How to upset a runner

Call us joggers. End of blog.

Oh OK, that’s not the only thing, but I’m starting with a joke (ish) because this one is a bit less light hearted than usual. Fewer bum jokes more feminist agenda. Whoohoo, megalols.

At the end of a lovely but exhausting long run recently, a friend and I had split off from the main pack as we are both coming back from injury and didn’t want to push it. So at 8 miles, a mile away from our club and post-run lattes, we turned off our GPS watches and walked back. The sun was shining, we were putting the world to rights; he was teasing me with an enduring joke about how I eat roast chicken during races. This is not true, obviously, but he has almost convinced my daughter that that was why I didn’t get a PB at a recent 10k. It was my longest run in about 6 weeks, and we felt pretty happy. Until, that is, we went to cross a quite busy road less than half a mile from our destination. We were careful, as always, checked both ways, made sure we had enough time to cross and started across the road… and a car that was definitely far enough away when we started across the road actually SPED UP and swerved towards us. Now I don’t think this BMW- driving massive wanker was actually trying to hit us with his vehicle, just trying to intimidate and scare us. And yeah, sorry, I know it’s a bloody cliché, and probably offensive and prejudicial towards BMW drivers, and I do have friends who drive BMWs and aren’t massive wankers, but this guy WAS driving a BMW and WAS a massive wanker. And whilst I’m sure he has a tiny, tiny penis and I should probably feel sorry for him, he seemed to me to be saying that we had no right to be crossing that road. That totally pissed me off, as well as the whole swerving his car towards us thing. You may have read my last post about how running makes me have quite a tolerant hippy vibe sometimes, and that still stands, but I believe that runners have as much right to be out doing our thing as pedestrians, car drivers, cyclists, etc, and that we should all try to be tolerant and, y’know, a bit empathetic and bloody HUMAN about each others’ right to exist and do what makes us happy, and definitely not try to kill each other.

To put the other side, and it’s pretty topical at the moment, I also don’t understand why the HELL that runner tried to push that woman in front of a bus; I’m not sure anyone knows why. This is not runners vs car drivers, or runners vs pedestrians, or pram walkers or anything. People can be knobs. All people. However, in my experience when they are in a car it somehow inflates their knobishness, and also makes them a lot more dangerous.

It’s one of the reasons that I don’t run on my own as often these days. Essentially, it’s problems with OTHER PEOPLE. When I asked a friend what pissed him off as a runner, he said “weather, all kinds” but I actually quite like running in the rain. I run in the snow. I don’t like running when it’s REALLY hot as I dehydrate at the drop of a hat (or silly-looking but necessary sun visor, which makes me look like an 80s aerobics devotee). But OTHER PEOPLE being knobs is one thing that really puts me off.

I have had people yell stuff at me, again usually from the anonymity of a passing car. Sometimes I’ve had road crews or builders (yeah, cliché again, but it’s actually a truism) shout things that I’m sure they think are probably really cheering rather than either plain annoying or downright intimidating, like ‘Smile, love’ or ‘I bet you can go faster than that’, which just have me muttering for a while about everyday sexism and how blokes don’t have to put up with this shit, but don’t usually stay with me for more than 5 minutes. However, a good running buddy of mine, who is WAY slimmer than me and a bloody super-hot yoga instructor to boot, had someone shout “Run, you fat c***” at her from a car earlier this year. It was horrendous, she was really understandably upset and it knocked her confidence for weeks. And to be honest, everyone saying ‘but you’re not fat’ wasn’t the point. Someone abused her from a car when she was just out for a run. For absolutely no reason but to make her feel bad. I’ve been called a c*** and have someone threaten to rape me whilst marshalling a running event (oh, I’m sure he would say he didn’t intend it as a rape threat, but saying you would like to disappear up between someone’s thighs whist also threatening to run them over is rape culture) merely because I wouldn’t let him plough his bloody car into the elite runners who were coming through at that time. Actually, that was an interesting experience afterwards, as all my extremely well meaning, caring, and understandably angry, male friends from the running club said words along the lines of ‘They wouldn’t have said that to you if I’d been there!’ and, no, they wouldn’t, because if a bloke was there, they might have received a racial slur or something else, but they most likely wouldn’t have got a rape threat, or something else that attacked them for their gender. And that’s the point – I shouldn’t need male protection. I shouldn’t have to put up with that, and neither should my friend feel she can’t go out for a run down a busy Oxford street without being called a c***.

Aside from having insults and ridiculous comments levelled at us, sometimes it’s actual projectiles that get thrown out of the passing cars. A couple of times when out in a group we’ve had drinks cans thrown at us, or once someone sprayed some unidentifiable liquid at us – which I really really hope was beer. However, the worst one was a club run one evening in November when a group of us were running through a fairly well-to-do bit of Oxford when some arseholes threw a LIT FIREWORK at our group, catching one of the group on the arm and setting fire to his very nice but highly flammable technical t-shirt. He was obviously very shaken and it looked really nasty but he insisted he was OK. When we got back to the club it turned out that a couple of other groups had had the same thing happen to them, but luckily the other fireworks hadn’t connected.

So whilst I understand the fury levelled at the idiot who pushed the woman in front of a bus, and cannot condone or even begin to understand his actions, I also do not understand why runners generally come in for this kind of treatment. The feminist in me gets outraged at the sexist comments received by me and other women runners, the CONSTANT commenting on our bodies and sexuality. There’s something in the back of my mind about how some Neanderthal men seem to resent women being out in the world just doing their thing, using our bodies for something other than male titillation (see also breastfeeding in public and the outrage that causes in some idiot-holes: BREASTS ARE FOR LOOKING AT, NOT FEEDING SMALL HUMANS, etc) and how we should be at home instead making our husbands a sammich or something instead rather than training for a marathon. Or it’s just male ape breast-beating at passing women. I’m sure there is plenty of research on cat-calling and why it is Not A Good Thing, and why it makes you feel shit, and, no, isn’t a compliment ACTUALLY. But this isn’t just a female issue. The firework was thrown at a mixed group, and hit a bloke (which was lucky in a way, because he’s a TALL bloke and if it had hit one of the smaller women it would have been face height, so there is that…), and the car swerved at me and a male friend. Runners/joggers seem to be targets for a lot of ire at the moment, and we live in Oxford where that sort of shit is usually levelled at students or cyclists. Or tourists, who frankly do get on your tits a bit when they move en masse and will NOT GET OUT OF THE SODDING WAY. See above caveat about how I don’t believe we have any more rights to the pavement than anyone else – but when a group of people 3 or 4 abreast see you coming towards them and just don’t get out of the way, do they expect you to hurdle them? Impromptu game of leapfrog?

Then there’s “THINGS PEOPLE SAY to runners” (Urgh, PEOPLE!):

  • “Isn’t it bad for your knees?” Urrggghhh, God no, it’s really not if you take care of yourself, and the benefits to your health far outweigh the negatives. Mentally, physically, in every way exercise is pretty much a GOOD THING as far as I can tell.
  • “Oh, a marathon! I couldn’t do that” Well, no, right now you probably couldn’t, but if you did the training you could. What you mean is that you don’t want to. So don’t.
  • “If you’re a runner why aren’t you thinner?” Oh, just fuck off. Cake retention. And don’t bloody comment on my body.
  • “How far is Brighton marathon? Is it as far as London?” YES! YES IT IS. ALL MARATHONS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE 26.2 MILES AND IT’S QUITE A BIG DEAL IF THEY AREN’T!

So runners have come in for quite a lot of stick recently, due to one idiot shoving that poor woman, for reasons that must only be known to himself, but we take quite a lot of crap on the streets too. And really there’s room for all of us out there to do our thing if we’re just a little bit nice to each other. Deal?

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