Back when I was training for the half-marathon, there were a lot of long runs. Like 8 and 9 and 10 mile ones. More than I'd ever run before.
I did them mostly on Sundays when there was time and I tried to go with someone (aka husband) when we had someone to watch the kids. But sometimes it just didn't happen and I had to go alone.
I don't mind running alone, I actually prefer it because I can run my own pace. But going on the long runs means adding a lot of extra mileage and not always in the most public of places, aka trails. Which makes me kind of uneasy because there are always shady people on trails. It's just the way it is. I wish it weren't so, but it is.
When I lived in Utah, a friend and I were running on a trail along the Jordan River and some guy stepped out of the bushes and flashed us. Well it was a little more than just "flashing", and it was actually pretty scary. We ran off the trail and called police. Had I been running alone, I always wonder what would've happened? I'd have been all alone on a trail with a crazyman exposing himself. Crazy bastard.
When I was on one of my long runs a few months ago, I took a turn out of my house, ran down my block toward a main road, took another turn to get to another main road, and a van was coming down that block. No big deal. BUT, the van stopped, a man rolled down his window and said something to me and was looking at me in that way which made me quite sure he was not asking me for directions. So I kept running, faster. He didn't keep going, he just watched me out the window. And kept watching me until I got to the end of the block.
He went a little further, stopped at the stop sign and kept watching me. Eventually I turned off the other end of the block and I didn't know where he went after that. But I was scared for the entire rest of my run. Was he going to follow me now? Where was he? Was he going to wait for me? I had to run back that way to get home, what would I do now?
I kept watching for him the whole way which, was the entire 9 miles. On my way back down that block, I called my husband on the phone and talked to him while I was running, until I got right back onto my block. This happened at the beginning of a 9 mile run, so for 9 miles I was in an inner panic. I only had two runs left until the half-marathon and this was one of them. Not running was not an option. Not this day.
SO I wonder to you, out loud, WHY?! Really, WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY??
Why do I have to be terrified to train alone? Why do I have to spend 9 miles worrying and panicking that something terrible is going to happen to me?? Why do I feel like I have to find a group in order to feel secure about going on long runs and rides?
I won't get on my sex discrimination platform (yes, I do have one of these, it began when I was 12 and playing baseball for me really meant having to play softball, because well, baseball was for boys and softball was for girls. This will anger me forevermore but this isn't about that.)
What does bother me and I realize I may be touching on some touchy ground here but stay with me. I don't see men being that nervous about training. My husband has no qualms whatsoever about training in the dark. They can run in the dark, they run along trails, and well, women have to be a little extra careful about doing it. Of course, doing these things for anyone always has some kind of inherent stranger danger along with it, I know, and I'm not saying that men can't be accosted by someone in this type of situation. I'm just saying that, especially in my own experience even in broad daylight on a busy street, it seems that women have to be a bit more careful and think twice about the time of day and route they're taking.
I get so angry when I feel like I am forced into not being able to train the way I would train otherwise. (I certainly won't run that van route anymore -- and I live in a very safe neighborhood!) I think twice about what time it is when it comes to going out for a run (if it's getting too late, that means it'll be a treadmill run at the gym) and I usually bike with a buddy. No, I don't have to. And yes, there is part of me that believes I am way too paranoid. Not only have I had my own experiences but quite frankly, it doesn't help that I worked in news forever and we covered story after story on abductions, missing joggers, and missing mothers. So in my mind it happens all the time because that is how we covered it, even though that is not true, (same with shark attacks), but it doesn't matter. I know it happens and I worry. A lot.And honestly, it makes me angry. It makes me bitter. What I want is the freedom to train when I want, how I want and for however long I want, without worrying about someone jumping out of the bushes or pulling up alongside of me or even whistling or honking for that matter (why must men do this too?)
I just want to be.
Is that too much to ask? When I run outside, I just want to be left alone to my thoughts.
Instead, I keep my I-Pod low. I run quickly past any brush. I avoid the wooded trails that would otherwise be so beautiful to jog on if I had a running partner. I keep my eye on the cars to make sure no one is passing me twice or following me. And if I get nervous about something, I'll run with my keys between my fingers so I can gouge some eyes out if someone attacked me (and I have other things up my sleeve too so don't even think you know all my tricks, crazies!) and I always always map my run out ahead of time, tell someone where I am going. And while I'm running, I always have a mental escape route planned (run into the water! or run up to that house! and by the way, yes I would jump out into the middle of traffic and take my chances being hit by a car to escape me some crazy.)
I wonder if this is always how I will feel and how I can get past it. I have a family and training for a triathlon means a lot of working out and not always at the most convenient times. So being able to go out on a bike in the middle of the day in a busy area is not always possible. But I want to be able to go biking on a real bike and not have to do spin class! So what's a girl to do? Anyone with words of advice? Anyone carry anything with them? What do you do when you train alone?