Reader’s column: It’s a runner’s world provides a forum for readers to share their unique views and talents. This week our reader columnist is Pavla Tolonen, 23, a London-based journalism graduate from Finland, she ponders why people rain on runners’ parades

Growing up in a home where sports, politics and exhibitionism were considered cringe-worthy, sacrilegious acts against intelligent behaviour, it seemed almost deliciously defiant to run a mile a day, attempt to outwit Nietzsche, or star in a half-hearted, teenage cabaret. The latter two were never entirely sustainable for me; my mother insisted that the 30-minute, end-of-year school productions were simply “amateur-esque”, and that post-war irony was so far from my grasp I hardly knew it existed. Sport, however, I could tackle.

And so, in a natural, yet ridiculous, unconscious mode of rebellion I started running. I’d run five, ten, 20 kilometres, I never considered it scandalous, yet the more I ran the more I was mocked. “Oh, you’re one of those sporty types,” I was often told with a snarl. Completely disregarding my passion for chunky political biographies, people had apparently sussed me out. How utterly confusing this false imagery of opposites had become, I thought. Surely people were more open-minded than that.

Speeding up at the end of a particularly successful run, however, I was confronted by two very different approaches to outdoor runners. As I prepared to sprint the last leg of my run, I heard a cheer from across the street – a young man carrying a gym bag gave me a thumbs-up and yelled: “Good job!” I was momentarily elated by the thought of one stranger so openly cheering on another.

Twenty seconds later, now fully sprinting and inwardly giggling about spontaneous notions of joie-de-vivre, I passed another, much more egregious man. “Don’t hurt yourself love!” he barked at me, followed by an additionally insightful comment made under his breath: “stupid bloody **nt.” I had to stop. Gasping for air, yet royally ticked off by this scumbag, I retorted: “Sorry, WHAT did you say?” He turned around, looked me up and down, snorted some excuse and continued walking away. Heaving with anger I continued running, astounded by the moronic qualities of this man.

Why on earth did he react that badly to seeing a runner, and how come none of the nearby onlookers seemed even slightly disturbed by this sudden burst of anger? What if I had been howled at when struggling with shopping bags or attacked publicly for my terrible sense of fashion while visiting the bank? Perhaps the fleeting characteristic of running creates an illusion of impenetrable feelings; a person willing to sweat and listen to up-beat music in public must be asking for it, right?

Another more interpretive jeer is the mimicking dance move, in which an otherwise normal person suddenly morphs into a hooligan imitating your running behaviour when you pass them by. Do they think you’re a monkey? Perhaps they mistook your slick running-gear for an alien skin layer and think they are currently greeting alternative life through gyration. I certainly hope such greetings would be far more elegant, otherwise we are in trouble. Then again, maybe aliens would prefer the c-word.

Why on earth did he react that badly to seeing a runner, and how come none of the nearby onlookers seemed even slightly disturbed by this sudden burst of anger?

What then inspires runner-hating, trigger-happy buffoons? The fear of failing self-improvement? The potential hazard their IQs may suffer from stepping into trainers? Or could it simply be a question of post-adolescent peer pressure? Once you cross over from non-sporty to “sporty”, is there really no return to Chomsky or Chopin? Must you forego forever the delights of Bergman, Starck and Stinson - of course not. The crooked juxtaposition of body versus brain, however, should be chucked.

Runners are not necessarily flaunting their perceived superiority regarding health, beauty, or anything else when running. They, like most adrenaline junkies, are trying to trigger their body into naturally making them feel good. Ultimately, running is not about sliver thin silhouettes or superiority over smokers; it’s about good music, flexible schedules, and cost-free control.

Picture credit: Getty Images

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