They annoy dogs, drivers and cyclists, and get in the way of pushchairs, wheelchairs and groups of people out for a stroll enjoying the weather. Who are they? Joggers, of course. And runners. Runners, however, hate joggers. ‘No, I am not a jogger,’ you will have heard, ‘I am a runner.’
The difference between joggers and runners is, I am told by a runner, the speed. My sense of it from listening to the interminable boring-on of both groups is that running is seen as some kind of romantic bid for freedom, whereas jogging is nothing but a slog to keep fit or lose the Chablis gut.
What I really love to see, when I awake at 7.30am after a terrible night’s sleep brought on by a crate of gin, hot curry and the trapped nerve in my back, is a smug tweet reading: ‘REALLY struggled to do 15km today. Don’t understand it. Sailed through 20 yesterday.’ Or: ‘Great run around the park today. Felt like I was floating. Now for celery, cucumber and spirulina juice. GOOD MORNING EVERYONE!’
No one – not even other runners – wants to read this kind of self-congratulatory wank-fest. There is never a time when a non-runner/jogger will read those tweets and smile. We all, whatever our levels of fitness, hate them.
I loathe the lycra, so tight that, on men, you can see their religion. I detest the fancy, expensive water bottles they carry in one hand, their iPad Air in the other. I can’t bear it when you stop to talk to one you know and they keep jogging on the spot. How rude. I often feel like joining in.
Why do they think it is OK to run at speed and in double file towards those of us out walking? Is it OK that we are knocked off our path or face being pelted with sweat and muscle? It would appear that runners always claim the right of way.
Runners go on and on about their ‘need’ to run, in the same way as I describe my need for hard liquor. I was with one recently in the middle of the Tuscan countryside. We were winding our way up (like all civilised people, in a car) a steep hill. All I could think about was the bottle of chilled fizz waiting for us in the fridge. My friend, an obsessive runner, was rubber-necking the view, looking for tracks on which to ply her evil doings. Imagine it, non-runners, that you actually daydream about the joys of putting on stupid clothing and pounding the ground until you are fit to drop. Am I missing something?
I have no problem admitting that I am jealous and admiring of those who are fit and healthy, which joggers and runners are by default. I wish I could run like the wind without breaking a sweat and wrap my legs round my neck. But that doesn’t stop them being the most irritating folk in any park.
I am beginning to form the opinion that all pedestrians should carry stun guns. Of course, I wouldn’t dare use one – because, let’s face it, I’m not fit enough to run away.
Julie Bindel’s new book Straight Expectations: What Does It Mean To Be Gay Today? (Guardian Books) is out this week