Community Spirit

I often see people talking about the running community, usually when something awful has happened and the running community pulls together. Or something. Is there such a thing as a community of runners, though? Let’s see. If you look at any ethnic community, they share a number of characteristics between themselves and others which differentiate them from an outgroup. Careful, there may be other misapplied sociological terms to follow. It doesn’t really matter though, because it’s only sociology. It’s not as if it’s anything important.

So, let’s begin with some things we share with one another as runners. We tend to have a shared set of values which boil down to how you answer the question “Are you a runner?” Runners tend to answer “Yes, of course I’m a bloody runner! Didn’t you see that last rep? It was fucking awesome! Now bugger off and get me a bucket, I need to be sick.” Non-runners say “No.” Runners run. That’s about it. If you run then you’re accepted into the sweaty, heaving, ill-smelling and slightly queasy bosom of the community, no questions asked. Well, not once everyone else has found out about your PBs and whether you’re in the ballot for London this year. We’re an accepting lot.

Any ethnic community worth its place on the Equalities Commission has its own food. Runners are no different. Cyclists may claim to share some of the bounty from our table and generally speaking we let them. Don’t forget however that cycling is basically cheating and you can’t trust a cyclist further than you can spit one. So, we allow them to share our gels, that beetroot juice stuff that makes your wee look like you have a urinary tract infection, and cake. However, you should note that cyclists will stop for tea and buns mid work-out and because cycling is basically cheating (see above) and they don’t feel as sick as dogs as soon as they get going again. It’s so unfair. We have protein shakes for after the run none of which contain anything remotely hookey and none of which work better than a glass of milk straight from the cow. It’s usually less effort to open the fridge and have a glass of semi-skimmed, pasteurised than to head off to the cow-shed and persuade Ermintrude to oblige so that’s what we do.

We have a common language of reps and efforts, fartleks and parlaufs, the Wall and the Half, the Ultra, spikes and tempos and it’s mutually intelligible with the language of other closely related sports. If you speak Spanish, you could probably understand some Portuguese. German speakers might be able to cope with Dutch. So, cyclists don’t hit the Wall – unless they don’t watch where they’re going – they bonk. Runners bonk too, of course, but we have the decency to bonk in the privacy of our own homes not outdoors like some filthy, tiring dogger. The further you go from running, the less intelligible the termimology. A runner would wear a tee, for example and not think about putting a ball on it. That, ladies and gentlemen is proof that golf isn’t really a sport and is more of a blight on society. And fashion.

Any community has splits and schisms and these can result in Holy Wars where the disagreements are serious enough. Some of us who run around in bare feet like our African ancestors feel all smug and self-righteous whenever anyone in a pair of Hoka One-Ones falls over or has a pain in the bollocks. We’re runners but we’re only human. That vague but meaningful feeling of spiritual connection with the earth is only slightly spoiled by thistles, sharp rocks and turds hidden in long grass. Meanwhile, some runners in shoes insist on pointing out the thistles, sharp rocks and turds hidden in the long grass. Then there’s Chi Runners, POSE runners, happy heel-strikers, joggers, plodders, Slow Runners (think Slow Foodies but sweatier), track queens, hard men of the road and those bloody weirdos up north who do fell running. Still we’re just one big, mostly happy and highly dysfunctional family.

Every minority community faces abuse of one kind or another from the majority, usually the drunk and stupid portions of the majority. Which runner hasn’t had some pissed-up twat fall out of a pub and shout “Run, Forrest, run!” after them? Or someone chase them down the street, heaving chips and yells at them between drags on their fags. That last one is probably only me. Some of my female friends have it much worse but that’s a whole other and much more serious post. This is Sunday night silliness, after all.

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