running alone

11 Aug

I run alone a lot.  I trained for my first 50 miler almost exclusively by myself–it was HOURS of me time in the woods.  When I first started out trail running, I would never have dreamed of venturing on the trails alone–what if something happens to me out there?  What if the bad guys try to get me?


When I finally got “brave” enough to go it alone, I got questioned by well-meaning people in my life–what if something happens to you out there? What if someone tries to hurt you?


And so I found myself having to defend the solo running.  Having to explain why I feel safer out on a trail alone than I ever would on a road, especially if it’s trails I know well.  That I run with my cell phone on, Eric always knows where I am going/approximate routes. That sometimes I’ll even carry pepper spray and a knife (when I remember, which is admittedly not often).  And I never really stopped to consider what having to defend my running meant–that ultimately it was because of my gender that I had to take extra precautions.


I remember talking a few different times with Eric about things that worried me, concerns that maybe I shouldn’t run alone at this particular place at this particular time, even calling someone on the phone when I was feeling sketched out by someone I’d seen on the trail…hoping that would be a deterrent if the guy really was a creep.  Eric was incredulous that I’d even think that way.  And that was the first time it really dawned on me that men don’t have to think about things the same way that women do.  That for the most part, men don’t worry that someone might hurt them or rape them, that they might not be powerful enough to fend off an attack.  But women…we do…we carry that burden when we go places alone.


Or don’t we??? Do we worry about those things because people ask us to justify doing things like going for a run alone–something that should be so ok.  So safe.  Maybe the fear surrounding “alone” activities comes from cultural expectations that women don’t go places alone, that we want to (need to?) be social, that we are fragile and need to be constantly protected..


This topic has been written about so much by outdoor women all over–runners, hikers, cyclists…so I don’t need to elaborate on why so many women feel so comfortable and confident hitting the trails alone, whether that is a misguided notion or not.  Lots of women do lots of stuff alone, and most of the time, they are perfectly fine.  But when they are not…then we hear about it.


But I think what we always seem to forget in these discussions about safety is WHY we even have to have them in the first place.


A couple of years ago, my car (along with several others in the parking lot) was broken into while I was out for a run. The cop scolded me for leaving a bag out in the open (full of clothes for post-run, a library book and my glasses).  If the thieves hadn’t seen it, they wouldn’t have targeted my car.  And so I found myself feeling bad, like it was partially my fault (and maybe it was) for doing something so stupid as to leave a bag in my locked car. This is a constant issue in the Monroe County Parks…so much so that they spent money to install new signs in all the parking lots, warning patrons to lock up valuables and leave nothing visible and report suspicious activity.


And I was PISSED the first time I saw those signs.


Those signs are the equivalent of the news articles now suggesting women never run alone, or the ones after someone gets raped saying how she was dressed in skanky clothes and got drunk so what did she expect. I just read this article from Runner’s World, and it got me all fired up over this.


The fact is, as a woman, I DO have to be more careful.  And that sucks.  I DO have to put everything away when I leave my locked car.  I DO have to think about which parking lot I use and whether it’s easy to see from the road, making it (and me?) less of a target (hopefully) for douchebags.  I DO have to think about what I wear, how much I drink, and who I am around and whether those three things will combine to create an unfortunate situation for me.


But the fact is ALSO that I SHOULDN’T have to.


If something is not yours, you don’t take it. I shouldn’t need to even lock my car, much less hide things away.  And that goes for my body, too.  It’s not yours. You don’t just get it because you want it. That’s Kindergarten 101.


If you see a woman and think she’s cute, you find an appropriate way to express that…and no, screaming and whistling and making vile suggestions/comments is not appropriate.  If you wouldn’t want someone saying it to/about your mom/sister/daughter/wife, then you probably shouldn’t say it at all.


If you are a man, and you are around other men making vile suggestions/comments that are not appropriate, you call out those men.  Because standing by while it happens makes you part of the problem.


And really….the violence that happens against women starts small–it starts with those small comments that are “jokes”…it normalizes that women are less. That it’s ok for women to be treated as such.  That we are fragile and need protecting (because therefore men have power over us and can wield it for good to protect us, but also for bad to hurt us).  It can lead to worse. Watch this Australian ad.  It’s actually one of the best ads I’ve ever seen.


I don’t even know how to end this rant.  All I know is that I should not have to worry about my sisters the way that I do.  I should not worry about my friends who are heading out for runs to clear their heads.  I should not worry about myself out on a run.  And the solution to the problem lies not with women being smarter and safer, but with men not being creeps and calling out the guys who ARE creeps and raising little boys who will turn into men who aren’t creeps.  So work on that, mkay, guys?  Your women [running] friends will thank you tons!


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