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100-mile challenge: Week 6

December 4, 2011

So, I could just write about how I’ve had a six-day working week, and how three of those days have involved travelling around the country, and how this has consequently curtailed my running time. I could even sound remarkably worthy by insisting that despite this, I managed to squeeze in seven runs, albeit shorter than originally planned, thereby running a lot but missing my mileage target by a fairly sizeable chunk.

I’m not going to, though. No, I’m going to write about how I’ve spent most of the week being shouted at by strangers while running.

In central London, people don’t tend to speak to strangers – and certainly not runners – although they reserve a certain level of scorn reserved only for when you happen to not get immediately the hell out of the way while they’re marching obliviously down the pavement texting or reading their Kindle. So, running back into Holborn after the usual evening run along the banks of the Thames, I was a little taken aback to hear a man shout ‘Run Forrest, Run’.

I wasn’t so taken aback that someone was shouting. No, I was taken aback that the man had no better frame of cultural reference than a Tom Hanks film from 1994. He might as well have shouted a line from Big and be done with it. I felt like shouting a witty retort, but opted for a strong finish in the final stretch back to the office.

And then, during a tempo run round the dark streets of Oxford, I found myself running just in front of a man on a bike. ‘Good running style’ he called out, ‘but try to relax your shoulders.’ ‘Thanks’ I called back, shaking my arms in an attempt to loosen my shoulders, followed by spending the remaining run trying to remember to avoid tensing my shoulders as I pushed the pace. What a helpful man, I thought.

And so to Saturday, after a filming session in Clacton-on-Sea, I decided to head for a run before driving back to London. Clacton has a nice flat promenade that stretches out along the Essex coastline, and since it was still light it would have been a shame to leave it un-run. Heading out with the North Sea wind at my back I saw a few other runners. However, the sight of someone running was clearly something of a shock for the yoof of Clacton.

I passed one group of teens, for one of them to shout out ‘doosh doosh doosh’ in time with my footfall. Not insulting, not helpful, a bit weird, but if that’s what keeps you out of trouble, I thought, then fine.

Turning back and with the full force of the North Sea wind in my face, I passed another group of kids. Now, the wind was strong and blustering in my ears, so I can’t be certain of what was shouted. It was either ‘Push it’, which isn’t inconceivable, or ‘You’re looking shit’, which also isn’t inconceivable. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s the former.

Then, with a couple of miles remaining, I passed another small gaggle of youngsters. ‘Run doggy’ came the call. I shook my head mournfully to myself and pressed on back to the car.

So, what’s to be learnt from this? Any conclusions to be drawn about regional stereotypes? Not really. I think all I’ve learnt is that the last quotable film to feature running was in 1994. Until another comes along, runners will be stuck with either nonsensical cat-calls or outdated jokes as they train in urban areas. And I think we can all look forward to that day…

And, if you’re interested, I ran a total of 52 miles versus my goal of 70. Bah humbug.

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