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A better class of heckle

June 16, 2013

Turning a final corner on the canal, my heart sank. A stag do. A group of men celebrating one last night of freedom, shouty and boisterous, and already steaming drunk. This could only mean one thing.

Run in a city and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get heckled. For some reason, runners attract a lot of attention from bored yoofs and drunks. Sure, it’s probably something to do with the lurid attire, but there’s more to it than that.

Since moving to London, I’ve had to get used to the joyless interactions with non-runners. Dodging projectiles on bonfire night, brushing off a barrage of obscenities from rabid pre-teens, hoping that the spitball noisily hawked from a nearby bridge was mis-aimed, breath held against the booze-and-fag fug of boisterous pavement drinkers.

So, running along the Oxford canal, spying a gaggle of boozed up men spilling over the towpath and bickering with a canal-boat owner, I braced myself for the impending onslaught.

‘Runner – high five!’ Shouted a man in a luminous-trim sailor’s costume.

What’s the worst that can happen, I thought charitably. Sweaty palm-slap dispensed with, all I could hear was calls of ‘High five!’ amongst the stag group as they took turns to high-five each other.

Heading through Oxford city centre, I crossed the road by Martyr’s Memorial – where yoofs tend to hang out when they’ve nothing better to do. Behind me I heard someone yell out ‘Come on Wycombe’ which I – belatedly – realised was aimed at me (I was wearing a Wycombe Half-marathon race tshirt).

Back in North Oxford and close to the office, I was feeling good and started the wind-up for the end of the run. A bus was just pulling away from a bus stop and – as you do – I gave it my best shot to keep pace with the bus (a very short-lived sprint!). As my legs were starting to burn, I heard a thumping from the windows at the top of the bus. A group of kids were banging the glass, clapping and cheering me on. It didn’t help – I was spent – but waved them thanks nonetheless.

It’s nice to be reminded every now and then that people shouting at runners aren’t always obnoxious.

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