A Spectator Sport?
So the ever present life partner that is my wife regularly takes it upon herself, along with various friends, to go and take part in organised long distance runs. Due to the working habits of just about every employed person I know the only time they have available to participate in these events is at weekends. Is it wrong that I invariably opt out of going along and cheering her home?
In my defence there are a number of reasons why these events can be a less than thrilling experience for the spectator. Firstly, the race is by no means a sprint. As these runs will be of a distance that will take no less than an hour at their shortest and over two and a half hours at their longest this all equates to a lot of standing around. When the occasion takes you to a vineyard in Dorking, Surrey on a day that sees temperatures rise to 30 degrees Celsius then these events can be bearable. Sun soaked strolls through the garden of Dionysus with a good book and music flooding my ears from a personal stereo are moments of joy that must be savoured. In this case three hours can pass by quite pleasantly. On the other hand going to Woodford in the London Borough of Redbridge on a cold, snow sodden February morning could only be top as the worst day of my life by a Bank Holiday trip to IKEA.
Another bonus to going along is having the chance to watch a lot of Lycra clad athletic female forms. I’m a pervert, sue me, all men are perverts. They may deny it to your face ladies and you may disagree with me but deep down all men have a hint of the sexual deviant in them. But I digress. On the flip side of the Lycra argument are the less flattering images that come with watching people do long distance running. The looks of absolute agony that cover the faces of a number of the competitors as they approach the finish line could haunt even the most hardened soul’s dreams.
Another perk of these early morning occurrences is the interesting people and surreal moments that you will see. From a man dressed in a Lion suit causing a dog to go crazy and bark continuously at him until he removed the head of the outfit, to watching hundreds of runners all dressed as Santa Claus doing laps around Battersea Park, London on a cool December day. The people who stand at the finish line with some form of Public Addressing system and encourage the competitors over the line can add another level of amusement to the situation. They can be a great motivator on the final stretch of the course, offering encouragement in the form of shout outs for specific race numbers coming up to their finish line, giving out information about particular charities involved. But they can also be an annoyance to the spectator as they wail the same one liner over and over for three hours nonstop.
I guess the question I’m trying to ask is; am I a bad person for not wanting to spend my Sunday mornings traveling to see people run in circles round a park or vineyard or even the streets of east London? My own argument is that for a number of years of our relationship I would spend my Saturday afternoon’s running around various spaces of open ground pretending that I was a competent football player and not once did she come to watch. So maybe we are both as bad as each other? The fact it did not bother me that she never came should be taken into account and although seeing me at the finish line brings her joy at the end of a hard run she is never offended if I choose not to travel on my weekend.