W1R1 Feeling awkward about running in public - Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K

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W1R1 Feeling awkward about running in public


Just about to do my first run and the thing that's troubling me the most is being in public.

I can't really think of a private spot to run in, other than the woods, and with my anxiety I will probably be afraid alone in the woods...(silly I know, but my anxiety is sky high at the moment)

Did anyone else feel awkward or embarrassed when you first started running? How did you overcome the embarrassment?

I wish you all the best of luck on your runs today!

57 Replies

You don’t need to be embarrassed at all. No-one notices or cares even if there was something to be embarrassed about (there isn’t)

Mrun1Graduate in reply to glentoran99

First run done and you're right! I was worrying over nothing 😁


Oh my goodness yes! this is why I run early in the mornings. Well lit streets but too early for people to be out and see me/recognise my shocking shuffle. one of these days I will brave the day light hours but until I have more confidence, darkness is my friend. Have fun on your first run :)

Mrun1Graduate in reply to jiggles7

I know I'm not organised enough or dedicated enough to get up early to run...(not yet anyway)

I applaud you for your serious efforts.

But just know, I saw loads of people on my run and no takes any notice. I promise. Be brave. Once you've done it you'll realise it's not so bad at all.

It's winter I'm dreading. Giving myself the motivation to leave my warm and cosy house to run in the freezing cold 😫

Yes. I’m sure most of us felt exactly the same as you week one. I actually did the first two runs around my living room 😂😂 then I just decided to get out there because really we shouldn’t give two figs about what others think and equally 99% of the population are so wrapped up in their own lives they don’t notice you, or if they’re like me, they just think ‘good on you’. Go for it and best wishes for a healthier future ☺️

Mrun1Graduate in reply to Pippatong

I seriously considered doing it in my living room 😂 but knew if I did I would find it even harder to make it outside, and eventually I'd give up!

AlMorrGraduate in reply to Pippatong

You are so correct on that point regarding the population being wrapped up in their own lives, they are to busy looking down at their mobiles to notice anyone running. I was in a train station then later on at a bus station the other day and noticed that everyone had "heads down" doing something on their mobile phones.

Pippatong in reply to AlMorr

Mobile phones grr! The scourge of modern living I think sometimes. It’s probably my age though ha ha!

Mrun1Graduate in reply to AlMorr

I see it everywhere. Couples at restaurants ignoring each other and staring at their phones. Mothers ignoring their children in the playground and staring at their phones. It's an easy trap to fall into. I have a rule in my house. No phones after 6pm. So that way we can all enjoy dinner and the rest of the evening talking to each other, reading or enjoying a movie together.

(This rule took at least 4 weeks to become a habit, before that we would always bend the rules and some days ignore it completely)

AlMorrGraduate in reply to Mrun1

A few years ago I was on a train and a family came and sat near me, from the moment they came on until they got off the train about 30 minutes later not one of them spoke to each other. Husband, wife and two teenage children were heads down on their mobile phones the whole journey.


I think it is the number one fear! You are not alone.

My strategy (possibly unconscious, and there were other reasons I did it this way) was to run in what I was wearing rather than putting on special clothing that shouted "I'm running" (obviously there could be totally unsuitable footwear I wouldn't recommend but I wore lightweight walking boots as I didn't possess trainers and they are certainly not the worst things I've ever run in)

Often I ran in places where there was a choice of route so that I could turn off and avoid people. I did run in woods, a lot, because my body doesn't care for roads but I have my dog with me. Some people borrow dogs for the purpose (dogs can be a mixed blessing though).

For some people, having someone else to run with is very helpful in getting started, although again that isn't straightforward as you have to learn your own pace and it is better not to be dependent on someone else's availability.

It would be dishonest to say that no-one else ever notices the beginner runner... but the number of posts worried about being seen vastly outweighs those where they have been and even more so those where it has been negative. So much of doing the programme is about being aware of your feelings but not letting them hold you back.

Off you pop and do your first session and come back and tell us all about it.

Pippatong in reply to GoogleMe

Great advice 😊 I once tried running with my dog but he kept stopping to have some sniffs and I really didn’t get far at all. Another time he ran off and we lost him for 40mins so now I go alone 😅😅

GoogleMeGraduate in reply to Pippatong

We don't learn to run in one session so it would be surprising if our dogs learned to run with us in one session. I can still remember the look on Google's face the first time we set out! She now knows the difference between a 'sniffage walk' and a run if she's on the lead (I have a waistbelt and bungee lead affair), although for off lead places I did have to do some reinforcement of recall (which involved running with warm sausage wrapped in foil or sachets of cat food)

I've only run a few times without her, when she was very ill. Nice not to carry all the paraphernalia but otherwise hated it.

Mrun1Graduate in reply to Pippatong

Oh no! Lost dog is definitely one way to ruin a run. Although I'm sure you got plenty of exercise searching for him 👌🏻

Mrun1Graduate in reply to GoogleMe

Thanks so much for your advice! I did my first run. In bright orange trainers and a bright orange hoddie to match 😂 (I had to buy new "running" clothes as I used shopping for new stuff as my motivation to actually get up and start this C25k app)

Being out there, in public, with plenty of people about, I realised something. I was so foucsed on my music and breathing that I didn't have time to be embarrassed (keep in mind that I must have looked like a running/walking tiger from the Frosties cereal packet)

I'm pleased I just went out and did it instead of putting it off or trying to find a place to hide away. Now the fear of embarrassment has no power over me.

GoogleMeGraduate in reply to Mrun1

Excellent! Fabulous strategy!

sunshinefishGraduate in reply to Mrun1

Well done! No one notices you when you are running, and now you've done it once and put your fears to rest the next time should be easier!


I did... I still do to an extent, I don’t run from the house still, but I am making progress, I do leave the house in shorts! One of my neighbours is doing this now and we shall soon set off from the street on foot. It’s an irrational fear though... I wish I’d tackled it head on at the start as I’ve now made it a bigger issue than it was. You’re not unique in your fears by a long way... but the best advice I can give you on this is don’t take a small doubt and build it into a wall like I have.

Mrun1Graduate in reply to UnfitNoMore

I faced it head on and went for my first run! And you're 100% right, facing it head on has meant that it's no longer an issue. I'm actually excited for my next run!

People honestly don't really pay any attention. They are too busy doing their own thing.

Be brave! Get out there and run and walk with pride 😁

UnfitNoMoreGraduate in reply to Mrun1

Cool... and now I really have to... I’ll run from home tomorrow... thanks.

Mrun1Graduate in reply to UnfitNoMore

Let us know how you get on! Good luck and don't worry!!!


Just got back from my first run. I saw lots of people... dog walkers, people pushing prams, small kids etc. And they didn't notice me. They didn't stare or even look in my direction. All that worrying was over nothing. Basically, people are too busy getting on with their own lives to give a crap about what I'm doing with my life, yay!!


Well done for getting out there - and squashing those fears. I think most of us felt exactly the same at the beginning and still do to a point but as you realised- people really don’t take any notice. Most of the fear is in our head.

Enjoy the rest of week 1 and run proud 😊👍

Mrun1Graduate in reply to Beanjo

I'm actually excited for my next run!

And you're totally right, no one even looked in my direction (not that I noticed anyway)

Yep I was so nervous & embarrassed I almost didn’t start but my husband told me to get out of my head, put some music on & completely forget everything/everyone around me, then he practically pushed me out of the door! I’m so glad he did because I’m now on week 3 (been running 5 weeks but repeated some weeks from illness). Good luck - soon enough you won’t be thinking twice about other people xx

Mrun1Graduate in reply to lisapeppermill

well done on getting so far! I must admit I am a bit nervous about when it gets harder and losing motivation. But that's another worry for another day.

For now my first run is done and fear of embarrassment was all in my head! ☺️


I did when I started! It is surprisingly common. I ran late in evening in the park so no one could see me! I only just got the confidence to venture out in the day. It just came as I got more comfortable running as the weeks went by and i started enjoying the runs. I found that people hardly notice you as much as you think as they are all in their own worlds. You will begin to not notice as much as you concentrate on your breathing and form e.t.c. The only main advice I have is just take the scary leap and start. The more you avoid or think about it, the more scary it will get. If you can, you can run early in morning where there is probably a lot less people out and those that are, they are probably half asleep to notice. Also music or audio books or podcast will be good distraction. I struggle with anxiety too so I understand but running has done wonders for it. Good luck x

Mrun1Graduate in reply to bluepanda

To be honest my motivation for doing this is to try and help with my anxiety. I've heard exercise is the answer...

I eat very healthy and have always been slim. So people always assume I'm really fit. After running today I realised I'm not all that fit at all 😂 I was worn out after the run was complete.

Anyway I'm glad to hear it's worked wonders for your anxiety! That's just what I needed to hear to keep up my motivation for doing this! ❤️

emily-mGraduate in reply to Mrun1

I was very self-conscious when I started out but quickly found that being 'a runner' (it still makes me laugh to say that) gave me a purpose and permission to be outside, daft though that may sound. I still find it very liberating. I also suffer from anxiety, and am trying to recover from a particularly bad period. Running does help, it gives me something relatively trivial to focus on away from everything else, and I'm astonished I can do it (well, sort of do it!). Week 9 now and I can't believe the difference from week 1.

Well done on getting out there and making a start. That's the biggest hurdle. You'll look back in a few weeks and be amazed at how far you've come. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

bluepandaGraduate in reply to Mrun1

Well done for getting out there and doing it! I was exhausted after my first couple of runs too. I didn’t believe it when I was at your stage but it will get better. There will be up and downs for sure but you will see a positive change one way or another. For me, the first difference, I saw was I recovered quicker, less tried after and I was out of breath a lot less. Go slower if you can. It’s so easy to start too enthusiastically and regret it later. The distraction, sense of achievement and the endorphins from running is probably what helps with the anxiety. You will likely start sleeping better which is always plus. Good luck x

Totally get this. Doesn't help that my neighbour opposite is a marathon runner! But I still go out. I don't make eye contact! And with headphones in, even with no music, people assume you aren't paying them attention so don't pay you any attention. It's fab. So go for it!


I could write a lot about the jeers and "funny" comments I heard when running first (Park is freak central around here... probably including me lol)

But - I actually laugh now because in my mind's eye I just envision the unfit yobtaws in years to come.

I will be still fit and well and running by the hospital where they are hooked up to all sorts of medical equipment designed to prolong their painful and wasted lives while I trot merrily along :)

Works for me - but then again, I tend to be a teensy bit irritated by yobtaws 😀

Mrun1Graduate in reply to Irish-John

Hahahaha! This really made me chuckle 😂😂😂

GoogleMeGraduate in reply to Irish-John

Be nice if it really worked that way...


If I cared what people thought of me I wouldn’t have been sweating out loud at Jo, and talking to her 😀

The thing I have learned is, people mostly don't care / aren't interested. I have had weird and stupid things said and done, just ignore it and NEVER let anything get between you and your run. There is no beauty contest and no pageant, I admire anyone else I see out running and only ever race myself. My only regret is that I didn't get outside sooner, up until week 6 I ran on a treadmill, to build endurance. When I am out on my road bike, people say and do really dumb things, same scenario. You're lapping the person who does nothing, I call this Envy Tourettes... Enjoy your runs.

Mrun1Graduate in reply to Pl0dde

Wow, I can't believe people have actually said things to you about running! What idiots we have in this world. I'm hoping no one says anything to me (anything rude or nasty) I'm not quite sure how I'd take it. It would probably discourage me from running. Then again, I'm sure these people who have said things to you were probably stupid teenagers (we've all been one), right?! Surely not fully grown adults are that immature?...


YES, I started in Feb so I did all my runs in the dark, and I still like to. I run in the woods loads and its superb but I wouldnt in the dark. Get a head torch and high vis to ensure you are safe :)

Mrun1Graduate in reply to ju-ju-

I live in a very safe area of the country side. (is anywhere really safe these days...?)

But my anxiety would play up if I went out alone after dark. It would make the run more like hell than something enjoyable.

I think what I think is the most embarrassing part is the running then walking then running. It means if anyone is watching they must thinking "what is she? A runner, a walker, a crazy?!"


emily-mGraduate in reply to Mrun1

I kept expecting people to tell me not to stop or to keep running. Fortunately they never did! 😅

A lot of runners do interval training, so it's not so strange. (My sister-in-law, who's a pretty serious runner, does a lot of interval work.)

Mrun1Graduate in reply to emily-m

I'm hoping that during this 9 weeks and forever more no one ever says anything to me while I'm running! 😂

If they did it would for sure knock my confidence.

That's good to know that interval running isn't so strange after all!

Oh, definitely. I ran my first three runs inside the house - around the lounge and into the kitchen and back into the lounge until I ventured out into the garden as well. As I got braver, I ran from my house around the streets, but I really didn't like that. So, now I drive to some playing fields and run around the rugby fields early morning. Hubby comes with and walks the dog as some of the area is behind trees and along a river and I just think it is good to be wise. I run early in the morning. There are actually quite a few dog walkers around and I've just got used to it now. I'm in my fifth week. You will be fine - just keep at it and know that at least you are doing something.

Mrun1Graduate in reply to Seriouslyblonde

Actually a run along the river might be the best idea for me! It's always busy down there with dog walkers but the area is so large and long it's unlikely I'll get in anyone's way.

Today I ran at a playing field close to my house (5 min warm up walk was to the playing field) and I felt really exposed at first. Then I concentrated on my breathing and forgot all about being embarrassed. But next run will be along the river! Thanks for the suggestion ☺️

SeriouslyblondeGraduate in reply to Mrun1

That's great! Go for it.


Welcome to the forum and well done on getting started.

This guide to the plan is essential reading healthunlocked.com/couchto5...

Enjoy your journey.


I ran when it was dark. To be honest, we’re invisible to non-runners.

I recently purchased a new hat which my work mates thought was hilarious, one of which compared it to a condom 😂😂😂 and my husband looked at me funny when I put it on. I didn’t really care because even though it looks strange, no one will even notice me.

My main priority is making sure I’m comfortable and safe. And it gives me a reason to purchase and wear bright things I wouldn’t normally wear.

Mrun1Graduate in reply to jessm_01

Same! My first run was in bright orange 😂


I realised a cap helped me with that feeling!!! Running at night, as others have expresed, made me feel quite unsafe and I would turn around if I saw a couple of people at the end of one street where light wasn't blinding.

Mrun1Graduate in reply to Rociodfr

Agreed, running at night is out of the question for me. I'd be too paranoid.

I had my very first run today and was surprised at my thoughts that I would prefer people not to be around me in the busy park as never run before. I did it anyway although nowhere near completing, but will try again.

Mrun1Graduate in reply to CT5K

You'll get there, just keep at it! Don't give up.

I no longer care what anyone who sees me thinks. I just focus on my running, breathing and music. It's got to the stage now where I really look forward to my runs 😁

When I started running in the woods I was a bit self conscious. I went past a man and woman walking together and he commented “this one is a jogger rather than a runner”. Before I had any time to react the woman responded with “ he’s moving a hell of a lot faster than you ever do!” End of feeling self conscious!

Mrun1Graduate in reply to Beachcomber66

Hahaha! Good for her for calling him out like that.

I think too often people are judgemental and it's normally stemming from an insecurity that's their problem and not yours.

Luckily 9 out of 10 people are too busy focusing on themselves to worry about people running/jogging! Luckily my runs have so far been comment free from the people I see in public 😂

When I started I wore a baseball cap and nobody recognised me!!


Hi Mrun1, you did it I see and it was o.k. Brilliant! Being somewhat in the older age bracket I didnt like running past teenagers on their way to school. I felt really self conscious! But they didnt notice, too busy on their phones or chatting with their friends...Guess lots of us felt the way you did, but we keep going out there, we keep on running and we keep on loving it - most of the time 🙃🌻happy running - beware it's addictive.

Mrun1Graduate in reply to Gran4z

Oh I don't like teenagers in general, let alone when I'm running 😂

My son is 13 and I keep asking him to do the couch to 5k with me and he said he only will when I stop wearing sports clothes and a Fitbit. "You're doing that thing again mum, where you have all the gear and no idea" 😂😂😂

The most annoying thing I encounter on my runs are dogs off the lead that come bounding up to me. The temptation to stop my run and stroke the dog is strong, but so far I've resisted.

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