The Great North/South Running Divide

This week I’m down in London, gathering more immoral earnings from my day job in the advertising business. Yet while I’m fairly bushed after a day at the coal face of adland, I could hardly miss out on the opportunity to enjoy a relaxed run in London – as opposed to running the FLM, which always carries with it a great weight of expectation and the inevitable feeling afterwards that I should possibly have run better.

So while the old mate I’m billeted with this week smokes in front of his telly, I’ve availed myself of my novel new surroundings and headed out for a couple of very enjoyable runs, which have led me to the following conclusions about the difference between us runners from the sticks and those who live in the great big smoke.

For starters, runners are so much more numerous down here. Even allowing for the fact that London enjoys a staggering density of population, I’ve been amazed at the number of people I’ve seen running. My 6 mile runs along the sea wall at home generally involve passing 5 or 6 other people on an average night. But here, once the business day is done, the streets are simply awash with runners.

And running round Clapham Common of an evening is pretty much like joining in with an endless 10k, with no start or finish in sight.

The other big difference is that while I hate to resort to cliché, runners up North seem quite a lot friendlier. It’s pretty rare that I’ll run past anyone at home who won’t at least favour me with a small incline of the head to acknowledge our mutual insanity. But down here in London – possibly because runners are so numerous, to be fair – the little nods and waves of friendly recognition between fellow runners seem to be entirely absent.

However, I’d hate you to feel sorry for me, for having been socially rejected even on this miniscule scale. Because, and here’s the strange thing, the passers-by seem to be ever so friendly. Only last night I got into my running togs and nearly abandoned all thoughts of a run entirely; as I realised that instead of packing some loose, mid-length running shorts, I’d mistakenly grabbed my tiny wee Ron Hill marathon shorts. The ones that tend to put most people in mind of Daisy Duke after she’s been ravaged by a savage, flesh-eating virus. Nevertheless, I braced myself for ridicule and headed out anyway.

Astoundingly though, running around Clapham Common for an hour or so, I found that rather than making abusive comments or ignoring me completely, almost every one of the blokes I ran past favoured me with a friendly smile, and often even a wave.

So on mature reflection, I would like to unreservedly withdraw my unfair generalisations about folk down here not being as friendly as up North. When it comes to friendliness to complete strangers, you’ll have to run a really long way before you find anywhere quite as friendly as Clapham Common at night. Even when you’re wearing really short shorts…

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