Fun_People Archive
25 Mar
The Complete Runner's Guide

Date: Mon, 25 Mar 96 23:46:59 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: The Complete Runner's Guide

Forwarded-by: "R. Dunbar Poor" <>
Forwarded-by: Manish Tuteja <manish>
Forwarded-by: (Sean G. Kenwrick)

                     The Complete Runner's Guide
                   By Sean Kenwrick - 'The Running Man'






Despite the claims made by the title, this is not a complete guide but
merely an attempt to pass on what little knowledge I have on this subject
in the hope that others may take pleasure from this pastime as I have in
the past.

Before I go on I suppose I had better explain to any non-native English
speakers (such as Americans) what a runner is.  The Oxford Dictionary
defines it as:

     runner (n) [run-nr]  1. The act of leaving a food and drink
                          establishment before paying the bill.
                          2. Person who runs

The following guide is based on my experiences over a period of several
years of running from restaurants around the Birmingham area in the UK. The
majority of these runners were done from Indian restaurants, mainly because
they form the vast majority of restaurants in my area and are also the only
places that stay open after the pubs shut.

However I have not restricted my activities exclusively to these
restaurants; other runners have been done from a variety of restaurants
including several Chineses, a couple of Italians, one Pizza Hut and a

The latter of these did not really provide the challenge and adrenalin rush
that I normally expect from a running experience, and left me feeling rather
unfulfilled.   However since that is exactly feeling I normally get after
leaving a McDonalds it didn't make much difference.

I'm sure there are many others out there who could contribute their valuable
experience to this guide, and I would be happy to hear your experiences so
that this guide can grow and become a classic in its own right - a must for
every household.


The first runner is always the hardest.

You will not taste a single mouthful of your food and your
stomach will churn continually.  You will spend the entire meal
hunched over your food whispering and looking furtively at the
door.  And when the waiter arrives with your bill you will
promptly pay it and leave a generous tip.

Alternatively, you will do all of the above but at the critical
moment you take the plunge.  Panic will take hold as you fly
across the restaurant towards the door.  Old friendships mean
nothing in these moments as you scrabble for the exit - you would
gladly trample your friends to the ground in your attempt to
escape.   Then suddenly you'll be free.  You'll pour out into the
street and you'll feel a great rush of adrenalin and elation and
you will run and run and laugh and laugh and laugh....

It may take you several abortive attempts before you actually
make a successful run,  but don't give up, the final achievement
is worth the wait.  Remember, running the first time is like
diving off the high board for the first time - if you think about
it too much you won't do it.  However once you have taken the
decisive plunge there will be no going back, your innocence will
be lost forever ...

... You will become one of us.

On your first run it is probably better not to have experienced
runner with you.  This may sound strange, but an experience
runner is likely to be the first to the door - which means that
you won't be.   It is better that you run with other virgins -
then if you've got the guts to lead the way, you'll be the one
who's first to the door.

Also try not to act too suspiciously.  The first time I attempted
a runner was from a Chinese restaurant, but we were acting so
furtively that they asked us to pay before the meal arrived.  A
total disaster since only one of had money and the bill came to
about half his weekly social security cheque.

This leads me to my next tip....

Make sure you can afford to pay if something goes wrong.  For
first timers this will help you to relax a little, safe in the
knowledge that you have nothing to lose.

Finally and most importantly: Don't get caught!

If you remember the above points and take in a few of the points
in the rest of the guide you should enjoy a long a successful
running career.


There are several rules and codes of honour that a true running
man (or woman) should adhere to.  These rules have been in place
since the first ever recorded runner by Marco Polo when he legged
it from a Chinese restaurant during his travels in the 13th
century.  Remember that this is a pastime that is steeped in
tradition and custom, and any violation of its strict codes will
result in the eventual demise of this noble art.  I therefore
urge you to read carefully the following rules and ensure that
you adhere to them at all times.


This first rule is probably the most important and will serve you
well if you use it without exception.  An accomplished runner
will have no qualms about leaving his friends behind so long as
he makes good his own escape.  In fact, as you will see later,
it is sometimes desirable or necessary to be the only person who


This rule should not need to be mentioned amongst experience
runners but should be mentioned in advance if you are in the
presence of the inexperienced.

Occasionally an inexperienced runner will whine for their money
if they got caught and were forced to foot the bill.


This is not a game for the weak and feeble;  this is an art that
carries with it certain risks, and the participants should be
aware of the risks before they start.  If you are having trouble
with a whinging virgin then you should refer them to this section
immediately and that should settle the matter without further


There is nothing worse than a bunch of drunken yobs abusing the
staff and being generally obnoxious.  You should conduct yourself
with dignity at all times.  Remember,  you are about to steal
from these people so the least you can do is be polite.


It is likely that place you are running from has seen it all
before, particularly if it frequented after throwing out time at
the pubs.  Therefore do not chose a table too near to the door,
this will only arouse suspicion. A carefully executed runner will
take every body completely by surprise and it won't matter if you
have a few yards to run before reaching the exit.  Often you can
be past a waiter on the way to the door before he has time to
drop his jaw.

As mentioned before, try not to look too nervous or act
suspiciously. Try to relax and enjoy your meal and you will find
an opportunity will open itself to you.  If you are being watched
then it makes the job much harder.


There is nothing worse that bursting from a restaurant and
finding that you don't know which way to run.  In your panic you
will find yourself running up blind alleys and/or being separated
from your friends.  Take a few moments before you enter to plan
an escape route and meeting place for afterwards should you get


Five of us once burst forth from a Balti house and followed our
leader, lemming style, across one of the busiest roads in
Birmingham.  Afterwards we realised that not one of us had been
looking at anything other than the soles of the feet of the
person in front.

Remember: look before you listen before you cross!


It is inevitable that at some point you are going to find
yourself in the position of being left behind after you friends
have made a triumphant getaway.   This does not necessarily mean
that you have to foot the entire bill.

Offer to pay for your own bill only.  Tell them that by law you
are only required to pay for the food you ate yourself and not
for everybody else's meal (I don't know if this is actually true
but it sounds very convincing). It is likely that they will be
happy to cut their losses and get what they can - you could be
generous and offer to pay for drinks for example.

If they threaten to call the police, call their bluff.  Keep
insisting that you only have to pay for your own bill.  If the
police are actually called there is still no need to panic.  Make
up a story about how you shared a taxi with some guys and they
asked if you wanted to join them for a meal, and the bastards did
a runner leaving you behind.  Tell them you are now offering to
pay for your meal AND the drinks but the manager is  being
totally unreasonable about the whole affair.  If you're lucky the
cops might be slightly amused by your tale and help you negotiate
a compromise.  If not, now is the time to get your cheque book

Note: I have never had to pay for a meal other than my own, and
a couple of times I've claimed that I only had a starter and got
away with it.


One of the unfortunate side effects of this pastime is that
gradually there will be less and less restaurants that you can
frequent.   Therefore you must keep the best places as sacred
ground,  where it would be blasphemous to even mention the word
'runner' within their walls.

This may sound obvious but once you become a regular runner you
will find there is temptation at every turn.   A few drinks and
you begin to hear the voices in your head:  "ruuunn  ruuuun,  its
eeeeassyy".   Ignore them at all costs.


This is a very common mistake even amongst the advanced runners.

Make sure you take all you belongings with you when you go - it
is rather embarrassing having to skulk back to a restaurant to
retrieve your coat, your bag, your wallet, your credit card, your
keys or some other valuable item that you have left behind.  You
can be sure that you will have to foot the whole bill before you
get your belongings back.


The choice of venue is an important issue for an accomplished
runner.  When making a choice about a restaurant one must take
into account several factors. Obviously the food must come up to
the standard that one expects when dining out and the ambience
of the establishment should be satisfactory.  But most
importantly one must choose a place that will offer the kind of
challenge that is commensurate with your experience.

For example, for first timers it would be better to chose a place
that is not used to serving people who have just emerged from the
pub.  Perhaps a place that is in a quiet area with normally
respectable clientele.  Also avoid places with stairways and
double doorways.

As your experience grows you can attempt more challenging venues
until eventually you will be able to escape from even the most
daunting of security arrangements.

Sometimes it is necessary to visit a restaurant in advance to
establish how tight their security is.  Of course this may
involve actually paying for a meal, so quite often these
reconnaissance expeditions result in a first time runner.

However if the security is particularly tight the it may take
several visits before a runner is attempted.  One time we had to
visit to a restaurant three times before we worked out how the
locking mechanism on the door was released (yes, some places
actually lock you in).  This involved removing a small metal pin
and then releasing the latch and turning the handle; not very
easy when you've got to get it right first time in about half a
second.  Luckily that one was a success and everyone made their

Following is a list of some of the factors you should take into
account when selecting a restaurant.  You should try and chose
a combination of these factors depending upon the level of
challenge that you expect relative to your experience:

i) Awareness of staff.

This is a very important factor when choosing a venue and can
range from total naivety to extreme sharpness.   This will be
related to area that the restaurant is in and the time of night
the you are frequenting it. Avoid restaurants that are used to
dealing with drunken troublemakers if you want an easy getaway.

ii) Stairways.

Stairways are one of the major causes of people getting caught
during runners. While you are on the stairway you are still
inside the restaurant and therefore are more likely to be pursued
(whereas it is rare that you will be pursued once you make it
into the street).   The door at the bottom of the stairway, and
any doors on the way down, cause a bottle neck effect and result
in pile ups.  Any pursuing party will still be in the free
flowing part of the bottle and may easily catch the tailenders.
Therefore it would be wise to always try to be near the front if
there is a stairway to navigate.

However first is not always the best as the following cautionary
tale will show...

Once in an Indian restaurant in Coventry I was dining with some
student friends and we had decided that we were going to run.
The three guys I was with were all newbies to the game and so
were shitting themselves, as the old phrase goes.  The restaurant
was a huge place that was on the first floor in what used to be
a cinema and had a stairway leading down to the exit. The
stairway was in two sections with a door that opened inwards
halfway down and the other door leading to the street.

I had my plan already worked out; part of which involved me
reaching the door and being out into the street before the others
had even blinked.  Unfortunately I hadn't counted on how nervous
my three friends actually were, and one in particular could bare
the suspense no longer a made a break for the door when we were
barely half way through our meal.  The reaction of the other two
was instantaneous and I found myself trailing the group as we
flew across the room.  To my horror I saw one of the young and
well built waiters make chase.

When we reached the top of the stairs I could hear footsteps
close behind me, and with two bottle necks and three
inexperienced people in front of me I was surely doomed.  The
footsteps behind me were closing and I thought I would be caught
in the first pile up at the first door, but when the leading man
reached the door he had to step backwards and sideways in order
to open it.  Before he had time to change direction and start
heading forwards again the three of us were past him as he stood
there obligingly holding the door for us.  By the time he made
to follow us, the pursuing waiter was upon him and slapped him
squarely between the shoulder blades which sent him tumbling down
the second flight of stairs.

As I burst out into the cold air and to freedom, his hand clipped
the back of my heel as he landed in a crumpled pile at the bottom
of the stairs.  I took a few stumbling steps and nearly went down
myself before I managed to right myself and disappeared into the

In typical virgin style he coughed up for the whole bill and
whined for weeks for his money.  Non of which was forthcoming of

3.2 Double doors.

These are also designed to create bottle necks and make escape
more difficult, particularly if the doors are at right angles to
each other and both open inwards.   However, in practice they are
pretty ineffective as the pile up is too brief before you are
into the street.

3.3 Member of staff positioned on the door.

Some places have a waiter hovering constantly by the door letting
people in and out and saying hello and goodnight.   Restaurants
with this security feature should be avoided by the inexperienced
but should prove little problem to the master.

3.4 Lock ins.

This is very common in many Indian restaurants in Birmingham and
Coventry and also in other large cities further north such as
Liverpool and Manchester. Before frequenting a restaurant you
should first check whether or not they are operating a lock in.
There is nothing more embarrassing than bolting for the door only
to find that it is locked.  Totally uncool.

If it is not possible to open the lock then other methods should
be employed (see RUNNING TECHNIQUES).   This is only for the
advanced runner.

3.5 Bouncer on the door.

This is the most extreme form of security and thus the most
difficult to beat.  The bouncers that are employed for this job
are usually mean mothers who are just praying that someone is
going to try to get past them.  The stakes are much higher than
the cost of the bill in this case so this is definitely for
masters only.


The following are some of the techniques that I have used to make
good my escape from a variety of restaurants.  If you have any
other methods that I could add to this list I would be pleased
to hear from you.


This is the most important of the techniques employed by a
runner. Opportunity can appear in a moment and must be seized
immediately before it disappears from whence it came.
Opportunity takes on many forms and you will learn to recognise
them as your experience grows.

An opportunity might be in the form of a drunken yob causing
trouble, or an argument between the staff, or someone complaining
about the food, or the doorman going to the toilet.  It might be
the confusion after another table has just done a runner, or the
door being left open, or the waiter sweeping up a broken glass.

Sometimes the opportunity might be just that the waiter who has
been watching you like a hawk all evening turns his back for a
half a second.  When he next looks round you should be gone.


This is really for advanced runners and masters only as many of
these methods increase the stakes of being caught.   However
there is often no alternative in some security conscious places
than to try alternative measures.  Following are some of the
techniques that I have employed in order to secure my getaway.

4.2.1 Flood the toilet.

Very simple but rather crude and verging on vandalism.  I used
this in my youth but as I matured it was dropped from my

It involves putting the plug into the sink or stuffing the plug
hole with toilet paper, then turning on the taps.   You then
return to your table and wait for someone to notice.  Once it has
been spotted all the waiters are likely to be curious about what
the fuss is all about and will go to investigate. Now is the time
to make your exit.

4.2.2 Pyrotechnics.

This I've never done myself though I think would be a better
alternative to the above.  Either let off a smoke bomb or light
a large banger with a long fuse.  The sound of an explosion or
smoke coming for the toilet is bound to cause quite a stir.

Another alternative, which from what I've heard would be
extremely effective, is a dry ice bomb.  This involves placing
dry ice into a 2 Litre plastic coke bottle, add a little water
and screw the top on tight.  Leave in the toilet and then a
couple of minutes later there will be the most almighty
explosion. According to 'The Big Book of Mischief' (Available on
the Internet) this bang will sound like a M-100, whatever that
might be.  But whatever it is I bet it's loud.

4.2.3 Start a fight.

This is one of the all time classic techniques for running and
should be used only on special occasions.  It involves splitting
into two groups and arriving at the restaurant at different
times.  Then during the meal you pick a fight on the other

When I did this with a group of friends in Birmingham we split
into blacks and whites then used the pretence of racism to start
a fight.   Half way through the meal one of the black guys
suddenly stood up and shouted 'what you looking at honky' or
words to that effect.  Then after an angry exchange of words and
threats the waiters, who didn't want any trouble in their
restaurant, managed to calm us down.  This set the scene for the
showdown at the end of the meal when after another exchange of
words a full scale confrontation was set up between the two

Now if you think back to your school days you will remember that
its possible to hit you friend pretty hard in a pretend fight
without actually hurting them. So when the 'fight' actually broke
out it looked pretty convincing.  Chairs were being knocked over
and fists were flying, and all the waiters could think of was to
get us outside.  "Outside please!  Outside please!" was all we
heard as the waiters helped us through the door.  Once outside
we all promptly stopped fighting and legged it up the road.


This is another classic running technique and is usually employed
to get past the doorman or any other member of staff that might
be blocking your escape.

The last time I did this was on a Christmas eve in Coventry.
There were four of us eating in the restaurant and initially two
of the group refused to sit with myself and my other friend
because they knew of our reputation as masters of the art,  and
being fairly inexperienced themselves and generally lily livered
they were too scared to sit with us.  However once we pointed out
the mean looking doorman on the door they agreed to join us.

Admittedly things were looking grim.  Not only was the doorman
very mean looking he was also locking and unlocking the door to
let people in and out. My two inexperienced friends relaxed and
settled down to their meals.

As we finished our meals the doorman showed no sign of leaving
his post and I feared that defeat may be looming.   However a
master runner will never admit defeat until he has received his
change in a little brown leather folder, so the only thing was
to wait for opportunity to rear its head.

And sure enough it did.  For the inexperienced it might have been
hard to spot as indeed it was for my two friends who missed it
completely.  However no words were necessary between the masters
who both saw it instantly and a knowing look was all that was
necessary to communicate what had to be done.

Nearby a table of four was just getting up to leave.  As they
passed us, myself and my friend silently slipped from the table
and joined the back of the group.  As they approached the door
the doorman unlocked it and helpfully held it open for them.

As we strolled casually passed the doorman he enquired kindly:
"Nice meal lads?"
"Yeah" we replied "Great thanks".

Another variation on this theme is to just get up as though you
have paid and casually leave.  Again the doorman will probably
wish you a good night and hope that you enjoyed your meal.  If
you're stopped you just claim that it was a big mixup and you
though so and so was paying etc etc.


Sometimes they will be no possible way of escaping through the
door either because it is locked or guarded or both.  In this
case it is time to look for alternative exits.

Usually in back street restaurants the toilets will be make shift
affairs at the back of the restaurant.  Often you have to go past
the kitchens to get to them.  If this is the case then you should
perhaps look for a back door or side door to rear of the

One time a friend of mine excused himself to go to the toilet
near the end of a meal.  He was a master runner himself so did
nothing to arouse the suspicions of the others at the table.
However,  I was able to sense something was afoot and so shortly
excused myself and went after him.

Sure enough there was no sign of him in the toilets so I
investigated a little further into the back of the restaurant.
There I found a storeroom with a backdoor leading out into the
garden.   Someone had previously kicked the bottom panels out of
the door and my friend was currently halfway through the small
hole.  I went over and turned the handle which he had obviously
forgotten to try, since the door promptly swung open with him
still halfway through it.  His arms were'nt quite through
properly yet so he was unable to stop his head from rebounding
off the back wall.

After much cursing and threats I helped him out of the door and
we clambered up the six foot wall that was covered in barbed wire
and jumped.  Unfortunately the wall was ten feet high on the
other side and finished at the bottom with a large puddle.

But what mattered most was that we had escaped, and nobody could
understand how we had managed to get passed the doorman without
being seen or why we were covered in black mud.

Other things to look for are toilet windows, or sidewindows on
the stairs leading to the toilets.  It is a rather satisfying
feeling when you get up to go to the toilet and never come back
knowing that it probably would never cross the minds of the
people you have left behind that you might have escaped.  They
will sit there patiently wondering what could possibly be keeping

One of the amusing side effects of this is that eventually
someone will come looking for you.  When they discover your
escape they will not want to be left behind to face the music,
so they too will make their escape.   After a while somebody else
is going to wonder what's keeping the second person and come to
check for themselves and so on ...


Once your group gains mastery of the art of running then you will
find that the challenge of outwitting the restaurant staff needs
to be supplemented by the challenge of outwitting each other.
Although the group runner will still feature in your repertoire,
in high security situations you will find that you will need
operate more and more as an individual.

In fact not only will you be acting as an individual, you will
now have reached the stage where you are in direct competition
with your fellow runners.  The rule is that anything goes, and
if someone is left behind to face the music then all the better
- they will be wiser next time.

Also, the dirtier the trick you can play the better, and the
deeper in the shit you leave your friends the funnier it becomes.

Following are some of the bastard tricks that I have played
during my time.


If one of you're party goes to the toilet near the end of the
meal then it is only fair that you should take your leave at this
point to teach him not to be so stupid.   A walker is possibly
called for here, but even a fully fledged runner should produce
some interesting reactions all round when the staff find that
you've left someone behind.


If someone decides to fall asleep at the table then their
rudeness should be dealt with harshly.  The usual tactic is to
place the bill under their hand before you leave.


Tell everyone that you are going to pay the bill by cheque or
credit card and get everybody to give you the cash value of their
meal.   Then you excuse yourself while you go to the toilet or
up to the counter to pay.  Make sure that's the last that anyone
sees of you.


This is a variation on the above theme and should be done when
you are all short of money at the end of the night.  You get
everyone to contribute what they have left into a kitty, the plan
being to buy a selection of dishes and to share them between you.
The only thing is, you make sure that your holding the kitty and
you make an escape at the end of the meal.

This is a particularly good trick since you can be sure that all
those left behind have not a single penny between them.

I have actually played this trick two weeks in succession with
the same two people (stupid or what?).


This is a particulary dirty trick and is hence one of the
funniest.  It is probably better to prearrange this so that there
are just a few of the group who are in on the joke,  whilst the
remainder are completely oblivious.

You arrange that you are going to do a group runner from a chosen
restaurant, and you ensure that those of you that are in with the
trick are situated so that you can be near the back of the
escaping party.

At the end of the meal when the signal is given the entire group
breaks for the door.  However when the last person who knows
about the trick leaves the restaurant they should pull the door
behind them and stand outside and hold it shut.  Then all of
those on the outside can watch in safety as the events unfold
within the restaurant - usually starting with the looks of panic,
then disbelief on the faces of the unfortunate few who are left
struggling at the door.

You can stay there as long as you want enjoying the spectacle
before you finally make you escape.   However watch out for staff
emerging from side entrances or the appearance of the police.

 This isn't actually a runner but is a great trick so I have
included it here. If one of your party is skint at the end of the
night then take them under your wing a tell them not to worry as
you'll sort them out with a meal. During the meal you assure them
you'll pay for everything and encourage them top splash out.
When the bill finally arrives you can watch the horror dawn
across their face as you place the exact amount for your meal on
the plate.  If you are feeling really mean you can even grass
them up if they try to make a run for it.


This trick is also a classic and may be very hard to reproduce
but I relate it here in case you have opportunity to try it, or
some variation of it, if you find yourself at the receiving end
of one of the above bastard tricks.

A fellow master in Liverpool was once in a group who left one of
their party behind in exactly the manner described in 5.2 above.
When the person was woken up by the waiter he was in trouble
because he didn't have enough money to pay the bill.
Fortunately for him there were two guys on another table who saw
what had happened and decided to help him out.   So after paying
for the bill, these two guys got chatting with the victim and
hatched a fiendish plan that would allow them to recover their
money and to reap revenge for out friend.

The five people who had left the unfortunate victim to his fate
lived in three different student houses.  That night each house
was visited by D.C Meades and D.C Brook from the Liverpool
Constabulary who had obtained their addresses from a friend of
their's who they had left behind in an Indian restaurant earlier
that night.  Now, D.C Meades and D.C Brook were a reasonable pair
and didn't want to have to take things any further, so if the
entire bill could be settled then the matter could be written off
as high spirits.

Needless to say they came away with three times their initial
investment and exacted a fitting revenge for the person left

The only person that twigged was in the last house.  As he handed
over the money he said "You're not really police are you?"
"No we're not" they replied "Thank you very much."


In order to be recognised as a true master of the art, one must
be able to show proficiency in all of the above techniques and
to be able to demonstrate a certain amount of originality and
ingenuity in devising new methods of their own.

In addition to this, to become a fully fledged master, it is
necessary for the runner to undergo the graduation tests.

These tests should be carried out with a single partner who is
at the same advanced level and who is will also graduate to
master level should the tests be completed.   If possible each
test should be witnessed by others who should sit at a different
table and make no attempt to interfere in either a positive or
negative way.

In order to do this successfully you must be able to eat a meal
and run without bringing any attention to yourselves at all.  You
should be able to blend into the crowd completely and be able to
slip out in the blink of an eye.


This is to test your in resourcefulness and your physical
agility.  Often the alternative exits lead out onto roofs or into
walled off yards.   One must have the guts to venture out into
the unknown and the strength to overcome any obstacle that
may present itself.

This is the ultimate test for a runner and will really
demonstrate the qualities required in a master.  The meal should
include starters and drinks.

These tests can be taken over a period of several weeks if
required and it doesn't matter if there are several aborted
attempts before success is achieved.   Only the final test,
by its very nature, requires first time execution.

Once these tests have been passed then and only then can you call
yourself a true master.

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