Hey runners: is it SO hard to respond to Roo Green’s purple-faced and wheezy hello?
One of most difficult things I’ve done in the last few years is go out for my first run/walk session as I began using a Couch to 5K app.
Not only did my route allow people to see me in fitness kit while not looking svelte, passers-by would also see me struggling. I don’t know about you, but the idea of looking unfit and then absolutely proving it in a public place is the stuff of graphic finger-pointing-at-the-idiot nightmares.
I tried to convince purple-faced me that those I passed while looking like a varicose vein in Lycra would totally understand as, hey, everyone remembers how hard it was at the beginning, right?
Wrong Roo. So very, very wrong. It turns out that a lot of people who pound the pavements are high on camel-toe, low on courtesy.
I simply cannot believe the amount of people running in the other direction who pretend they haven’t seen a wheezing Weeble on the same path. Often they have to change course to avoid a full-on body slam, and STILL they avoid eye contact.
It’s not age or gender specific; I’ve been blanked by a full spectrum, so it turns out being dissed is very democratic. And don’t run away with the idea that I’m intimidatingly brilliant at jogging so everyone ignores me for showing off. I was once overtaken by septuagenarian ramblers who were power walking on my route and breezing past Seb Slow here.
Of course there are jovial joggers who do shout a cheery hello and sometimes a word of encouragement. Oddly it is often the elite-looking runners (wearing an old race shirt or the kit of a triathlon club), who are often the kindest, which always blows my mind. They’re fit and athletic looking and instead of judging me for being way down the chain, they seem delighted by my efforts.
“To begin with, when I was vulnerable and spent from my efforts I would sometimes get tearful at the lack of friendliness. Now I’m a full three years into it, I’m really fucking angry.”
Dog walkers are broadly chatty and appreciate that I say “Morning!” to them and to their pups, and every now and again I see a kindred soul who is simply looking for a bit of cheeriness in a not always pleasant pursuit. But it is still the majority who blank me.
For me, sport at school was accompanied by a heavy dose of ‘team talk’ and the idea that you can’t succeed unless you rely on each other. It’s not escaped me that running is a solitary pursuit but at school, road runs/cross country were often ambled in packs, and only picked up any sort of pace if the games teacher was in sight or yelled at us from a passing car (seriously, that happened, people calling us out on lack of effort FROM A CAR), but rarely were any of us alone.
I’ve taken that mentality of ‘all being in it together’ to my lone lumbering and it’s not worked out for me. To begin with, when I was vulnerable and spent from my efforts I would sometimes get tearful at the lack of friendliness. Now I’m a full three years into it, I’m really fucking angry. How is it so hard to just say hi, and make a solo runner feel a bit better? For every person that says hello in response, I reckon at least four pretend I’m not there.
Running for me is about self-care. It keeps me fitter, allows me to mull over problems (I always run without music or podcasts) and gets me out into the fresh air to experience the changing seasons. But as I head down paths and pad past trees, people loom into view and become part of that landscape. A positive interaction can make you smile, spur you on and allow you to feel connected, a bad one can make you feel small and insignificant.
I’m looking to get a runner’s high, not a low mood, so fellow joggers let’s agree: the only thing that needs to be rude is our health.
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Roo Green has worked in radio since all this was fields. She loves reading, eating and writing, and blogs at www.roogreen.co.uk. Paisley Park is in her heart.