This is probably a bit of a controversial post but it’s been playing on my mind so I thought I’d go for it:
I like to think that as a runner I’m respectful of everyone who uses the paths and roads, whether they are pedestrians, dog walkers, fellow runners, drivers or cyclists. I would never expect anyone to get out of my way. I would never shout at someone to jump out of my path. The only time I think it’s appropriate to do that is if you are at a track where there is an expected etiquette. Hear ‘TRACK’ shouted at the track and you either stay still or jump out of the way. Out on the roads though? To me that’s different. Non runners shouldn’t be expected to know about ‘runner’ etiquette and we are all sharing the tarmac.
About a month ago I had a taste of what was explained to me as ‘urban running’. Now I thought any running in any city or town is urban. I was born and brought up in London and I’ve lived in Cardiff so I’ve done a far share of running in cities. People hear me say Wales and think I’ve never run along a street before but apparently urban running isn’t as simple as that. I followed a group of other runners during a group activity and experienced ‘urban running’. I can’t honestly say I was impressed because it went something like this:
Shouting at pedestrians to get out of the way.
Running across the path of drivers sitting in traffic without a great deal of attention.
Jumping out into the road in front of a taxi driver who had clear right of way, endangering themselves and the driver.
I followed the runners but I didn’t whole heartedly join in because it baffled me, felt wrong and I couldn’t actually believe it was happening. Cardiff Parkrun was almost cancelled a couple of years ago because fellow park users were unhappy with the runners and running behaviour like this just gives all runners a bad name. It presents us as being selfish, obnoxious and a little bit arrogant.
I love running but I don’t go running so that I can behave like a bit of a twat. Running doesn’t mean I’m better than anyone else. As runner’s we are privileged to see the world in a slightly different way to everyone else on the roads and pavements, but it doesn’t give us more rights. I don’t want to frighten people and I don’t want to cause drivers to almost have a heart attack from the fear of almost knocking over a pedestrian. If I thought that the way I was running was of concern to other people I think I’d be mortified.
So that was my one taste of ‘urban running’. I don’t know if it was misrepresented to me or that I didn’t understand it, but what happened that evening did not make me want to experience running like that again. It could be that living where I am in South Wales has spoilt me a bit for quiet trails and empty paths but I have run along busy roads in Cardiff and London and never felt the need to do any of the things I’ve described above. I think we do all run to be free in some way but, in this runner’s humble opinion, that shouldn’t negate our safety or that of other runners and non runners around us.