Just before I smashed my face into the raised concrete edge of someone’s driveway last night, I was thinking about how I shouldn’t have been afraid to run at night. My legs felt warm and light. I looked up at the sky, which seemed light for this time of night, and saw Orion behind some bits of cloud. It was cool outside, but not too cold, so I unzipped my jacket and tied it haphazardly around my waist. The air felt good against my skin. I was listening to this song for the second time:
And then suddenly, my mouth smashed into an edge I couldn’t see, snapping my head back. I instantly knew I was missing a tooth, and my tongue glided through my mouth, surveying the damage. Warm, salty blood filled my mouth. I was on my ass, and I was shaking. It was really dark and I knew I needed to call someone. I usally don’t take my phone with me when I run, but this was my first night run and I decided that it would be a good idea. My fingers fumbled through my jacket, searching for my phone.
There are a lot of reasons not to run alone, at night, to not go to any dark places or any places at all alone, especially if you are a woman. But I don’t think it is fair that I have to be concerned with going places alone, and, worse, I think it’s a loss if I let fear control me. I like to go places by myself—it helps me clear my head—and I especially like to ride my bike and run by myself. I also have an upcoming half-marathon and marathon, and not a lot of time in the daylight hours to train.
Ryan had a bad feeling. He asked me not to go. I pointed to my reflective vest and blinking light and phone and told him I’d be safe. My friend Tricia had told me about a man who had jumped out of some shrubbery one time when she was running at night and, leering, told her, “Run for me.” Of course, I hadn’t told Ryan this story. I wondered what I would do if something similar happened. You would think that something like this happening would be rare, and I’m not going to cite any statistics, but in my experience, it’s not. I’ve had exactly two serious stalkers in my life, one of whom threatened my life. Nearly all of my female friends have been sexually assaulted to varying degrees at some point in their lives. I take some solace in the fact that I have had some martial arts training and am also a large woman. But what if someone had a weapon? What if they really, really wanted to hurt me? There are legitimate reasons to be fearful. I’ve entertained the idea of wearing a knife strapped to my leg, and, as I began my run, I renewed my promise to go to the military surplus store and buy one of those. Just in case.
About 3 miles into my run, those fears had become distant. I had run past several people, mostly men, but one other woman, and they had either ignored me or said hello. My blinking light had popped off and broken, but I still had my vest on, and it was beautiful outside. I felt like I was gliding, anonymous. It had been a very long day and I could feel the stress draining from my body.
Moments later, I was trembling and unable to get the touchscreen on my phone to work because my fingers were wet with blood. I staggered into someone’s driveway, thinking I would ask to use their phone, but finally got mine to work. I called Ryan and he didn’t answer his cell (lesson: we are getting a land line), so I called his dad and he came to get me. I sat under a streetlight and waited, crying fairly hysterically, as a few carloads of people paused at the stop sign, noticed me, stared, and continued on. A man from one car yelled something at me, but I can’t remember what they said. I don’t think it was kind.
I have promised my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, my husband, my dentist, and my doctor that I will not run at night again. There was indeed a reason to be afraid last night and it had nothing to do with men in bushes. It had to do with an uneven sidewalk and, probably, my inherent clumsiness. I am not sure, despite my promises, whether or not I will run at night again, and that makes me a little sad to be honest because it really was beautiful. I am very grateful that I didn’t hurt myself worse, that I can still run, that I have dental insurance: