Neil Featherby: How a chat with Terry changed my view

The Blickling Half Marathon goes off with new staggered start times and a funnel system to get runne

A sign of the times - difficult as they are for everyone - Credit: Sonya Duncan

With regards to last week’s column concerning running and social distancing, the response went well beyond my expectations. 

Like many others, I had been incensed by some of the comments made by Piers Morgan on TV for which his remarks could quite easily have caused an “us and them” type situation. 

Thankfully, most people are very polite and civil. In fact, when out running in the woods near to my home just a couple of days ago, an off-road cyclist shouted out when well behind me that he wanted to pass. Very courteously I might add too whilst also telling me he didn’t have a mask on. 

There are of course now more people than ever out there getting their daily exercise and indeed discovering places which runners have known about for years. In some respects the freedom and solitude which some of us like is not always quite so available, but on the other hand it is great to see so many people also enjoying the countryside. 

Anyway, amongst the many comments which I saw on social media with all of them expressing their own personal views, it did still point to two things. Everyone should be kind and show respect to each other and a certain TV presenter is not exactly very popular with everyone.   

Nevertheless I did receive an email from a gentleman by the name of Terry Miller who is an avid EDP reader and lives in north Norfolk with his wife and dogs, expressing his views about certain things which he felt I had not taken into consideration. 

Initially I was taken aback somewhat, but reading it a second and even third time, it did also make me think more deeply about this topic.  

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Terry pointed out that some runners can be somewhat very focused and not mindful of where they are going particularly during this current time when it is all about trying to maintain what is regarded as safe distancing. On more than one occasion he has had encounters, with one of them being very unpleasant. 

I can relate to this, as when a determined runner has their head down (perhaps when doing a specific session or tempo type run), it really can be a case of “I just want to keep going and I must not slow down”. I remember this very well back in my days when I very selfishly thought that the pavements and roads were first and foremost mine to run on. 

With all of this in mind, I replied to Terry whilst forwarding on my mobile number to discuss this further as my intention was not designed to upset anyone as such. It’s why I also said in last week’s column that we should perhaps think about what the next few steps could lead to  i.e. ruining a nice run or indeed the rest of your day. 

Call me he did and we had a really good chat. In fact, one or two laughs too, but that was more to do with me telling him that I was getting on a bit in years myself and that I most certainly have no journalistic skills whatsoever. Leaving school many years ago with a very lucky grade 3 in English CSE is about as far as my abilities go when it comes to writing. 

Terry’s view is very much along the lines that at times, some runners don’t always consider just how hard it is for those who are more elderly to move very quickly.  

“Once you get to my age Neil, you’re not as agile as you once were, so when someone is running towards you at pace, before you can even think about which way shall I move or which way will they move, they are on top of you,” said Terry. 

This is also where Terry did burst out laughing when I told him my age. However, he also went on to talk about loss of hearing, poorer eyesight and even awareness in later age for which it is more difficult to react in time.  

I did of course also ask him the question of how much room he, his wife and dogs were taking up when for instance walking along what might be narrower sections of the Norfolk Coastal Footpath where it is difficult to find passing places. His answer to that was more than satisfactory and whilst I am a huge dog lover as those who know me well will confirm, all his dogs are kept well under control and well trained. 

At the end of the day, we are living through a time where it is not only confusing for all of us, but quite frightening for some. Particularly those who are classed as more vulnerable for which I will leave Terry to have the final words to this week's column. 

“This is a time for everyone to be kind and thoughtful towards each other. Most importantly, also try to be understanding too, because you just don’t know what the other person’s circumstances might be. It does not cost anything to be polite apart from maybe a few seconds out of your day, be it when out running or indeed even when out driving in your car. Politeness goes a long way and can indeed be very rewarding.”