Beep beep for the roadrunners

A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to be one of what felt like a handful of people who got together for the inaugural Rosebank Nike Run Club. I’ve been itching for a run all week, and tonight I got the chance to go again to do a short run, get my blood pumping, and test out my cool new super-lumo Nike Free sneakers.

What started off as a small initiative has grown to a large gang of youngsters wanting to run – this is an awesome thing. Traditional runners can say what they like, but it’s quite thrilling to see a crowd of people who just want to get their legs moving. And every runner has to start somewhere…

That said, there were a number of issues that came up – for both the organisers and those taking part – and, if this club is going to continue to grow, they need to be addressed.

For the organisers (that would be Nike – love you guys long-time)

1. You need to ditch the pre-race speeches. No one can hear them properly anyway, not with such a big group, but my primary reason for this is…
2. You need to start on time: sure, the sun is setting later and later now it’s coming on Summer, but if you start late it increases the risk of novice runners on the road after dark, which is a safety issue…
3. Pre-seed groups on registration. The start of the run was a bunfight, and creates a domino effect in terms of clumping runners on the roads. Seed people when they register – use stickers, whatever you like – and monitor the start more efficiently. Start with the fast runners, finish with the slow (I think this is the traditional way to run?)
4. Pre-identify group leaders for each running group – each group needs one experienced, easily identifiable runner to follow.
5. Group leaders should function as pacers, and need to FOLLOW THE DAMN PACE. I started off in a group that was supposed to run at between 6m/km and 7m/km. Our average run rate for the first kilometre was closer to 4m/km. If you follow a pacer or join a bus, runners should be able to trust the pace-setters. This is particularly important for novice runners who are not used to running over any sort of distance. As I was reminded, again, this evening, setting off at the wrong pace can completely scupper the rest of your run.
6. Finally, as part of the club regime, you need to educate the runners on road etiquette and safety (see below) – as above, I’d avoid speeches. Perhaps you could print up posters at the registration point? Although there are marshalls all along the route, the current running club procedure is not as safe as it could be.

For the runners (you crazy kids, keep on keeping on)

1. Respect the road. That big tarred thing, with cars on it? Learn how to run on the road so you don’t piss off drivers (leave that to the cyclists), and you don’t put yourself at risk. Running at dusk, when there’s traffic, means it’s up to each runner to be extra-vigilant when running on the road. That includes: stopping at intersections when you don’t have right of way; keeping your eye out for cars driving out of parking garages and/or driveways; not running on the road where there’s no shoulder. If it came down to you or the car, the car will win. Every time. Don’t chance it. Ever.
2. Don’t clump up. I saw loads of runners going three-abreast or more on the road. This is a BAD IDEA. (see note on cyclists, above – with apologies to the five nice cyclists I know, and the 20 cyclists that have greeted me in the  18 months I have been running on the road). If there’s room on the shoulder, the max you should be running is two abreast. Single file is better on the tighter bits. I get that it’s cool to chat with your mates. It’s what keeps me going for most of my training runs. But running in big groups takes up more of the road than you are entitled to. It makes you look rude and inconsiderate; worse, it’s a hazard: you are much more likely to be hit or clipped by a car if you run like that.
3. Listen to the marshalls and the organisers. Tonight I saw several men and women (I am tempted to think of them as boys and girls) completely ignore the marshalls at the start of the run, and pay no attention to the marshalls along the route. These men and women are there for your SAFETY. If you don’t listen to them, you not only jeopardise your own safety, but also that of the runners around you. I have strong words for people like this. One of them is arsehole. The others are not suitable for publication on this post.
4. Ditch your headphones. The more I run on the road, whether on a training run or in a race, the more convinced I am that these do pose genuine safety issues: runners with phones are not only less aware of external stuff (you know, cars and shit), but they also pay no attention to other runners, are less likely to give way, are more likely to get in the way… I know how cool it is to push through to your power song. I do that on the treadmill. But one of the joys of running outdoors is actually being there. Try it.

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