In his first Fast10 blog, mountain runner George Foster talks about the state of running, not smiling at people during sessions, looking good in tights and his love of music. Or not.
In these COVID times I have become acutely aware of how runners ‘are’; how we’re perceived by those weird folk who “don’t do” running and how we interact with others like ourselves.
I’d like to present some common occurrences that I encounter in my own running, in the hope that there is some sort of cathartic release by doing so, and as a platform for learning from others.
I’m a bit of an arsehole when I get out for a run, with the caveat that it depends on the session I’m doing. This is a poor attitude, I know. No general member of the public knows what session I am doing and so their reaction to my presence isn’t framed by this knowledge.
What do I mean? Well, when I am on an ‘easy’ run I will say ‘hello / hi / what’s up / now then / ey up (ad infinitum)’ to all and sundry. Conversely I expect, nay demand, an appropriate response (hypocritically irrespective of what ‘session’ that person may be on). If I don’t get one I snidely respond with a ‘suit yourself then’.
Like I say, I’m an arsehole.
If I’m on a ‘session’ (anything not defined as ‘easy’) then you’ve as much likelihood of getting a response from me as a straight answer from a politician. It just ain’t happening.
I am terrible at knowing what to do when out on a run and encountering people who might be in the way. Thinking about the mechanics / societal norms / indignity of passing people on a narrow trail or pavement is an emotional and physical stress that I could do without, and yet it is par for the course – especially in the Lakes.
I have experimented over the years with a number of tactics and I’d be keen for yours if I miss any off this list –
- Throat clearance
- Shoe scuffing
- Shoulder barging
- A cheery ‘hello’
- A not-so-cheery ‘hello’
- A polite ‘excuse me, please’
- An impolite ‘excuse me, please’
- A soul-destroyingly awkward ‘can I just squeeze by?’
That is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination but they are, embarrassingly, all ones I have used in the past. I generally settle on the throat clearance or shoe scuffing and can report that, so far, all is well.
I tried listening to music / a podcast once in a race and once, 9 years later, on a training run. The timescale between the two instances should hopefully serve as an inkling as to my own attitude towards running with music.
I don’t like it.
It’s not for any reason of feeling ‘connected’ to nature or embracing the ‘spirituality’ of running, I just spend my working life listening to people and so the thought of spending the time that I use to unwind or train listening to yet more people sickens me to my core.
You may disagree and all power to you.
Shorts through winter
Where I live it’s become a badge of honour, especially on the west coast, to wear shorts ‘shit-bust’ (i.e. whatever happens). There is a well-known Scottish runner (no, not him, the other one) who maintains that you must wear shorts in anything warmer than -3 degrees – quite where this arbitrary number was plucked from is anyone’s guess.
I am of the opinion that crippling arthritis in your late-30s is not manly [The link between arthritis and winter short shorts is yet unproven, but we’re waiting for George’s research – Ed.] and so wear leggings or 3/4s the moment the mercury drops below 5.
This opinion is guided by the belief that our legs are important to us and are de rigueur for the act of running. Trashing them in the pursuit of peer-standing is a bit daft and counter-productive to my desire to keep this running lark going for as long as possible.
The counter-argument is that leggings make little, to no, discernible difference or that your legs soon warm up and so potential damage is mitigated or nullified.
Maybe one principally for the men here?
The purchase / provision of ‘short’ shorts was a cataclysmic event in my running life; easily the single most important development in my mind set and approach to the science-cum-art that it is.
Where before I was merely a hobbyist or jogger, when I first donned a pair of horrendously short, split-sided budgie-smugglers I became a runner.
My legs grew overnight to become tree trunks of pure muscle, shaped like the guns of Sir Chris Hoy, necessitating the need to approach any entrance to a building or room with a gallant cry of ‘coming through’ and side-ways passage of movement. Ladies flocked to me. Men clapped and doffed their caps as I trotted past at three-minute miling pace.
Men, this is not the case. Remember, we are runners not body-builders or Olympic track cyclists. Save the split-sides for the races and even then do so sparingly, for what you think you look like, and what you actually look like, are two very different beasts.