If anything shows the worrying lack of depth in British distance running, then it would be the fact that our athletics headlines are dominated by the dog that had the audacity to bite Paula Radcliffe.
If you’ve missed this alarming news, check out http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/athletics/9350741.stm
For those of us who run, however, this is an important point for discussion, and ranks alongside global warming, future fiscal policy and the human condition. For when you are a runner, the dog is, at best, an unpredictable enemy, and at worst…well, do read on.
I have run for many miles for many years on Sunday mornings with my friend The Flying Postman, and might have mentioned this once or twice in this very blog. And I mention this now, because, unlike me, TFP is a dog lover. Not, I hasten to add, in some rather unpleasant sense that you might find in the Latvian outback, or indeed in Lincolnshire, but in the sense that he genuinely likes dogs. So, running along, with a po-faced dog-walker coming towards us, he’ll make a beeline for the dog, and do whatever dog-lovers do when they see an old chum slavering towards them. Sometimes, I have to stop, while he has a quick chat with the owner, while gently tickling them in the stomach. The dog, not the owner. TFP knows full well that this annoys me, yet still he continues, and I personally think this is a little malicious. So, I had a certain amount of enjoyment a few years back when, during a race, he tripped over a small dog that was snapping gaily around his ankles, sent him flying, and consequently hopping for the last 2 miles. But I digress.
Of course, it’s not the dogs I really object to, it’s the owners. I was out on a run the other day with Jr Emu #3, and we had to stop, while a heavily anoraked walker called his ‘playful’ dog to settle down. “Thanks”, I said, as we finally passed by unmauled.
“Why did you say thanks, Dad?”, said Felix
At which point I realised that I was thanking a total stranger for not letting their dog bite my child. Whilst I realise that this is all a bit downbeat and grumpy, it’s just that I can’t think of any other situation where you can be minding your own business, and some jerk allows a completely uncontrolled beast to come up against you and bite you or jump on top of you. Well, possibly outside a branch of Wetherspoons on a Friday night, but that’s not really the point, is it.
I could go on. So I will. Even worse than the gormless outdoor booted twits from planet Barbour are the enthusiastic dog owners who say helpful things like
“he’s only playing”
“don’t worry, he won’t bite”
Hard to believe that they have such a hard and fast contract of trust with an animal that appears to be completely ignoring them. I had a manky terrier bite me once when I was on a run, and the owner helpfully said:
“Well, he’s never done that before”
All of which brought me to something of a boil.
And I do think it’s time to bite back. If you’re a runner, here are some things you can do:
- The next time you get chased by a dog, encourage it to follow you. Ideally off road. Aim to put a mile between the dog and the owner.
- Run up to dog owners that have annoyed you, get right in their face, and shout as loudly as possible, something along the lines of DON’T WORRY I’M JUST OUT FOR A RUN AND I’M PROBABLY NOT GOING TO BITE YOU. If you can get one of your fellow runners to grab you by the neck at this point and say
“he’s only playing”,
just at the point that you start foaming at the mouth, so much the better
- If all else fails, just pull your shorts down and relieve yourself in front of them. Fairs fair, and you can claim in court that you were simply marking your territory
Good luck with all that.
Next week, I’ll tell you my worst running & dog nightmare…