Running Hecklers: Insults, Catcalls, and Jealousy

Running Insults, Catcalls, Runners

Last weekend, I brought my 12-year-old son down to the local high school track to do a few repeats in preparation for his upcoming track season. It was a cold day with a soaking rain and steady wind. Despite the weather, several softball games were being played in the fields adjacent to the track. Spectators moved under brightly colored umbrellas and watched from the comfort of their vehicles.

We had the track to all ourselves. For an hour or so, we ran around in circles alternating between fast intervals and recovery jogs. Our rain soaked gear held the warmth from our bodies, and our wool hats did their job. The biggest distraction was the tempting smell of fresh pizza emanating from the snack bar every time we passed the 100m mark.

As we were leaving, we ran past a group of high school softball players and their coaches sitting under an overhang eating lunch. One of the girls mockingly screamed, “Run!” Her teammates snickered. Her coaches were silent. 

I did what I always do when confronted with roadside morons. I ignored them. Their comments, and the comments of others like them, don’t deserve my attention or warrant a response. In fact, a response usually escalates the situation.

My son reacted differently. He wanted to know why those girls yelled at us, and why their coaches didn’t say anything to address their rude behavior. I told him they were jealous. “They saw us doing something that they probably can’t do themselves, and they didn’t really understand it. But, let’s give them credit.  They were smart enough to recognize you as a runner. Take it as a compliment.” Haters gonna hate.

As a man, I have it easy. I hear “Run, Forrest, Run!” and “Go faster!” from time to time. But, I never endure the verbal assault that female runners experience. I’ve never felt scared, threatened, or violated by a heckler’s comments.

However, I’m a husband and father. My wife and daughter have to contend with a world full of morons and mouth-breathers who think it’s funny to degrade somebody from the safety of a passing car, or the anonymity of the shadows. I loathe and despise these cretins who make the beautiful sport of running something to fear.

If anyone in my family encounters this type of behavior, you can bet I’ll be there the next time they go for a run. Running in a group seems to be the most effective deterrent to heckling. Most of the idiots that hurl insults at passing runners are self-loathing cowards.

What to do? You could listen to music to drown out the comments. But, that’s risky. You could confront the heckler, but that might things worse. The best course of action seems to be the simplest- keep running.

Have you ever been heckled? What’s your advice to others?

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