08 March 2009

Animals I / social animals

I kinda started the blog in order to add some interest to my runs. I now find myself trying a little to spice up the blog with a semi-permanent theme/riff, which will be: London's animals. Not actual animals, mind - just its permanent (or semi-permanent) fauna. I've observed a lot of these in the last few weeks whilst running around the place and they should make for good sport. They tend to be rather unusual creatures - often carnivorous, rarely native to these shores and sometimes not even real. To get us kicked off, let's move from the sublime (the WWI Royal Air Force memorial, completed in 1923):

to the rather more prosaic:

On a different note, following this article in the Guardian recently about how runners rarely acknowledge each other, I tried an experiment. It was a genuinely beautiful sunny day today, and I felt no difficulty in summoning up a cheery smile and "good morning" for all the runners that I passed. Given that I went on a 10 mile run (West along the North Bank of the Thames to Battersea, then back along the South), there were plenty of people to greet.

It rapidly became apparent that the running community is indeed miserable. After the first few people, I learned that the best hope of a response was to make eye contact around 20 yards before passing the next runner, followed by a nod of the head (15 yards) and then finally the aforementioned "morning" (3-5 yards). Even this resulted in maybe only a 15% acknowledgement rate (and half of those were women who looked at me like I was some kind of molester).

I think the bottom line is this. Many runners listen to MP3 players and thus don't greet anyone at all. Many women are afraid that interacting with strangers is an open invitation for abuse. Greeting runners is a bit arbitrary anyway - why only say hi to them whilst ignoring every other pedestrian that one passes? And finally, I suspect that many runners don't enjoy their pastime very much and do it for reasons of virtue rather than enjoyment - they simply aren't in the mood for interaction. All of which is a shame. I am minded to continue in my efforts to greet people from now on, despite their lack of enthusiasm, in a one-man effort to... dunno... something, anyway.


  1. umm, rhetorical question aside... "be the change you wish to see in the world" came to mind.... great blog....:))

  2. Try running outside the capital! I run regularly in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where normal practice is for runners to acknowledge one another (I was once high-fived at the top of a steep hill by a total stranger). Whenever I come to London I spend the first couple of miles saying "hi", just as I would at home, until the strain of having people look at me as if I'm a raving nutter starts to tell, and I finish training in slightly depressed isolation... I really do think it's more of a London thing. Of course, I've also been propositioned by octogenarians while running in Cornwall, but that's another story... great blog and good luck with the marathon.

  3. Totally, it's Londoners that are unfriendly, not runners. I run in Bristol, always greet other runners / dog walkers / drunks lumbering about. As I run through a park, people out of range often just wave. Come running down here, it's lovely!