Title IX led the way for women (and women runners) to those places once off limits. And with that freedom came power. Yet, in such a big, BIG world, one can still feel powerless. Especially on the roads. Alone. At night. Heck, even during the day. The stories are a plenty, sadly. As a runner, and especially a woman runner, one must recognize that as soon as your feet leave the door, you are at risk. Even in the nicest of neighborhoods. Part of being a responsible runner is recognizing the risks you take when and where you run.
I’ll admit that most of the time, I rarely think twice about safety when I am running during the day, in a “safe” hood, with others, and lots of cars and people around. Afterall, I am in line with guidelines provided on many of websites for women’s running safety. Follow them and you’ll be fine, right? Well, most likely yes. But what about the days I want to be stubborn or adventurist and run alone, late at night on country roads, with an iPod? Ok, I don’t have an iPod. And if I did, even I wouldn’t run with it at night. However, I have been known to occasionally test the waters and run free at 11pm, alone, on country roads. In fact, I lived to blog about it:
“Instead of thinking about the bad in humanity, I assumed the good and ran as free as I could that night. I jumped at the sound of crickets when I turned onto a street with a marsh. And I swore I heard voices in the tall grass to my right. Those trees sure were talking that night, too; their branches creaking like the sound of an old rocking chair. But by the time I made it back to the town square and its street lights, I found myself longing for more of that nighttime serenity.”
It’s a catch-22 for sure. My boyfriend James and I have a friend that once said if we all assumed the good in humanity, maybe the world would be a better place. I’m sure it would. And there’s nothing wrong with having that mind-set. But if you are going to have that mind-set and test the waters per se, you must be ready for battle if it shall arrive. Most nights that I do run (and I usually do my runs at night) I am with James. This increases our chances of safety at a time when the safety meter significantly dips. However, I’m on guard for most of the run. Maybe it’s due to my naturally heightened senses or extended stays in flight or fight mode due to anxiety. Whatever it is, it’s probably a good thing. Yet, I still know that I am not immune to anyone (or anything) when I decide to step out for that run.
Some may say that the media tends to sensationalize these stories of attacks and rapes. If this is true, I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to share such stories as a way to remind us to be on guard. However, I do think the media tends to pick and choose certain stories to continue to stereotype certain types of neighborhoods. I live near and often work in the projects. Yes, it took some time to get comfortable going into those high rises and one always has to be on guard. But the inhabitants are people, too! And now, it’s second nature going to work. Granted, I can say this having not had been a victim of crime. Yet, my point is, don’t discriminate where you are on guard. In fact, a great book supplied by my agency at the beginning of employment provides some excellent self-defense tips for traveling to different homes and neighborhoods. The tips provided can be applied to running.
At the same time, you don’t want be so on guard that it causes you to constantly be in a state of panic. But wait, how is that possible to ensure safety? I don’t think it will ever be possible to find that perfect balance, essentially because it’s best to always be at least a little bit on guard, male or female. Black or white. Young or old. Runner or non-runner. Is recognizing the risk before embarking on the task at hand enough guard? Maybe. I hope to never know otherwise.
What about you? Do you follow standard runner safety or do you test the waters in an effort to run truly free?