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Running Commentary: When birds attack

Running Commentary: When birds attack

September 5, 2014

Andy Mahony caught the running bug a couple of years ago. He works with the council’s public health team. In Running Commentary, he shares his favourite running routes and parks, as well as tips he has picked up while being overtaken by a speeding Santa and nipped at by geese. And then there are all the other weird and wonderful things he encounters along the way.

Training for a marathon or half-marathon presents a logistical challenge for the runner. As your training progresses you will inevitably start running longer and longer distances, and will need to find good routes to accommodate these runs. Just be wary of geese.

If like me you don’t always enjoy running around in circles like a demented hamster then even sizable parks like Walpole become too small. That said, Walpole Park is great and there some exciting plans for the park. Run or take a walk there, you’ll like it.

There also seems to be something intrinsically wrong about driving to a park to go running. It’s perhaps not quite as bad as driving to the gym to go running on a machine. To me this is borderline insanity. Why not just run to the gym and back, and save yourself the money?

Anyway, I was looking for a route that was one large loop. I live quite close to the river Brent and the Grand Union Canal so I decided to incorporate these into a new route. However, I had not anticipated the avian problem that a waterside run can entail.

It transpires that Canadian geese care more for new goslings than they do for half-marathon training plans and two geese in particular are determined that my plans should be halted immediately.

One serious mother…

Now, I’ve been to Canada a few times and I like Canada and the Canadian people. It’s a wonderful, picturesque place and I’ve always found the people warm and friendly. But their geese have got a serious attitude problem.

I’m sure Branta Canadensis is normally a fairly chilled out member of the avian establishment. But when newly arrived goslings are tottering about, both goose and gander go into over-protective parent mode. They are known to protect their goslings by violently chasing away nearby creatures, including lone humans on half-marathon training plans.

I’m led to believe that if a warning hiss doesn’t work, then an attack with bites and slaps of the wings will soon follow. Now I don’t speak Geese (or even Portuguese) so explaining to mum and dad that I merely wished to pass them on the narrow towpath was somewhat problematic.

Escaping the geese

Fortunately mum, dad and the children eventually moved up the embankment a little and I was able to run past them. However this didn’t stop mum attempting a nifty bite on the leg maneuver. Whilst fortunately she did not make contact, I immediately realised that attempting to get past them on such a narrow path was a foolish decision. I was fortunate to escape unscathed.

Should you find yourself in a similar position my advice is to turn around and go back the way you came. It may ruin your run, but it is by far the safer option. Getting too close to wildlife is never a good idea. There’s a reason it’s called wildlife.

Of course it could have been worse; I’m sure Canadian joggers have to avoid ursine encounters in highly forested areas. So give me Branta Canadensis any day.

Or stick to parks and run around like a hamster – it’s far safer.