Mark Armstrong: There’s not always time to be nice on your run...

Mark Armstrong - loves to say hello... but not in an interval session. Picture: Epic Action Imagery

Mark Armstrong - loves to say hello... but not in an interval session. Picture: Epic Action Imagery - Credit: Epic Action Imagery

I’m an ‘acknowledger’ on my runs.

If I see anyone when I’m out and about running around Wacton or Long Stratton then I will always say hello in some form.

I always feel a bit cheated or silly if I’m blanked but I’d rather risk that than have anyone think I was being aloof or rude.

My enthusiasm for any acknowledgement directly correlates with how hard my run is.

If it’s a tough session then they might get an, admittedly small, thumbs up. If it’s an easy recovery run and energy levels are high then they might even get a full-on wave and a smile.

But I ran into a problem this week. I was, metaphorically at least, knee-deep into an interval session. I won’t bore you with too much of the details but I had short periods of recovery along with harder efforts.

I’d just run my first rep within the first set and during this little period of recovery I saw an elderly lady coming towards me. She was probably getting in her exercise for the day and then it happened... she started to try and make conversation!

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What do I do now?

I’ve got 30 seconds until the next rep starts and she’s telling me about an incident that happened in Long Stratton earlier that day.

I’m talking and glancing at my watch, mourning every second that slips by, as I try and catch my breath and talk to her.

She seemed lovely and friendly... The lockdowns have been so difficult for some people due to the isolation they have to endure. For all I knew this might be the only piece of human interaction she might have that day.


It’s only 20 seconds until the next rep starts and she’s still talking. Even gradually edging away looking at my watch didn’t convey the impression I needed to get away.

I kept my conversation as friendly, and more importantly short, as possible.

Ten seconds... right I’ve got to break out into a bit of a trot now to get up to speed before the next rep starts.

I made my apologies and I was off... then I just felt overwhelmed with guilt that I had prioritised my run over talking to her.

It was all I could think about for the rest of the session... and I felt like a bad person.

So in the very faint hope that this nice lady is one of the people that reads my column – I’d like to extend an apology.

I’d love to extend an offer to her to take her out for coffee and a piece of cake when the lockdown is over.

It’s on me and I promise I won’t be so desperate to get away next time (particularly if decent cake is involved)!

Whilst I’m talking about running etiquette I want to flag up something that annoys me a lot more than it should when I’m out running.

I run on a lot of narrow roads and as such I have to pull over to let cars go. I don’t mind this at all – it’s a road and they are for vehicles – a runner should get out of the way.

But if I’ve gone to some degree of effort and risked mild peril climbing up a muddy bank to get out of the way then it would be nice to get a thanks.

Most people do but when a little hand-raised gesture isn’t forthcoming I feel like chasing after them and knocking on their window asking if they had forgotten something?

As I tell my daughter, Lara, when wants her seventh snack of the day and forgets to say ‘please’... manners cost nothing.

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