Commandments Of Running #1


I am guilty of this, at least I was in my early days of running.

It wasn’t so much an issue when I very first started, I was too busy concentrating on not throwing up 500 metres in to a run to worry about anyone else. But after persisting for a few months I was at the stage of regularly running 5-6 miles and it was then that I developed an awful habit.

Other runners I encountered would fall in to two distinct brackets; those better than me and those worse. I’d base this discrimination on nothing more than what I saw when they ran.

A runner might flash past me, all long strides and high heels, head up and not a bead of sweat. These runners were better than me, and I hated them for it. They were the smug b*stards who could run, probably had always been able to run and would always be a better runner than me. I’m sure they looked at me and thought…well…thought what I did about the runners worse than me.

The plodders, the run/walkers, those who’s gait looked like you were watching a zombie movie on fast forward…I looked at them and thought “ha, I am better than you”. I had already forgotten those early days bent double in alleyways desperately trying to hold on to my lunch after 3 minutes of exercise. All I saw was worse runners than me and I took comfort from being better than someone.

This terrible segregation continued right up until I started marathon training, and then I learnt a valuable lesson.

I’d returned from a long run, I think it was my first time beyond half marathon distance, and it had been hard. The last 2-3 miles had been laborious, relentlessly shuffling in the direction of my front door, my shower and my sofa. I’d run a fabulous first 10 or 11 miles, too fabulous in fact, and now the final hill before home had broken me.

I was aware of the beep, I heard it and just assumed (as I always do) that it was for me and acknowledged it with a wave of the hand, without expending the unnecessary energy to lift my head and see who had spotted me. My sole focus was on putting one foot in front of the other until I no longer had to, no distractions allowed.

A few hours later I logged on to Facebook to find the following post on my wall: “Hey Forrest Gump, how was your run? Didn’t expect to see you going so slow, I thought you were quite good at that jogging stuff! I’ve seen more enthusiastic waves in my sink! Anyway, good on you getting out there, keep going and it will get easier one day I’m sure.

How dare they. How very dare they judge me. How very bloody dare they judge me on the last mile of 14 without knowing what I’d been through to get there.

Oh. Wait.

And that was the day I realised that judging a runner is criminal. You never know whether they are in the first mile of three or the last mile of twenty. You can’t assess in seconds whether someone is carrying an injury, returning from injury, avoiding an injury. It is nigh on impossible to deduce whether your fellow pavement pounder has been running for millennia or for minutes, whether they are a seasoned pro or nervous newcomer.

Since that day I have made only one judgement when faced with a fellow runner. I judge them all to be awesome and far superior to anyone who is sat at home on the sofa .

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12 Responses to Commandments Of Running #1

  1. “Since that day I have made only one judgement when faced with a fellow runner. I judge them all to be awesome and far superior to anyone who is sat at home on the sofa .” Amen to that. I wish I can say that it’s funny how we judge fellow exercisers, whether they be runners or walkers or dog walkers, but it’s not funny. As you rightly pointed out, we should be more supportive of each other.

    • James Clay says:

      I am now, I do everything I can to encourage people to try running and stick with it. Do hear some horror stories of people shouting at slow or overweight runners, usually from a car, which is hugely ironic!

  2. Mary says:

    Love that last sentence!
    I always hate the way everybody looks each other up and down at the start of a race trying to mentally work out how fit somebody is just by their looks. I get great satisfaction from passing somebody in a race who looked me up and down on the startline before placing themselves in front of me!

    • James Clay says:

      I used to do that!

      I used to get to the start line and pick out the bloke I could beat, so I knew I wouldn’t come last. Got it wrong every time as the old/fat/badly equipped runner would leave me in their wake and finish way ahead of me! Have stopped that now, instead I look for the friendliest runners and go say hello :o)

  3. rundontrun says:

    Agreed, although I would like permission to judge the couple who stopped to have their photo taken 100m from the finish line at the end of yesterday’s Olympic Park Anniversary Run. I’m judging them very harshly indeed!

    • James Clay says:

      Is that because they got in the way or because they weren’t pushing for a finish time?

      I’m beginning to wonder whether there is a small rift forming between ‘proper’ runners who do club 10k races chasing a pb and ‘improper’ runners who do novelty runs like Run To The Beat. I shall be watching with interest…

  4. So very well put. Amen to that!

  5. mercyjm says:

    You are a good person. I am guilty of judging the people who overtake me (in a mara or 1/2 mara) and then walk, and then when I shuffle past them they wait, then overtake me, then walk. Over and over. I am also guilty of judging people near my pace who have jingly kit in a long race.
    I will try and be a better human.
    Oh and while I am in confession, the young blokes in fashion trainers who start coastal half marathons at speed, and with confidence. I don’t judge them, I just wait till I pass them, very slowly.
    signed, Fat bird at the back.

    • James Clay says:

      I may not be as good as I thought then, because I also judge those people! The sprint/walkers I feel sorry for and wish I could take them to one side and discuss pacing. The jinglers, well they deserve to be publicly flogged! I hate being stuck next to someone making a racket as we run.

      I’m going straight to hell aren’t I?!

    • Jingly kit? Can’t be worse than 2 (usually) women who run at your pace and who gossip so loudly you know which of their friends and coworkers slept with whom! They usually run very, very slowly so they can keep gossiping.

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