Just a running joke

snowing on the Rummelsburger Ufer

Lovely day for a picnic, Carruthers!

Today, as I quite often do on a Sunday, I went for a jog. Once a week I like to do something exercise-y that doesn’t involve being in the grey, technopop confines of the gym – but for a very long time I was too anxious to go running or do any exercise outdoors. I was too ashamed and worried about what people would do and say to me as a female runner out in public; particularly as one who was neither athletic-looking nor adult-looking at all.

These days I just don’t care as much about what people might think of me, which frees me up for the unspeakable luxury of running outdoors, but my fears and anxieties were far from unfounded. Running outdoors while being female seems to arouse impulsive, uncontrollable behaviours from onlookers and passers-by. Behaviours which, as my experience today proved, are exacerbated manyfold when you are running while being female in the snow. Now, it may not be untrue to say that anyone who runs in the snow is a maniac to begin with, but the anthropological fallout of this action is fascinating. Let’s take a look at some of the main experiences you can enjoy if you too would like to have a go at Running While Female.

People suddenly running alongside you as a hilarious joke

Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often but when it does, it is a doozie. Today the unlucky subject was a very lithe, tall blonde woman who was jogging along when a random dude spontaneously broke into a trot beside her chanting ‘Woo yeah, strong lady, Woo!’ I mean…yes, she was a strong lady, woo yeah, but is running really so hilarious that you have to mimic the woman and make her feel thoroughly freaked out at the same time? Spontaneously running alongside someone is the ‘following someone down an alleyway’ of sports.

Belligerently standing right in front of the runner, legs apart, like a grouchy bouncer

Oddly enough, it is mostly old ladies that do this one. It’s especially effective and prevalent during snowy days, when the path is narrow and it’s evidently more satisfying to stop dead in front of the runner with the uncompromising grimace of a Super Mario thwomp. Again, why is this? Do female runners incense older women, who feel that they are being exhibitionists about their desires to be fit? Do we seem smug, superior, possibly presumptuous in our desire to use the path rather than the road? Because honestly guys, we aren’t thinking about how we own the path or how much better we are than you; really we aren’t thinking about anything much at all, beyond the key concern of not falling on our arse, which eventuality you are rendering likely. So please. Can we have some solidarity, girls among girls, and can you let us both continue our trajectory to wherever we might be going? Cheers.

Yelling stuff

A favourite with men. I am certain that other women who run receive all kinds of interesting announcements regarding their sex appeal and/or junk re: trunk. Since I tend to run in old joggers and either a shapeless fleece or a t-shirt with a hamster riding a moped on it, and since I look rather like a hamster myself, the stuff people tend to yell is less sexual and more…surreal. Stuff like ‘NICE SHORTS!!’, or ‘Left right left right left right!!’, or simply ‘Hallo! HALLO!!’, as if I might be inclined to just stop for a moment and have a delightful chat with the tossers sitting on the park bench.

Deliberately doing that thing where you’re in like a corridor or something and the other person goes the same way as you and then you both go the other way and then the first way again and you end up doing an awkward little dance

Does it look like I am in the mood for office-style japes? No.

Just glaring at you.

Worrying numbers of people (mostly old people) just glare at you. Glare at you with the full hatred and white-hot fury of a lightning bolt delivered by satan. Glare at you so violently that their eyes become colourless with rage. Generally they will stop what they are doing and actually turn their whole bodies to watch you as you go by, practically evaporating with the energy of how much they detest you. Again, why is this? I do not get the sense that male joggers elicit such disapproval.

What I mean to say, via all this rambling, is that I empathise with the anxious old me who didn’t want to exercise in public. Women doing stuff in public – be it jogging, having a coffee, taking a photo, anything beyond neutrally transiting from one location to another – have the stuff they are doing interpreted as a kind of universal icebreaker by the rest of the world. People will address you about what you are doing; they will deliberately get in your way or try to annoy you like one’s baby brother; they might try to touch you or tell you their opinions on what you are doing or what you look like. Sometimes they might do something racy like throw drinks in your face (yup, while I was on my bike). I’m almost certain that a lot of what I get is also due to the fact that I look extremely young, and therefore kindof vulnerable and easily tease-able when walking down the street somewhere by myself. It’s hilarious to make a girl flustered.

Maybe it is hilarious. Or maybe young people are arrogant and privileged these days which is why older people need to teach them a lesson. If any of this is true, the people who believe it are welcome to write a blog of their own about it or create some abstract collages to express how they feel. But it isn’t acceptable for them to hassle real life human beings who just want to have a jog. We’re running for ourselves; we’re not running to be a spectacle with which you can or should interact. We are not inviting your company and we are barely having a good time evenĀ before you start to make life difficult and unnerving for us. Please, people on the street: let women run, and let runners be women. Don’t scare me back into going to the gym.

Rose T