By Flora Cramp

Last Boxing day, when I was too full to do a jigsaw or argue with my dad, I sat in the chair near the cat litter tray with a bottle of sherry, and stared at the wall for six or seven hours. Ignoring my mum’s conversation about whether Jeremy Irons had been born a woman, I started to think about my life. Just as I was envisaging the whole community grief-stricken at my imaginary funeral, the next door neighbour’s cat ran in through the cat flap and did a massive shit in the litter tray at my feet.  It was existentially traumatic.

As I stood outside in my slippers, leaning on the wheelie bin with a glass of Croft Original in one hand and a bag of Fluffy’s turd in the other, I saw three women wearing day-glo Lycra jog past. FREAKS! I thought. LYCRA! On BOXING DAY! What wankers! Why don’t they just piss off and GET A LIFE! I went back indoors and watched a film about ghosts with Maggie Smith in it and ate two jam tarts, but I couldn’t get the vision of the Lycra-clad runners out of my head. ‘Mum,’ I said, ‘I’ve just realised that I’ve never, ever run anywhere in my life. Except for running for buses, and that doesn’t count.’ My mother stared at me blankly. ‘Well, I know you never did P.E. love, but you ran like the clappers to the chemist when you got nits off that kid that looks like Angela Lansbury, and that was after you’d eaten that massive trifle for the Royal Wedding, so you can’t be that unfit.’ This got me thinking. If I could career down a dual carriageway pissed on sloe gin, crawling with nits and full of Elmlea then, if I actually tried, if I had the right gear and didn’t eat Toblerones, maybe I could properly run.

On 3rd January, I went to Sports Direct, a sort of preparatory dogging ground for passive aggressive teenagers, who feel each other up in massive queues whilst breaking wind freely. It was in the changing rooms that I discovered two things: 1) that most sports clothing manufacturers hate women and 2) that female runners know of a secret supplier, who fashions magic leggings that hold in your stomach, lift up your arse and make the outline of your knickers disappear. Now, not to be big headed or anything, but I’m not grotesque. My legs and arse just look like legs and arse, I don’t have any sort of major weird shit going on. But whenever I tried on a pair of running ‘tights’ I looked like a  bloated Bonfire Night Guy stuffed with sausage meat, dog shit and gravel. In a panicked frenzy, I bought a pair of shiny leggings with a pretend skirt attached, which made me look like a possessed fan of skort-loving nineties pop quartet, B*witched.

After my first three runs and the self-loathing, pain and horror that ensued, I asked my brother for tips. ‘The problem is,’ he said, ‘you run like you’ve got wasps after you. Stop flailing your arms about and pulling that face. And you’ll knacker your knees doing it like that. But, then again what do I know, I’m not Fatima Whitbread, I know toss all about running.’ I pointed out that Fatima Whitbread did Javelin. ‘Like I said’ he replied ‘I know toss all about running.’

So I sought professional advice and, whilst eating a delicious bagel, perused Runner’s World’s website, where I found the article 30 Things Every Woman Should Know About Running. This is it, I thought, this is the Holy Grail of running tips. These people know so much about running that they manage to write a whole magazine’s worth of crap about it every month. I was excited.

The tips, however, turned out to be so packed with condescending, scare-mongering, sexist wank that I picked up my bagel and hurled it across my living room. I threw it like a Frisbee, and then spent fifteen minutes cleaning Philadelphia off a cushion with a wet tea towel and muttering expletives.

That was seven weeks ago, and I’ve now calmed down enough to revisit what I saw on that angry, bagel-strewn afternoon. Prepare yourselves; here are a few dazzling tips taken from 30 Things Every Woman Should Know About Running:

‘Running with headphones outdoors is a safety hazard in more ways than one. You won’t be able to hear cars, cyclists or someone approaching who intends to do you harm. Attackers will always pick a victim who looks vulnerable. When you have headphones on, that means you.’

Cheers Runner’s World! My previous fears re. looking like a sausage meat effigy of the curly haired one from B*witched have shot RIGHT down the list of concerns. Rather than worrying about ‘Guy Fawking’ of the legs, I’m now concerned that I’m going to get massively murdered by listening to my training podcast which, as it happens, YOU recommended on your website. This is particularly irritating, as I have searched far and wide to find headphones that will accommodate my Paul Daniels sized head.

You don’t have to be the competitive type to enter a race every now and then. You’ll find that lots of other racers aren’t overly competitive, either. They’re out there because it’s fun and social, and it motivates them to keep on running.’

What a helpful tip for the ladies! Runner’s World clearly understands that women are never competitive, ever, but know that they LOVE being sociable and having fun! That’s why most runners will tell you that marathons are a real laugh, a proper scream, and that they provide ample opportunity to discuss interior décor and dinner party recipes with like-minded athletes. People have told me they run to improve their stamina, to strengthen their muscles, to look after their heart, to lose weight, to combat depression…but I’ve never heard anyone say ‘I run because it’s fun and social.’ WHO WOULD SAY THAT? If you want to have fun and be social then sod off down the pub.

‘Unfortunately, men and women will never be equals in the urination department…Simply find a private place behind a tree or dense shrubbery, squat and pull the lining of your shorts over to one side.’

This is real. This is an actual tip from Runner’s World. Whilst the tips for male runners cover nutrition, training, pronation and injury prevention, the tips for women tell us how to have a wazz in a bush.

‘There’s no need to miss a run or a race just because you’re having your period.’

I’m thirty three, Runner’s World. I’ve had approximately 239 periods. During those periods I’ve done things like dismantle five MDF bookcases with a miniature plastic spoon in lieu of a screwdriver, babysat for four children with diahorrea in a caravan in Mablethorpe and had actual sex with a man. Books and life have taught me that it’s OK, nay, even encouraged, to move whilst having a period.

‘It may not be much consolation, but men are sometimes verbally harassed and occasionally threatened on the run, just as women are.’

Seriously, R.W., just Fuck Off.

‘Just because you’re married and have young children and a job doesn’t mean you don’t have time to run…You need this time. Taking it for yourself (by letting your husband baby-sit while you run, for instance) will benefit the whole family.’

Question: can you babysit your own child?

‘Morning is the best time for women to run, for lots of reasons. First, it’s the safest time; statistics show that women are more likely to be attacked late in the day.’

Wait! There’s more:

‘Women who run alone should take precautions. Leave a note at home stating when you left, where you’ll be running and when you expect to return. Carry a personal attack alarm. Stick to well-populated areas, and don’t always run the same predictable route. Avoid running at night and don’t wear jewellery. Pay attention to your surroundings. Carry identification, but include only your name and an emergency phone number.’

Good Grief, I want to do Couch to 5K, not join the KGB.  Why would I wear jewellery, Runner’s World, why? And what sort of ID features only my name and phone number? Must I carry one of those little gold tags that fancy Labradors wear on their collars? Which leads on to my favourite ‘tip’ of all:

‘Running with a dog gives you the best of both worlds – you get to run alone, but with a friend. A dog is both a faithful companion who will go anywhere, any time, and a loyal guardian who’ll discourage anyone from harming you.’

Who wrote this bloody article, Son of Lassie? Let’s face it, dog walking almost always entails:

1)      Shovelling turd off the pavement and putting it in a bag

2)      Carrying the turd bag around for half an hour in search of a bin

3)      Trying desperately to stop the dog having sex with moving or inanimate things

Now, I have oft seen the cover of Runner’s World magazine, and it usually features an athletic woman with blonde hair, scampering over Scarfell Pike in tiny hot pants and a yellow bra. Never, ever is this woman pictured chasing a Border Collie across Tesco’s car park, with a bag of shit in one hand and a rape alarm in the other.


To top it all off, the ‘Women’s’ section of the website features a massive stock image of a model with a perfect manicure pinching her waistline, just to gently remind us all that we’re fat and disgusting. Other gems in this ‘special section’ for women include tips on how to run with a buggy and reviews of some nice pink shoes.

So, to summarise: we’re all fat and we’re going to get killed. Buy some cerise trainers and get a Red Setter and you might be OK, otherwise, stay indoors.

Thanks Runner’s World, thanks loads.

71 Comments on Running

  1. I LOVE this so much it is the best thing ever!!!

    For those actually contemplating running with tits and nipples (because it can be difficult to leave them at home) here are my tips –
    1. Run alone, you can set your own pace, you can have some solitude and clear your mind or think something through, you can decide you’re not up to it today and stop or you can feel amazing and pick up the pace because YOU are in charge
    2. Wear what you feel comfortable in – you don’t need fancy gear and all that stuff, if you get into it you can buy some later but bare in mind it will only wash properly clean for a short while so use old T-shirts.
    3. If you invest in anything make it some wrap around shades, an easy hold water bottle and a tight elastic bum bag, oh and some good running socks. Later you might buy lycra shorts leggings but I tend to avoid running shorts because despite having thighs you could crack nuts with after 20 years of running, my thighs still rub together in short shorts and that get nasty quite quickly
    4. Twats will shout, you’ll mostly be moving too fast to hear them but I always like to liberally “flip the birdy”, it makes me feel like I’ve done something. Alternatively if I hear the words tits or nipples I like to shout scrotums and if there’s time you could always suggest you thought it was a word association game, why would they otherwise shout at a total stranger in public??
    5. I do vary my route and time but that is mostly because I do other things with my life and running the same route gets boring. Run in nice places, with nice things to look at. Wear headphones or don’t wear them (I don’t and would avoid them if crossing a lot of roads etc) and take in the sounds around you like birds and shit.
    6. Run in rain, it’s fine and feels quite nice, unless it’s biblical or it’s hail then really don’t.
    7. Don’t expect to actually like it very much for quite some time. Just get up, get out and do it – you get to like it in the end honest….it only took me 10 years

    • “Twats will shout, you’ll mostly be moving too fast to hear them but I always like to liberally “flip the birdy”, it makes me feel like I’ve done something.”

      Love the combination of your jolly elder-sister style with this very direct and effective advice. 🙂 I agree, the finger is THE best response; I favour the ‘raise it, keep it there, don’t bother looking round’ approach, which twtas hate because they want your attention.

    • “4. Twats will shout, you’ll mostly be moving too fast to hear them but I always like to liberally “flip the birdy”, it makes me feel like I’ve done something. Alternatively if I hear the words tits or nipples I like to shout scrotums and if there’s time you could always suggest you thought it was a word association game, why would they otherwise shout at a total stranger in public??”

      This is brilliant! I wish I could have that presence and could think that quickly. I mostly just freeze up and try to pretend I didn’t hear them.

  2. Oh my god, this is sensational. I am also attempting to take up running (didn’t but a skort but did invest in a day glo pink bumbag containing world’s most incomprehensible and tiny drinking bottle, thanks Sports Direct)

  3. Hahahaha. Love it. I started running a few months ago. Still a bit fat and very much unmurdered. Hate ‘lady running outfits’. And now hate R.W. – thanks for avoid tip.

  4. This is beyond offensive but what an excellent take-down. I also started running this year and have gazed at RW in shops wondering if I need a magazine to tell me how to run. Now I know I certainly do not!

  5. “‘It may not be much consolation, but men are sometimes verbally harassed and occasionally threatened on the run, just as women are.”

    I was in Paris recently near the Bassin de la Villette (dock area at the end of the Canal Saint-Martin). It has a steep embankment with several sets of stairs and a path with benches at the top.

    I saw a young woman in jogging kit doing circuits of running up a flight of stairs, across the top and down the other end. On one circuit, a middle aged man on a bench reached forward to touch her arse as she went past.

    Never seen that happen to a man.

    She just continued off down the road at that point. Didn’t show any external reaction.

    • Ah, Paris. Where men still grab women’s areas freely – happened to me, when I was 16, jumped off a post in the road and a guy just casually grabbed my boob and kept going. On the same holiday two men with a young boy walked past us, one flipped my friend’s skirt up to reveal her knickers, and walked off roaring with laughter, his son looking back all scared.

      Nice work, men, keeping it classy.

    • That annoyed the heck out of me too. I still don’t know what the best diet to combine with exercise is, or how to plan a route, or how much water I’ll need to drink, but damnit I know to leave the baby at home with dada and not worry about running while I’m pregnant except in the third trimester. Now if only they could tell me where to get a baby, I’m afraid they didn’t sell those at Sports Direct…

  6. Reading this again as it’s making me and my husband pee ourselves laughing. What brilliant writing! Do more, do more! Your image of the woman in Tesco’s car park had me in hysterics and I’m now thinking that next time I walk the dogs at night (walk them, not run), I’ll keep the poo-in-bag on me and as they say in Madagascar (the film, not the country) ‘fling it now’ at any would-be attackers. So you’ve inadvertently given GREAT advice as well as a laugh.

  7. Wahaha I love this! Inspired by this weekend’s marathon I was thinking to myself “hhmm maybe I will go for a run around the park”. Now at least I am comforted that my choice of location will provide ample places to stop for a wee!

  8. You are brilliant!
    I started running about 8 months ago and I love it but there are lots of things I don’t love. I had similar motivation to starting. It took me ten runs for it not to feel like self harm. The first one (which was just over 1 mile I stopped and sat in a ditch and had a little weep).
    I have one pair of leggings that don’t fall down, but never can I have the holy grail, legging don’t fall down AND top doesn’t ride up or push my blotchy belly fat out the sides and bottom I’ve stopped believing such a combination exists

    Again…. you are brilliant.

    • I have them! I bought a pair of adidas three quarter tights in the Debenhams sale. I’ve worn them a few times now including on a 12k run yesterday, and they are great. Also, they have a back zip pocket and two front slip-in pockets. One is great for easy access for my phone (runkeeper, music) and the other for a wad of tissues (I can’t bear hoicking into a bush). They’re super stretchy, I feel like I could go out for a run the morning after a really big meal and they’d still be great.

      Back to the article – brilliant. I’ve never been tempted to buy a running magazine, so now I am so glad I never have!!

      I do quite like social running though – it’s my motivation. I go to three different running groups and yesterday ran with a friend. Running and talking definitely improves your aerobic fitness I think!

  9. Fabulous!! I had a similar epiphany a couple of years ago that led me to run the London Marathon in 2012, sadly that was two year ago now and I currently am back to working my energy up for a small jog for the bus. Buggery.

  10. This is absolutely priceless! I’m doing the silent shaking laughter thing at my desk whilst trying not to draw attention to the fact I’m nearly crying with laughter!
    Of course running magazines are full of crap – they’re catering to an industry which has somehow got us believing that we need to pay to do something that we’re born to do. I hope you’re not disheartened or discouraged by the nonsense; anyone looking to dip their toe in to the world of running could do a lot worse than to browse through the hundreds of UK running blogs written by real women who are out there running safely every day all over the place, not being attacked, on their periods and peeing wherever we damn well please.
    Keep up the good work!

  11. Absolutely cracking post. Had me in stitches! I hadn’t realised that women’s running magazines spout so much condescending guff. You’ll fit right in the running world!

  12. OH MY WORD! I thought all the running great was expensive now I have to buy a blooming dog?! sheeesh.

    also, I would be interested to know if you find out if you CAN, indeed, baby sit your own child.

  13. Excellent post!

    4. Fast running burns more calories than slow running, but slow running burns more calories than just about any other activity. In short, nothing will help you to lose weight, and then keep it off, the way running does.

    Because clearly I only started running to lose weight.

    5. Doctors consider that moderate exercise during a normal pregnancy is completely safe for the baby. Running should cause no problems in the first trimester and it should be fine for most people in the second trimester.

    HA! As if. Sorry but I tried running for the bus at 4 months and it felt like my stomach was about to tear off. And I’ve had a healthy pregnancy.

    When I ran, I ran alone, on similar routes and never once got attacked. I ran for the pleasure of it and to prove that I could. I was pretty darn competitive when i did my race and I worked out how to pee in a bush.

  14. I don’t normally comment on blogs, but this haa absolutely cracked me up. I’m at work gibbering like Mad King George V while my colleagues look on with interest and concern. Well fucking put. I haven’t ever read a running magazine because I feel, essentially, running boils down to: ‘Walk. Now go a bit faster. Don’t fall over and don’t stop.” But I’m especially not going to buy one now.

    Side note: when your dog does a poo, does he completely lose his shit for about 2.5 seconds after? Mine is a slow-moving, bloody-minded beast but is consumed with a very short-lived burst of pure joy immediately after he empties his bowels into the most inconvenient place. i.e. furthest from a bin, in front of a gaggle of fit blokes, etc. He also tries to get as far away from the poo as possible (understandable), so I have to drag him to a fence and tie him to it before bagging up.

  15. If they’re your kids, I think it’s known as “parenting”. Also, you do not “let” your children’s other parent look after them unless there is a difficult custody arrangement.

  16. An ‘actual’ man. Brilliant. Very funny observations and of course, spot on. Importantly though, did the plastic spoon break? 😉

  17. Absolutely brilliant I was in absolute hysterics and nodding my head at every comment. Keep it up. Loved the first reply as well

  18. “Avoid running at night” – I don’t think so. I actually started my beginner’s programme at night because no one would be able to see me. 15 years later it is still my favourite time of day for a run.
    Like others say too – wear what is comfy. I started in fleecy jogging bottoms, old t-shirts and the only trainers I had. But…don’t forget to wear a sports bra – the only really vital piece of kit for us women, I think.
    When I got to 5K I bought my first pair of running shoes and as the years have gone by the lycra and technical fabrics have gradually taken over.

    Love your article. It is so funny. RW should give you a column!

    I hope the RW tips don’t put you off Flora and you are still running 🙂

  19. Fantastic article -please could*you* write for RW instead?

    Incidentally, am I the only person to have actually tried their advice to “pull the lining of your shorts over to one side” ? Because if you’re thinking it sounds better than potentially flashing your backside, can I just say no. No it isn’t better, please don’t try it unless you have a fetish for running in wet shorts. Or a penis.

  20. Laugh out loud funny. I read this in the office and had to restrain myself.
    Also its confirmed what I’ve been thinking about for a while which is that Runners World is a waste of money. I’ve bought it for years and always opened it hoping for some inspiration – something new – something different – always to be disappointed.
    I probably won’t buy RW any more.
    Really worth the laugh to reach that conclusion

  21. Awesome article, love it. I have upped my running a lot in the last couple of years, and what I’ve learned is that the gear is totally worth it: try Sweaty Betty (in the sales, obvs; I’m not made of money) for proper clothes that don’t rub and somehow don’t look awful. Also, absolutely listen to music because how on Earth can you run otherwise? I get distracted by my own breathing if I don’t. And as a bonus, it drowns out any catcalls you might get so you can blithely ignore the idiots.

  22. Absolutely amazing. Thank you for making me laugh at loud. And also giving me another reason to boycott RW. (The first would be I’m not a runner, but the the thought is there).

  23. Oh my god I’m dying with laughter!! In fact, I think I may have burnt about 50 calories and tightened my muffin top just reading this! Fuck running, I’m adding this to my home screen.

    Also, I have been known to ask twats that shout if they’d pull their pants down so I can see what I’m working with. Not a single one has obliged. Just rude really.

  24. “Women who run alone should take precautions..” I’m not sure carrying condoms send out a healthy message to be fair.
    Typical RW pish. If it’s any consolation they are impressively patronising to almost everyone so this may not be sexism: It could just be laziness and or ineptitude.

  25. Great article! Almost every running magazine is a waste of money. Finding like-minded runners on Twitter and through blogs is much more useful.

    Hope it doesn’t put you off running for good!

  26. Thank you! I am so sick of sexist tripe peddled to women as excellent running advice which nearly always amounts to girding one’s loins against rape and pointing out that we are (usually) actively dying during menstruation.

  27. Please don’t ever change. I actually just pissed a little bit through my leggings laughing at this. You are a very talented writer.

  28. So funny, and exactly how I felt when I started running 1 year ago. I can now manage 5k twice a week and have no aspirations to do more, it’s just right for me! My advice is run when, where, how with whom & wearing what you want, don’t feel that you have to ‘conform’. Nobody writes magazines about how to walk do they? We all manage to work that one out for ourselves! I still feel self conscious running in company, but do the race for life once a year, because I know there will be lots of other ladies who don’t care how they look there too! I’ve never been tempted to buy a magazine about running. Surely sitting & reading a magazine about a physical activity is counter productive anyhow? Keep up the great writing….and running!

  29. This is the funniest thing ive read for ages, it made me snort! I have shared it everywhere i possibly can – it deserves public recognition!

  30. Absolutely spot on! Especially the dog thing. I could never take my Border Collie (now deceased)out running with me as he shat or cocked his leg up on every corner. I am happy to say I’ve never read RW as the cover always put me off. Smug twats.

  31. I read this out loud to my friend, but when I got about halfway through I was laughing so hard I was in tears. He had to finish reading it himself, and we both fell to the floor, snorting like absolute buffoons. Thank you!

  32. As someone who runs round country lanes at night (for fun I am not some kind of sheep botherer) this made me chuckle.iPod cranked to max, no street lights and a heavy sweat on I am by far the scariest sight but no ear ring snatching sex pests yet.Though a dog did once try and bite my arse on a run one night… Its ok, totally distracted it by screaming ‘what the ffffuuuucccck’ and doing that crazy propellor armed thing that you used to do at school whilst briskly and unflinchingly marching towards it. Love this post!

  33. This was brilliant my husband gets the runners world magazine ive never heard him mention any of these crazy tips for him i especially liked the bit about carrying id like a dog and the things us women manage to do whilst on our period!

  34. This is the BEST running post ever. Women, if you are considering running and have breasts larger than an AAA, there are only two words of advice:

    Sports Bra

  35. This is brilliant – just gave me some proper chortles at my desk in work. Having recently taken up triathlon (despite being unable to swim) [yes, yes, I know] and had my own mini outrage at the marketing of a women-only triathlon event which was described as a ‘fun girls day out’. A what??? What sort of f*cking idiot writes this stuff?? If I wanted a ‘fun day out’, my first choice would not be spluttering my way through three separate events, one after the other, risking life and limb in each one! I wrote about that here: but it’s nowhere near as entertaining as the above!

  36. For optimal safety, females, please: lock your doors, check your windows, step on the treadmill – and run in complete silence.
    First thing in the morning, as your dog watches.
    And make sure you pee first.

  37. Brilliant comments, all of them so familiar, some depressingly so. I remember being the only woman on the streets running, over 20 years ago, hard to believe. I’ve heard and seen it all, but thank heavens for ipods so you no longer have to estimate your distance nor listen to inane comments from the public. I agree with the person who says that you don’t need special gear but a good running bra is key. Also, look up Lululemon for great running trousers, all shapes, all sizes! C’mon, get your shoes on!

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