If you feel the need to comment on someone running: Just don’t.

me from chest up in green running top, purple headband looking a little bemused and tired
Me after today’s 5 miles

I have been meaning to blog for the last couple of weeks but I’ve been busy with work and life and general stuff. I have also been running. Yes, I am actually really pleased with how things are going really. As long as I don’t compare myself to Dopey fit Jess or the Jess Jess thinks Jess should be now… right here in the moment, now, it’s going well. Today is actually an example of that. I ran/walked 5 miles without any kind of drama on my part. I just did it. I ran the one minute segments where they fell, including the hills. I chose a route that had some pulls in so I don’t get used to just running on the flat. Nothing major but not flat flat. I was more than 3 miles in before I even really started to think about the one minute runs. I had a couple of little ‘oh I could turn off here and the route would be flatter’ moments and after the 3 miles I had a couple of ‘eek, I’m going to have to run that slope’ thoughts. I was also thinking about how I was quite slow really… but overall I was just out there doing my thing without really thinking about it. Without really thinking about anything at all. And then, at roughly 3.5 miles I was reminded that the world is full of arseholes and thing spiralled from there. So let me be clear, compared to so many other women I have been incredibly lucky. I have actually had very few comments while out running, I have had no really scary incidents, just one or two slightly uncomfortable ones and most of the abuse shouted at me over the years is so predictable it’s actually just boring. I also haven’t had any such incidents for ages and ages. But today they all came at once.

Me by the canal in the sun having just had my haircut with my running pack on
Me after a pre-haircut run

The first was actually well meaning I think. Misguided but well intentioned. 2 women, probably in their 20s ran past me. They were going a bit faster than me but not that much and they told me to keep going, the weight will drop off in no time and it will get easier. I honestly think they thought they were being helpful. But here’s the thing, it’s not helpful. Commenting on someone’s weight is never helpful. Assuming that someone is running to lose weight (I’m not) is never helpful. The whole comment was so full of assumptions – that I want to lose weight (not my focus, might happen with increased fitness, might not), that I’m new to running (nope), that I want to get faster (would be lovely but this wasn’t a speed session, so not my focus today), that I am struggling (I wasn’t really, I was happily doing my run/walk thing), that it gets easier (ahem, hmmm, nope – different maybe but not easier. I just go further as I get fitter and of course there are the glorious runs where everything comes togethers… but easier? Nope). Anyway, that bounced along and out of sight and I carried on mildly irritated.

Picture of me and Kath on our drive on New Years morning in running gear
Our new year run

The second one was also, I hope, well intentioned but oh so very very misguided. A male runner, anywhere between 20 and 30 was coming from behind me and as he reached me fell in step with me. Men, please don’t do this. Men, please especially don’t do this when the news is full of reports that less than 2 weeks ago a woman was murdered while out running along a canal in broad daylight. It’s actually just really scary. This guy informed me he was a PT (my university teaching brain tried to work out why he would be telling me that he is a personal tutor) and that he could help me. Running, he mansplained, would come easier with weight loss. I just said ‘I don’t need help’. And yes I was wondering whether I would be strong enough to push him into the canal if this whole PT business was nonsense. But as I muttered ‘Fuck off’ under my breath and fell into my walk break, he went on his way. I heard the 4 mile beep and was so tempted to stop and call it close enough but as I hadn’t taken any crap from my own silly brain so far and had kept the doubts at bay I really didn’t see why I should be de-railed by people who just need to learn to shut the fuck up.

Headshot of me by the Leeds Liverpool canal in the winter sun
Me after a lovely canal run

So I carried on past the canal bridge and towards a couple in their late teen/early twenties. I could see them giggling and sniggering from a little way off. As I got in earshot, she said ‘I’d be so embarrassed if I looked like that’ (or something like that). He replied with something equally vile (or worse) about how we wouldn’t be with her if she looked like that. As I got level he said I should run in the dark because nobody wants to see ‘that’. I’m not quite sure what ‘that’ is and his hand gestures were unclear (wish mine hadn’t been). I didn’t react. I just went past them. I could hear them laughing as I ran on. I didn’t take the next walk break, afraid that if I did I might not be able to hold back the tears. How dare they. But then I remembered that they don’t matter. If they don’t want to see a fat lass running they can shut their eyes. As I plodded my remaining quarter mile or so I tried to put them out of my mind but I haven’t quite managed it. As so many have commented on my original facebook post about this, I shouldn’t give them another thought. And maybe once I have posted this, I won’t. Those comments won’t stop me running, or stop me running that route, or stop me running on my own. To me, at this point in my life and my running journey they are fairly inconsequential. They upset me a bit earlier, they made me a bit angry on behalf of all of us who just want to go for a run and be left to it and they have left me a bit bemused by this seemingly quite widespread need to comment on other people’s bodies and how we chose to move them. So now it’s my turn to give some unsolicited advice: If you feel the need to say anything other than a simple ‘well done’ when you see someone out running, swallow hard. Just concentrate on keeping your mouth shut and before you know it you will have overtaken them, or passed them or they will have passed you. Go on, you can do it. It gets easier.

Oh and you’ll note that none of the pictures of ‘that’ (me) out on runs this January are in the dark… because I don’t like running the dark. If that bothers you, you might want to try reading a different blog.

picture is of Dopey the dwarf with caption 'I am who I am. Your approval is not needed'
A reminder

3 thoughts on “If you feel the need to comment on someone running: Just don’t.

  1. Well intentioned, ill judged or nasty comments seem to be a thing that comes with running and I fail to understand it but it’s something that it seems we all confront in today’s ‘comment’ society.

    I’m fortunate that I’m an angry looking man with a potty mouth but not everyone is so ‘blessed’. All you can do is keep going – when my partner gets abuse or advice or whatever from strangers – I say the only answer is to keep doing what you’re doing. Being affected by their comments gives credit to something that has no value – but of course it’s easier said than done.

    Was sad to read this post but I, and I’m sure the wider running community, appreciate you writing about it. Sharing these experiences allow us to shine a light on attitudes that need more consideration.

    Like

  2. I’m so sorry that happened to you! Those are all horrible experiences but I am glad you kept on!
    I once went on a run with colleagues (who were much faster than me) during a lunch break. I was just trying to enjoy myself and keep up and the girl who was running next to me cheerfully told me “I am so glad you are here because I’m injured and need to slow down – matching your pace has really helped me to slow down!”. I don’t know if it’s a lack of empathy, social skills, or what but even those “well meaning” comments can really take the wind out of your sails.

    Like

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