Tonky Talk

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue - BY PAUL TONKINSON

Paul hates run­ners; then he loves them. Weirdo

Reg­u­lar read­ers will know an es­sen­tial truth about me. I love run­ners. All shapes, all speeds, all sizes. I don’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate in my ad­mi­ra­tion for any­one who laces up their train­ers and sets forth into the world with a de­sire to get fit, run faster, feel bet­ter. It’s all good. But I’m hu­man, so I’m im­per­fect and so are other run­ners. That means they oc­ca­sion­ally an­noy me. So I’ve con­structed a list of run­ners who get on my nerves dur­ing races.

First up, ‘ the breathers’. This includes every­one, of course, but I’m talk­ing about that throaty breath­ing, the type that makes you worry for the sur­vival of the breather while si­mul­ta­ne­ously mak­ing you want to throw them into a river. If you catch sight of a breather’s face, their eyes are usu­ally fixed at a point on the dis­tant hori­zon and they run as if be­ing chased by wolves. Each breath is ac­com­pa­nied by man­gled phrases, bizarre ut­ter­ances, ap­peals to deities. I know it’s un­rea­son­able of me but this be­hav­iour falls un­der the cat­e­gory of ‘show­boat­ing’. We’re all knack­ered, af­ter all. The un­kind thought comes to mind that maybe they could put a sock in it. This group con­tin­ues to an­noy me af­ter the race, when they can usu­ally be found scream­ing ‘ Yes!’ re­peat­edly, clench­ing their fist and hold­ing their Garmin aloft. I know I’m be­ing very un­char­i­ta­ble and I swear that I don’t envy run­ners’ suc­cess – but can you not cel­e­brate pri­vately? (The only ad­van­tage of run­ning in the same race as a breather is that they of­ten spur you on to faster times in a bid to es­cape their tor­tured bel­low­ing.)

Af­ter un­justly slam­ming one group of run­ners, whose only crime is to try too hard, I turn my twisted at­ten­tion to a group who don’t try hard enough – the run­ners who, midrace, ex­u­ber­antly thank the mar­shal or vol­un­teer in a loud and cheery voice. Ev­ery time. Ev­ery mar­shal. Now this isn’t to say I’m not thank­ful to the vol­un­teers who make rac­ing pos­si­ble. Their de­vo­tion in all weath­ers is hum­bling. It’s just that I’m of­ten too knack­ered to show it. But I’m grate­ful. In fact, I’m just as grate­ful as the run­ner who shouts. Therein lies my prob­lem: for ev­ery ‘Thank you!’ hurled in the mar­shal’s di­rec­tion I feel a hissed ‘ You didn’t say “Thank you”’ di­rected at me. I feel judged, even though I my­self am full of judge­ment. And then I think, ‘If they’re so full of beans, why are they rac­ing at my level when they have the en­ergy to run faster?’

Who else? Oh yes, run­ners who try to over­take me in the chute for the fin­ish stick in my craw. This is a car­di­nal sin for me.

I have more: other run­ners who ex­press dis­ap­point­ment at my time. It’s my time. I earned it. The only re­ac­tion to any time is a hearty ‘ Well done!’ If I want to di­min­ish it, I will, then we can all pile in.

An­other group who get my goat are new­bies who are faster than I am. Now this is ut­terly ir­ra­tional. I have to ac­cept that cer­tain run­ners an­noy me be­cause they are younger, have run loads less and are faster than I am. But they of­ten have heart-rate mon­i­tors and are wear­ing com­pres­sion socks, which in­ten­si­fies my mo­men­tary dis­dain.

Over­stretch­ers an­noy me. I get it. You’re flex­i­ble. Run­ners who warm down wind me up, too, be­cause I used to be able to do that and now I’m too tired and look­ing for the chippy. Run­ners who want to talk too much dur­ing a race an­noy me, but so do run­ners who ig­nore me when I talk to them.

As you can see, I’m con­fused. Once the race is done I love every­one again, even the ‘ Yes!’ run­ners, when they’ve calmed down. The race is where we come to­gether, but thank good­ness I can train alone.

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