The Unwritten Laws of Running

As a sub-category of the Law of the Sod, or at least as a relative of it, here are some until now unwritten, and certainly not complete, ‘laws’ which apply to runners (or at least mere mortal joggers like me):

The Law of Delusion – Five or six miles into a long Sunday morning run. Everything’s going well. Heart barely ticking over, legs don’t even realise they’re running, pace is brisk yet easy. Clearly today’s 15 miles will be no problem and you already consider extending it to 20 miles, maybe even the magical 26.2 of a marathon. The mind wanders further into the future… Ultramarathon running is clearly where you’re heading. It won’t be many months until you’re doing your first 100 miler. Then you get to 12 miles, just about manage to hobble through the last three which are absolute hell on earth, and vow to stick to shorter runs for the foreseeable future.

The Law of the Ignoramus (third person) – A beautiful day. You’re running well, bowling along at a steady pace, taking in the wonder of it all. The problems of the world simply don’t exist in the Utopian bubble of this magical run. You approach a figure walking towards you. As the gap closes to 15 metres you fix your gaze on this stranger. By 10 metres you can contain your enthusiasm no longer. “Good morning!” you blurt as a combined greeting and exclamation, and then you qualify it with, “Beautiful day!” before you’ve even passed. Five metres past the fellow human being you still await a response. By 10 metres past you would even have settled for a grunt of acknowledgement. But nothing. The complete ignoramus.

The Law of the Two Passing Cars – Quite simply, you are running along a country lane just wide enough for two cars to pass each other. One car approaches from behind, another from the opposing direction. There is only one place where they will meet and that is the exact spot at which they will both meet you. And next to the road at this spot is a drainage ditch, brambles or nettles (but most likely all three).

The Law of the Ignoramus (first person) – It’s beautiful day but you’re not running well. In fact today you’ve never got into your stride at all. The world maybe a wonderful place but today you wish to be somewhere else, somewhere like in front of the TV where your legs don’t hurt and your lungs are fully functioning. You barely notice the approaching figure walking towards you. As the gap closes to 15 metres you are aware of their presence and that this stranger is watching your awkward approach. By 10 metres you hear the enthusiastic greeting, “Good morning! Beautiful day!” It’s clearly neither good nor beautiful from your perspective. Five metres past this oh-so-happy-and-cheerful person, you are totally perplexed at how anyone could think such a thing as you plod along in discomfort. You manage a grunt in reply but it is indistinguishable from your  uneven and heavy breathing, and certainly not in a tongue recognised to anyone in our corner of the universe. You complete ignoramus.

The Law of the Guilty Thought – The ignoramus (third person) has just been passed. You are full of self-righteous indignation at how anybody could be so rude as to not return your cheerful bonhomie. Then you start to think. Maybe this person was deaf. Maybe they’d just suffered an unimaginable loss. And there was you, cursing their ignorance. Alternatively you have being the ignoramus (first person). Some 50 metres further on you start to consider that the person who greeted you was making a super-human effort to do so. Despite their own suffering (a terminal disease, a personal tragedy, redundancy – or even all three) this person was still able to be polite and see the wonder in the world. You on the other hand, just hammered another nail into the coffin of their self-esteem. The guilt remains with you for at least another 100 metres or so.

The Law of the Timid Looking Dog – It looks harmless because a) it’s not too big, b) it’s not too small, c)the owners look pleasantly middle class, d) it’s called ‘Jennifer’ or ‘Miffy’ or something else totally innocuous, e) it’s wearing a pink tartan coat, and, f) it’s on one of those extending leads rather than a heavy chain and three inch wide collar). The ‘cute’ little thing doesn’t even seem to glance at you as you approach. Of course, when you draw level, it launches itself at you, yapping, snarling, salivating, with the owner unable to restrain this deadly beast on the end of little more than a piece of string. You are put off your stride, maybe even stumble a little, but nothing is worst than the embarassment you feel to have been frightened by, as the owners put it, the ‘silly little billy’. You don’t stop to witness them give their pooch a cuddle but you make sure your comments about irresonsibility are loud enough to be heard as you continue on your way. (Note – The Law of the Guilty Thought should never be triggered by The Law of the Timid Looking Dog. Unless you intentionally kick the said beast.)

The Law of the Inconsiderate Traffic – You’re on for a PB on one of your regular routes. Just a couple of roads to cross and you’re home. Then you see the line of traffic. You are forced to stop for at least thirty seconds. Record attempt over. Conversely, you are desperately in need of a rest. You approach a major road junction and fully expect to have to take a traffic-enforced welcome break. Unfortunately, just at the precise moment you arrive, this particular road junction has never been as quiet since before the dawn of the automobile and you are forced to struggle on.

The above is, of course, not an exhaustive list of The Unwritten Laws of Running. Please feel free to comment and further develop this incomplete collection!


8 thoughts on “The Unwritten Laws of Running

  1. I would add the Law of the Inconsiderate Pedestrian, that states that when two or more pedestrians are walking towards you abreast of each other, taking up the entire pavement, and you can clearly be seen approaching, they will NEVER fall into single file to allow you to pass, but will instead force you to run out into the road or press yourself into the hedge so that they can continue to hog the whole pavement. Not that I’m bitter or anything 😉

  2. Ahhhh, but where you’re going wrong is by moving….

    It’s amazing how many Eastern Europeans and chavs (nothing racist, this is how my home town is) move very quickly when they realise I haven’t slowed down, I haven’t deviated from my course AND my elbows are sticking out slightly…

  3. Absolutely brilliant! I would have to add to law of the inconsiderate gaggle of teenage girls. Groups of 3 or more teenage girls will be walking along the pavement, walking side by side, taking up the whole of said pavement. They will see you approaching, at speed, look at you approaching, at speed, maybe even acknowledge you approaching, at speed, then proceed to do bugger all so you have to leap out into the road to get around them or take my preferred approach of smashing into them whilst screaming MOVE in their faces!

  4. Then there is the rule for new runners who are a little lacking in confidence and would rather not be seen by everyone until they have worked out just how to run without looking like a total plank.

    No matter how early you get up or how late you leave it to run, or how isolated the location is, there will always pass someone who you know and they will laugh at you.

  5. Those little white Scottie dogs – the worst, ankles savaged twice over the years by them.

    Tegan – so agree with you about teenage girls! I was getting to end of a six miler (amazing for me) and was shattered, they made some rude comment and with the last breath in me I managed to drag out ” and if you maybe got out and ran a bit you wouldn’t be so fat” … then realised there were four of them and it was a dodgy part of town. Managed an almost sprint for the last part home!!

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