A spice lesson, for anyone wondering about mace: It’s nutmeg, only meaner. (No offense to the Nutmeg of Salty, who can definitely hold her own in combat, whether verbal or physical!)
I knew nothing about mace, the spice, until last week, and since they don’t stock it at my usual grocery store, I had to do some sleuthing. Turns out, both mace and nutmeg come from the seed of the nutmeg tree in Indonesia. But nutmeg comes from the seed itself, and mace from the waxy red coating that surrounds it. It’s protective and it’s peppery, which leads us to … Mace, capital M, the debilitating spray weapon.
I bring this up because, with my new, vaguely threatening identity, it seems a good time to talk again about safety on the run. When you put in the miles like good Salties do, many of them are alone, and precautions are critically important as Salty told us so movingly here, and Ginger starkly reminded us here. “People need to be reminded more often than instructed,” the writer C.S. Lewis said, and I got one of those alarming reminders last week, while running a trail alone (or so I thought), with my iPod at full blast. Please know I never do this on the road–got to listen out for hostile sedentary people in cars, after all–but in the woods it always seems safe to crank up the volume. That is, it did until I was startled out of my Black Eyed Peas reverie by a man suddenly passing on my left, and I did my best Lolo Jones impression, nearly jumping out of my skin.
Nobody ever passes me out in the woods. I see only a few other people out there in a month, and they’re usually walking dogs and coming toward me. This guy was friendly, and he was clearly a runner, not some stocking-capped bank robber eluding the police. But still, it scared the endorphins right out of me, that I hadn’t known a stranger was with me in the woods until he was a Saucony away from me. Scary stuff, and it demands a review of my safety measures, or more appropriately, the lack thereof.
In the past, on the rare occasion I felt threatened, I would pick up a rock or a sharp-edged stick. Of course, this would be useful only if I found myself under attack by sparrows. Better than nothing, but not by much.
In my state (Massachusetts), you have to get a permit to carry pepper spray. In keeping with my new identity, I’m thinking of applying. Also, I’m thinking of ordering this, a Road ID; you know, for when sparrows attack.
As a card-carrying endomorph, I don’t look like a runner, even after running for 20 years. But when I first started, I looked even less like a runner than I do now, so much so that people would sometimes stop and ask if I needed a ride. And let me tell you, there’s no easier way to exceed your maximum heart rate than to be running alone on a rural road at nightfall when a car pulls up.
As much as I don’t want to carry a vial of chemicals when I run, I also would prefer not to be murdered. So, here’s what I’m thinking:
- Always leave a note, saying where I’m running, and when I expect to return.
- When possible, carry my cell. (This looks like a great arm band.)
- Write my phone number, and an emergency contact, on my shoes in Sharpie.
- Lower the volume, or use only one earbud.
- Never enter the woods alone and spent; take a minute to recover so I can sprint if necessary, time be damned.
- When all else fails, bigger rocks.
What am I forgetting, readers? What else, or who else, should we add to the list? Maybe a burly man or two, like the ones Kathrine Switzer had with her when Jock Semple tried to push her off the road? Guardian Angels? Rottweilers?
Suggestions welcome, because that damned rock is really going to slow me down.