Training and motivation

The Perils of Running in Public – My Top 5

crop Messy Runner on a Sunday morning

The launch of ‘This Girl Can‘ was a triumph for trying to combat anxieties about being seen getting a sweat on in public. It’s something I get, having been through that tortuousness as a teenager. But when I got to my mid-twenties, I realised that resolve is everything. And celebrating your health through exercising with gusto is even more.

My biggest tip to the sweatyness shy? Look like you mean it, etch that determination on your face, and everything else will follow.

Beyond embracing my public perspiration, since I’ve been regularly running 3/4 times a week in public, I’ve discovered the perils that come with it. Some more so than others. Here are my Top 5 Perils of Running in Public – please feel free to add more to these in the comments below.

1. Other pedestrians
I’m sorry my fellow pavementeers, t’is ye who feature first in this countdown, and here’s why. Never have I encountered more disdain when out running than from other pedestrians. And not to discount the lovely, considerate of you out there. But there are those countless people I’ve met who will a) barely register your sweat-streaked existence or b) refuse to shift over just a little, hold onto their mutts, or shuffle themselves into single file for just a few seconds so you don’t have to lurch into a traffic-laden road. Oddly enough, being forced to face my own mortality is my biggest public running bugbear.

Yes, I may be travelling faster than you in my heinous, obnoxious display of pseudo-fitness, but I am but running. I am still a fleshly, blood-filled being just like you. Being a runner doesn’t suddenly enable me to take on traffic, scale protruding buildings a la Spiderman, or soar like a sooped-up base jumper over your head (though man, if I could…). I am a 5 foot 2″ human girl; I am not a Transformer.

2. Crossing and running on roads
This requires alertness, technique and experience, and asks as much of the runner as it does the driver. As with number 1 I’ve come across many thoughtful motorists who encourage me to pelt on (suspect many of them were runners/running sympathisers). I try to avoid breaking my pace. Jogging on the spot just about covers it, but contemplating a full halt? Nooo, I won’t, I can’t! I’d rather squiggle. So I end up squiggling until I can cross over without peril. I just figure that the most important thing, with anything involving anyone else, is to make yourself as visible as possible. Even if it means top-to-toe fluoro and semaphore. Yes.

3. Remembering to smile and be gracious
Not alarming members of the public of all shapes, ages and sizes with your puffity breathing, wide-eyed efforts and (my) traffic light red face is something I strive for. Especially when there is a great huge chunk of society who just simply doesn’t understand why a person would want to run in the first place. I’ve found that a thumbs up on the way past, and a cheery thanks for stopping/ acknowledging me by steering your dog over, goes a long way. Smiling, on the other hand, can be met with some confusion. I think sometimes I must’ve pitched my smile a bit weirdly; people just think I’m in pain. Or struggling with wind. But it’s good to persevere.

4. Seeing people you know
– Especially if they’re not even a tenth as sweaty and lycra-clad as you, and you’re going to be seeing them at work in, oh, half an hour or so. My ruse is to adopt a similar method as in number 3, but with an extra jot of, ‘Look at me, I’m in my element!’. And grinning manically. Oh, and speeding up a bit so you can get your image out of their head as swiftly as possible.

5. AND..other pedestrians
It really is my biggest public running bugbear. A meaty, bear-sized bug. 🙂


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