I’ve run in the streets and (mostly) parks of London a few times now, and I enjoy being able to do so after or before a day’s work. Running in Regent’s park (especially the quieter northern paths) is very pleasant and quite good for speed intervals, it being nice and flat. There are however some things that I haven’t particularly enjoyed, such as having to choose between playing chicken with a bus and charging a crowd of commuters, or doing my cool down run in a cloud of exhaust fumes (especially lovely when your lungs have engaged and you are breathing really deeply!)
But there is something infinitely worse prowling the streets and running lanes of the capital, and the realisation only dawned on me this week: It is a pandemic of unfriendliness affecting all runners!
As I have mentioned before I’m the kind of person who, crossing paths with another runner, will give them a little friendly nod or other such gesture of comradly acknowledgment. On quiet roads I extend this to cyclists and anyone else labouring under some similar self-inflicted physical punishment. In Athens I go so far as to raise a hand in greeting, as such is the custom in those parts.
You will understand my disappointment then, dear reader, when it finally dawned on me that in London all of my attempts to acknowledge my brothers and sisters in sweat were in vain! I think it really struck home when the last person I extended a comradely nod to, not just ignored it, but actually turned their nose up!
I don’t know why I’m so surprised; after all such behaviour only confirms the stereotype of unfriendly Londoners who don’t make eye contact with strangers (one night stands must be awkward affairs in the Smog!), but I suppose I was saddened to realise that this applied to runners as well. For a community that will always comment on the enthusiasm and friendliness of spectators in races to be so discourteous to each other, is a very sad state of affairs indeed!
So what do I do? Do I conform to the attitudes of London runners and ignore anyone I come across, looking only ahead? Do I respond to their unfriendliness with a forbidding countenance of my own (made all the more grotesque by my wild gaze, permanent look of agony and disheveled beard)? Or do I continue to act like the country boy in the big city and naively persist in giving other runners a cheery little nod? Have your say below: