Running: a health and safety perspective


Running: a Health & Safety Perspective

If that’s not the sexiest, most gripping, title ever, then I really don’t know what is.

There were a couple of incidents that I forgot to include in my recent race report for the Mizuno Reading Half Marathon. In Health & Safety circles, they’d refer to these as “near misses” (and would then shuffle off to a windowless room to compare duffle coats and clipboards).

Near miss #1

Somewhere around mile 61 the route took us through the city centre, with crowds lining the streets giving us some fantastic support. Among the crowd was someone dressed in a charity bear costume, waving and doing a little dance for the runners as we sped past, and it was a nice distraction from the efforts of the race.

…actually, I was a little hasty in my use of the word “nice”. It was certainly a distraction, as I found out when I suddenly spotted a line of metal bollards just past where my new ursine chum was standing. They were at groin height and directly in my path. Was it just a coincidence? Or had the bear picked the perfect spot to caper and dance, knowing that more than a few hapless runners would turn to look at him2 only to abruptly and brutally “run aground”.  With the heavy padding of his mask, you probably wouldn’t even hear his maniacal laughter as yet another victim collapsed in a tiny ball of groinstricken (real word) agony. It was like the siren of Greek mythology, luring unsuspecting ships onto deadly rocks with its magical song. Except instead of a song it was a funny little dance, and the siren was wearing a bear suit.

Luckily, I was able to swerve just in time, which is why I’m currently writing this in the comfort of my own home home, and not from a bed in the AWT3 ward of the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

Near miss #2

I’ve mentioned the crowds that lined the route, and I really can’t express how much of a boost a good crowd can give to runners when things get tough. Some had musical instruments, some had banners, and others just waved and cheered. Now and then you’d get groups of kids holding their hands out over the barriers to offer a cheery high five to the runners as they went past. If I’m close enough, I’ll always accept the proffered high five (unless I’ve just used my hand to clear a badly executed snot-rocket from my face4, in which case I’d ignore them as an act of mercy).

If there’s a cluster of kids standing together, you might get three or four high fives in a row, and that’s what happened towards the end of the race. I was feeling tired but elated with just a couple of miles to go, when I saw the hands outstretched towards me, attached to grinning faces.

…actually, I should clarify that the hands weren’t directly attached to the grinning faces; that’d be weird. They were attached to arms, and the faces came along a bit later. Anyway, as I was saying,  I saw the four outstretched hands and raised mine for a spot of cheerful palm-slappery (another real word).




Fo… oh crap!

I realised too late that the fourth hand wasn’t offering a high five at all. It was holding a cup of coffee and belonged to someone who was about to get wet. I’d used up the last of my good luck avoiding the bollard earlier, and this time my marzipan-like reflexes weren’t quick enough to save me. I clipped the coffee cup out of her hand and drenched us both with a (thankfully lukewarm) latte. I shouted an awkward “sorry” before finding a miraculous turn of speed, and scurried off as fast as my little legs could carry me.

I’m only slightly ashamed to say that, as I ran, I caught myself licking the coffee from my hand. Because at the end of the day, caffeine is caffeine.


1 Or mile 5. Or 8. I forget. Almost certainly somewhere between 1 and 13.
2 No idea if it was a man or a woman inside the costume. I’m assuming that it was human though, because the thought of a real bear wearing a bear costume is a bit too scary to contemplate.
3 Acute Winkle Trauma.
4 Or, on one occasion I’d rather not dwell on, the face of the unfortunate chap running next to me

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