I’ve been running on and off since I was eleven years old. I’m now thirty so thats a fair amount of time and there is one thing that has never changed. The people who insist on shouting stupid things at you as you run by, usually from the safety of their own car. I don’t think I was as aware of it when I was a teenager but then I usually had my father or brother accompanying me on their bikes. Maybe that pout off the hecklers. As I’ve got older though I seem to have become more of a target for these people.
It doesn’t really bother me too much, being shouted at. I use this banter as motivation in a ‘you can’t beat me’ mentality, my competitive streak kicks in. The comments are usually benign too. For example ‘Run Forest Run’ or ‘Run Rabbit Run’. Obviously I am dealing with originality from this type of heckler. It’s usually harmless and is often followed by a smile and a laugh. There have been occasions though when it has been more sinister.
‘Bet you’re a good shag love’. Delightful, what a great thing to shout at a lone female runner. These men are the reason I only run in daylight and never run with earphones. ‘Oi sexy’. Believe me if you came closer and saw the sweat patches the last thing you’d be thinking is sexy. ‘Slag’. Ok now we’re into just pure nastiness.
I’ve had boys jump into my path. I’ve had groups of people force me to run into oncoming traffic because they refuse to move over on the path a bit. I’ve had a car door swung open into my path on the pavement, and I know they had seen me coming. I’ve even had a cyclist in Welsh Team cycling gear tell me to ‘Get out the way you fucking slag’, as I ran across the road well out of their way. Cyclists I was surprised by because they’re usually complaining about the bad treatment they receive from car drivers.
Now the banter and the silly comments I can ignore. What I don’t understand is where this malice and vitriol directed at a complete stranger running quietly by themselves comes from. The other night I was running up a hill and a group of lads in a car thought it was clever to shout and scream at me. I jumped out of my skin, nearly tripping over into the road. I could hear them laughing as they sped off. Funny for them but potentially dangerous for me. I got over it and used it as further motivation for my run. A less experienced female runner might have been put off which isn’t fair.
So drivers and pedestrians, if you see me or another runner pounding the pavements getting fit or training for a race, don’t shout or jeer us, just nod and wish us well on our way.