Some people think running is just putting one foot in front of the other and moving in a faster fashion than a walk, and I suppose they would be right. Some people think it’s pretty boring and monotonous and again, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But running for me is joyous, exciting, often tough and somehow frequently manages to land me in some unusual and ridiculous situations. Like the time I encountered a naked man.
I love running down by the canal, mostly because it’s flat and the mere sight of hills repel me, although there is always the inevitable 1 mile of continuous uphill to get back home. It’s usually quite quiet and the views are lovely, so it’s one of my most frequented running routes. The route I was going on this particular day would take me off to the right after about 3 miles of running along the canal and onto a short trail path. The trails went uphill, then down under a bridge with a steep uphill climb to the next village, along a gravel path adorned with trees. There was a housing estate that backed onto the path.
I set out on my run, rejoicing at the downhill start (think arms flailing in the air, Phoebe from Friends style). I joined the canal, ran past the cut off for Tesco, past the traveller’s camp where I always experience some PTSD after a run in with a Jack Russell and finally arrived at the opening for the trail. I skidded as I took the corner, not because I was going fast, but because the soles of my 3-year-old trainers were as smooth as a banana skin and didn’t do well when they met the gravel path (I did have newer trainers, but I didn’t know if this particular route would be muddy, so I went for these old banana skin trainers. I know, cool trainer story, right?). Anyway, as I started up that first hill I looked up and immediately stopped dead in my tracks. My brain was trying to compute what had presented itself to me. Could I actually see the crack of a strange man’s arse before my very eyes?
Yes, shuffling frantically away in the opposite direction was a completely naked man. I say completely naked, he had sunglasses on, black shoes and black socks. He also had a very distinguishable tattoo on his leg and a skin head. I know what you are thinking, and yes I did manage to take in a lot of his appearance in such a short flash of time! Apart from socks, shades and shoes he was completely and utterly butt naked, with a bundle of clothes under his arm like he was playing a naked game of rugby with some imaginary naked teammates. He certainly looked like a flanker to me! Anyway, he was putting in some sprint and thank God it wasn’t in my direction. I stood in the same spot for what felt like 5 full minutes, mouth open, trying to digest what had occurred in front of my eyes.
My mind quickly flicked through a selection of scenarios that might have faced me had I been seconds earlier, like an old black and white, Charlie Chaplin-esque comedy film reel. Scene 1: Middle – aged naked man mid-way through his naked yoga repertoire, hairy butt in the air performing down dog. Scene 2: Middle-aged naked man bird watching, rudely interrupted by woman who dramatically faints at the sight of his pecker. Scene 3: Middle-aged naked man bouncing about attempting the helicopter with his abnormally saggy, slightly lopsided scrotum banging off his thighs, vying for uninterrupted attention by maintaining intense eye contact with innocent onlooker throughout his display.
What on earth was this guy doing and why was he doing it in the buff? I suddenly realised I had spent way too much time just standing still and not taking any action. As I jolted back to the here and now, I wondered if he would he be waiting if I carried on up that path, so I finally made the decision that the best course of action was to turn around and join the canal path again, run a bit further along, before turning and running back home.
I continued to ponder as I pounded. What should I do with this information? The fact that he was running away hadn’t made me feel frightened or even visually violated – it was cheeky and strange for sure, but thankfully I didn’t feel scared. I turned and started running back along the canal towards home. As I made my return journey I saw a man walking towards me wearing combats, a black leather jacket, sunglasses and black shoes. I would bet my last bit of toilet paper that this was the bum cheek, ball swinging guy. I tried not to look at him as I passed, you know, the way you try not to look at a road traffic accident as you drive past at slow speed on the motorway. He made no gesture towards me from what I gathered from my surreptitious side eye view. As I got closer to home, I decided the best thing to do was to call the police and report it. Whatever he was doing wasn’t appropriate. The only viable excuse for him being naked was if someone had mugged him and stolen his attire. Someone could be on the receiving end of what he was doing, so I felt it was my duty to report it. I laid bare the details of what I had seen, but the police didn’t say much on the phone. I had eased my conscience though and done my bit to save humanity.
A few nights later there was a knock at the door. I unlocked it and gently peeked outside only to see two police men on the doorstep. They asked if they could come in. Now, the worst thoughts usually go through your head if you see two policemen at your door, but my first thought was that I had done something wrong (thinking along the lines of a driving issue or potentially being spotted getting caught short on a previous run). I was slightly on edge. The biggest fella then started explaining why they were there. I had reported a sighting a few days ago and they wanted me to look at a few mug shots to see if I recognised the offender. I asked if they had any bum shots as there would probably be more chance of a positive match. Tumbleweed. Anyway, I actually thought I had managed to pick a guy that looked really like the man I had seen, shape of head etc. The other blokes in the photos were either too old or had hair. I felt a sense of achievement that I had potentially removed an undressed undesirable from my local street. What a cock stopping crusader I was! I asked the police for an update, which I never received and I never heard another word about it.
Looking back at this situation I realise that I spent way too long just standing still, like a complete pillock, but in my defence, he was running away. My reaction might have been a bit different if he had been running towards me. It’s not unusual to think of safety issues when you are out running, being aware of your surroundings and potential dangers is a good thing, but it’s also important not to let it ruin your enjoyment of galloping freely with no unnecessary worry bags. ‘Bare’ in mind this was one of only 2 times in almost 20 years of running that I have felt a bit uneasy or weirded out by something. I can tell you about the other time soon, although if you want a wee teaser, it basically involves a fat guy on a bike.
Here are a few trot thoughts about keeping safe and what to do it you encounter a naked man.
- Always bring your phone with you.
- Try to make a lot of noise if something bad happens while you are running, kick, scream and shout.
- Don’t run along quiet, badly lit areas late at night or really early in the morning.
- If you want to build your confidence and learn something new, then self-defence classes can be a fun way to do this. There is a great (but ever so slightly cheesy) youtube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ-EPYKFie4
- You can prepare as much as possible, but no one knows how they will react in a given situation. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t react the way you think you should have.
- Most of all, enjoy your running and don’t worry when you are out there pounding the streets. You could spend your life worrying about something that will never happen, so don’t let it spoil your enjoyment of something great!
- And remember, the rule of thumb when you see a naked bum, is to turn on your heels and run, run, run!