Running in stealth mode

In Barefoot running, Bollocks by All This Running Around2 Comments

On the face of it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I don’t have much in common with the predator out of Predator. (The first one, obviously. I have erased all the others from my mind.) For a start, I’m not eight feet all. I don’t have mandibles. I do┬áhave the ability to kill people with a shoulder-mounted laser weapon that automatically tracks target movement, but that’s not relevant here.

However, there is one thing we do have in common. And that is the ability to run about in woodland undetected by people. Granted, it pretty much only works for me if I’m behind the people, since I can’t actually bend light around myself to become effectively invisible. But I like this analogy and I’m sticking with it, so you can sod off.

I like to think that I’ve always been a fairly quiet runner. I once did a 10 mile race with a mate, but we didn’t actually run together until the race itself. I was somewhat taken aback after the first few metres, when I realised that the loud slapping noise that I’d assumed was emanating from a nearby breaker’s yard was in fact coming from his feet. He was entirely flat footed, and although I eventually managed to zone out of it, it was a bit of a pain in the arse since it messes with your own cadence. I found myself instinctively matching his stride, which was all wrong for me.

But I digress. I was still heel striking at the time, so I was probably making a bit of a racket myself. One thing that changes almost instantly when you change to a mid-foot or forefoot strike is that you become a quieter runner. It’s not difficult to understand: you are landing more softly, with different muscles and tendons absorbing more of the shock. And as my technique has improved, I’ve continued to get more and more quiet. Which brings a rather unique problem.

I am constantly creeping up on people. Well, not constantly. But it happens quite a bit. If I’m behind someone, even if I’m on the road (which is not often), they can’t hear me. You might not imagine that it’s such a big deal, but essentially what I’m doing is making people absolutely shit themselves. I’ve tried various tactics to make my presence known. Here are my most common methods:

  • The cough. After much trial and error, I ascertained that ‘the cough’ needs to be substantially louder than a polite ‘clearing of the throat’. Depending on how tired I am when ‘the cough’ is required, it can come out sounding either like Alex Higgins during the break between frames, or a large angry dog that smoke 40 Bensons a day.
  • The stamp. ‘The stamp’ is basically a return to heel striking, but in a slightly more stampy way. It can be effective if running on tarmac, less so if you’re off road. It also has the unwelcome side effect of making you look like you’re trying to run, put out a fire and engage in tribal dancing all at the same time.
  • The loud ‘GOOD MORNING!”. Distance is key with this one. Leave it too late and you will find yourself mere metres from your target. This usually results in cardiac arrest (theirs). Do it too soon and all you will achieve will be a slight cocking of the target’s head, as they look around attempting to work out where the sound has come from. And they’ll still shit themselves when they see you.

In serious cases, I’ve found that a combination of all three methods has been necessary. But why do I care? Well, because when you get right down to it, making someone scream in fright isn’t why I run. Sure, it’s often hilarious. But I do like to let people know I’m there. I’m thinking of strapping cymbals to my knees, but am worried that I’ll get addicted and become a running one-man-band. I bet I still wouldn’t make as much noise as my flat footed idiot mate.