Ordnance Technician: If you see me running, try and keep up." T-shirts are quite popular around bomb-techs. This is based off a joke among military personnel which says "an EOD tech running for his life outranks everybody."
    • Civilian pyrotechnics experts sometimes wear similar shirts.
    • As do firefighters.
    • Nucs (the people who run the nuclear reactors on Carriers and Subs) have come up with their own version, "Nuclear Reactor Technician: If you see me running, it's already too late."
  • Tornado chasers, though they also have such shirts, are often an inversion: if a lot of tornado chasers seem to be setting up where you are, it's probably a very good idea to consider taking tornado precautions.
  • If you are in a forest, and all animals suddenly start running in the same direction, run with them. They have a good reason for it. It can save your life.
  • In the 2004 Tsunami, people were very, very worried about all the indigenous people living on the islands, etc. Well, it turned out they were very much alive and with them some missing tourists, who took the Don't Ask Just Run seriously — if the locals start running like hell for the high ground, you damn well follow them.
  • Generally, when you see people running away in terror, it's not a good idea to stay and watch what the fuss is all about. It's also a well known maxim among travelers and soldiers: the locals know more about the area than you do. They live there, after all. Which doesn't help when the people running away are doing so behind you, while you stand on the beach wondering what the hell just happened to the water. Fortunately, even if you can't hold a conversation the local language, it's not hard to recognise their phrase for "Oh Crap!".
  • The story about the kid referred to in "Live-Action TV" is partially true. There was a kid who had just recently learned that if the water draws back, there will be a huge flood wave. The kid warned her parents and so a lot of people could run to safety, while on the other hand OTHER people walked INTO the ocean to look where the water went. Here's a link.
  • It's a built in social response humans and other social creatures have that if the crowd is running away, you go with it. It isn't a guarantee of safety, though. History is littered with the bodies of people trampled to death in spooked crowds in a frenzied run for safety when there was actually no danger. Children are especially in danger in these crowds. That said, said crowds are often a subversion of the trope: people who did stick around until it's too late, then realized it was time to run.
    • This is why the openers on emergency doors are called panic bars. They ensure that if an unorganized crowd jams against a door at the same time and no one is able to manipulate a doorknob due to the crush the door will still open.
    • There doesn't even have to be danger. Black Friday deaths have happened this way looking for the best deals. In the Cincinnati Who Concert Disaster, 11 people were trampled to death in a mad rush just to get the best seats for a concert.
  • Before Mount Pinatubo went up in 1991, a team of scientists were monitoring it from an (almost deserted by that point) US Air Force base, with a small group of Air Force personnel on hand to act as their escort and security detail. The smarter ones ignored the mountain itself and the instruments (which most of them couldn't have read anyway), and watched the scientists. They knew that when the scientists started to pack up, it was time to get ready to leave. It didn't turn into a running situation, because the scientists knew what to expect and were gone before it went up.
    • In an interview after the eruption, the general at the base said that what finally prompted him to order the evacuation was a scientist who ran by him and said "General, you had better put jam in your pockets, because we are all about to be toast!"