Mark Armstrong: Runners and motorists... we don't have to be enemies

Road running Mark Armstrong

Road running isn't without its perils admits Mark Armstrong. - Credit: Alison Armstrong

The tragic death of Natasha Lewis earlier this month hit the running community hard. 

Natasha was fatally hit by a car whilst out on an early morning training run and died at the scene. 

She was a member of the Great Britain Bobsleigh team but also a proficient runner, being a member of Team Bath Athletic Club. 

Natasha was just 28 with such a bright future ahead of her having represented GB in bobsleigh and triathlon whilst she was aiming for elite status in her running with dreams of attaining another national vest. 

I found the news particularly upsetting... like a lot of people who read this column, I’m someone who runs on roads a lot of the time early in the morning or late at night simply trying to cram some miles in around other commitments. 

For someone to be taken away in the act of their morning run is beyond tragic. 

It served to remind me just how vulnerable we are as runners out on the road at times with our lives in the hands of others. The same applies to cyclists, of course. 

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Just a couple of weeks ago, I had a motorist unnecessarily use his horn as he passed me, seemingly annoyed that I was running on the road. Quite what his problem was I have no idea but if it was to literally make me jump then it was mission accomplished. I hope it made his day because it certainly had an impact on mine. 

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I’m not a cavalier runner by any means. As a dad to two young children my biggest fear is that I’m not around to help/hinder their journey into adulthood. I know my wife, Alison, feels the same. We have both lost parents in recent years and have tried to reframe those losses to be grateful for having them around as we grew up. A lot of people are not nearly so lucky, of course. 

So, to say I’m pretty risk averse when it comes to where I run would be an understatement. 

I run on country roads for the most part but I’m well aware that the roads are primarily for cars and I will always be as courteous as possible.  

It’s a two-way street and thankfully the majority of motorists will give you enough room and/or slow as they pass you... preferably both. Even if someone is giving you space to run it’s still not particularly pleasant if someone burns past you at 60mph... I wonder if they would do the same if they were passing someone riding a horse? 

There needs to be a sense of responsibility on both sides. As runners we need to make ourselves as visible as possible and alert to cars. I know a lot of us like to zone out on our runs but that isn’t an option if you’re running on the road. If you’re starting to feel uncomfortable due a car’s presence simply look for the safest most convenient place to hop off the road and let them pass. 

But my message to motorists would be that we aren’t there to make your life harder. We just want to get our run in without the fear of being run over. Give us the space we need and pass at an appropriate speed, please. 

We don’t want to lose our lives doing the thing we love and you don’t want a lost life on your conscience. 

Let’s just show each other a bit of respect and we can all get to where we need to be. 

<BLOB> A fund has been set up in Natasha’s memory, to support athletes who are in need of running shoes and help push them on to greater things and share the love of running Natasha had. If you wish to donate check out https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-loving-memory-of-tash-lewis