Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Mind Full

I've been trying to formulate thoughts into words - and piece those words into coherent sentences. This morning when I stepped through my garage door and into the humid morning air my mind was full of heavy thoughts. Tightening my grip around my pepper spray did nothing to calm the chatter, neither did pressing the start button on my Garmin as I began to run down the street.

Earlier this year a woman was kidnapped and murdered while out for a morning run. Her body was finally found three months later and two individuals have been charged in her death. Because her death came at a time when I was running primarily mid-day or in the afternoons, it shocked me but it didn't cause me to think twice about when I run, how I run, and where I run. Then, last night, a post appeared on Daily Mile - reminding us all, but women in particular, to be safe and prepared. It seems another woman - a wife, and a pregnant mother of three - was murdered while out for a morning run.

I find, as do most people I would hope, violence against women to be heinous. As I was running this morning I kept revisiting that collectively as women, sadly crap like this links us - across borders, across continents, across religion and ethnicity and culture- and it is deplorable to be victimized or terrorized because of our gender.

I do what I can to be smart when I'm running no matter what time of day.
  • I always tell someone where I am going, what route I am taking, how long I expect to be out and when I anticipate I will be back. 
  • I vary my routes as well make sure that I don't run at the exact same time every day. 
  • I have a Road ID that lists my name, important medical information and emergency contacts.
  • I've started running with my phone and use an app that emails my husband every 10 minutes with my route and location.
  • I use headphones for music but I keep the volume low enough that I can remain observant of my surroundings. 
  • I watch shadows, listen for sounds, watch the faces of the people coming toward me - I make eye contact and acknowledge that I see them. I square off my shoulders and run a little more confidently.
  • I stay where I know there will be people - or people nearby
  • And this morning, I began running with pepper spray.
There's no promise that any of this will protect me - but the way I figure it because of personal history and the fact that I am a mom to two very impressionable little girls I cannot let fear dictate my life. But for a half second this morning, as I lay in bed after my alarm clock went off, I allowed that fear to creep in and I debated putting off my run until this afternoon. And then I got angry that I'd even be questioning whether or not I should run as the sun comes up and I hauled my behind out from beneath the covers.

At 5:30 in the morning, here on the western edge of the eastern time zone, it's starting to get light. Muted lavenders and blues, along with the occasional streak of peach or pink crossed the sky and a few cars drove past me on the main north/south route that I have to cross to get to where I run at this hour. It's less than a half mile from my front door a mega subdivision with paved trails running between and behind rows of houses - but I've never been more aware of my surroundings than I was this morning but I refused to let them rule my run.

I ran 3 miles this morning, each mile was progressively faster with unintended negative splits. I will continue to be smart about my runs and I have no doubts, at least for the near future, that I'll have to fight the insecurities and fears about running on my own - but if I cave, those who continue to commit acts of violence against women will win and that's just not an option.

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