We know the sort don't we? They hang around on corners in groups mainly, hands down the front of their joggers, eyes poking out from beneath their hoodies scouring the road for someone to pick on.
Your heart sinks the moment you spot them because you just know it's going to be you today. As a runner you kind of get used to this phenomenum, as a fat runner well you are just rich pickings and you simply have to develop a thick skin but the first few times it happens it actually hurts, like on the inside.
So we are talking about the feral behaving children you often encounter on your runs, the ones who take great pleasure in name calling, pointing, laughing, mimicking and even throwing things. The worse ones though are the ones who run alongside you or past you at speed just to show they are faster, well faster for 30 seconds or so before going back to their Mayfairs and alcopops.
My whole running journey came about because of one such challenging child. I was minding my own business carting my size 20 body around a park as part of an organised fun run and he (the grubby little kid who could only have been 7 or 8) was fishing with his dad. He could have just ignored me and concentrated on getting a catch or whatever it is you do when you fish, but no he had to call out "Fatty Must Run" and then roll around laughing and soaking up the admiration of his dad and his friends, who quite frankly should have known better.
I was too mortified at the time to respond but I wonder what I would have said to him anyway? I mean how do you respond you can't throttle them can you? And most of the time you can barely breath let alone come up with a witty response.
Unfortunately that wasn't an isolated incident. I often find myself the victim of abuse from these children not even out of primary school yet. What compels them to be so mean? Is the sight of an overweight runner so incredibly shocking that it equates to the comedy value of a Liittle Britain sketch or something?
Last year out on a run with my running club a group of kids who were loitering around on a humid sunny evening were initially rude but then ran with us for a while asking some reasonable questions. I think the convo went a little like this...
"What you doing?" the boy in the adidas tracksuit asks looking genuinely baffled.
"Running" being particularly coy and waiting for a smart response.
"Why?" again this is asked quite seriously.
"To keep fit" I reply obviously out of breath.
"But you are still Fat doh" which I guess is a reasonable observation.
"I know, which is why I am running" to which he nods, understanding my plight somehow.
We run for a few more seconds in silence
"Oh, right... so how far you running?" he asks, looking up to where my fellow runners are turning onto the main road.
"About 7 miles" its not that far, we have already run 3 but I am showing off I guess.
"How far is that?" he asks innocently.
"... well we are heading back to Wanstead" where I have parked my car, preventing me from taking a shortcut home.
"Raaahhh dats well far" sure is.
"Yeah I guess so".
"Hey TJ these guys are running to Wanstead, fancy it?" he shouts to his mates who have just turned the corner with a blue and white stripy carrier bag.
"Nah you're ok" at which point the adidas boy slows down to a stop and shouts out to me in a patronising way.
"Yeah, well laterz then loser".
For a moment I thought I had found a convert to running. I had visions of him being interviewed by the BBC in the throws of excitement after winning a gold medal in the 10,000 meters and recalling the time he joined this overweight runner who had invaded his estate one evening. But it wasn't to be.
At a recent 10k race in Regents Park I was about 700 meters away from the finish line when some little kid said "cor look at that Fat lady" he was really young, 5 or 6 I guess. I heard it clear as day as did his 9 year old brother who looked mortified and instantly told him off... why is it that even at that young age that boy already knows (or thinks at least) that fat people don't run?
Or maybe it's just that I look funny when I am running, expelling so much energy and looking like I am in excruciating pain. Maybe I draw attention to myself because I don't run so freely or as easily as they do.
In the last mile of the Brighton Marathon this spring when I felt like I was actually gonna die, a bunch of kids started mimicking my breathing and laughing uncontrollably. I was gutted and if I'd had the energy I quite possibly could have pushed them over the sea wall they were perched on but I didn't. I just sighed and carried on plodding.
So what are we to do?
If more overweight people ran in public would this make it less of a spectacle? Less funny perhaps? I know for a fact that the thought of being accosted in public like this puts people off from giving it a go in the first place.
Answers on a postcard please... what should we do about these little s***'s???