Thursday, August 20, 2015

Running in the Dark

It was 5:30 am. I was awake. I’d done my Achilles therapy, I was dressed, and I was ready to run. I was determined to run, despite the fact that it was dark and the trail I wanted to run on had no lights. I grabbed my phone and that piercing flashlight I got at a Writing the Other workshop, and headed out the door.*

During the first half of the trail, I passed no one. This made sense, because it was raining. Later, as I began to pass other runners and walkers in the dark, I noticed something. Normally, by daylight, the people I pass are about 60-70% female-bodied (I say bodied, because I will not presume I know anyone’s gender by looking at a body). But this morning, in the dark and then in the gloom of a late, cloud-shrouded dawn, it was 100% male-bodied. And one dog, also a dude. They were all friendly, all responding to my greetings. One guy even apologized for running by and thus ruining my solitary walk. And I laughed. Only a man would think that was my first concern when I saw someone else on the trail.

Female-bodied folks, what exactly was on my mind as I walked in the woods, in the dark, in the rain, alone?

We’ve been socialized to have one answer. Despite the fact that it is more dangerous to drive a car than to run alone at night. Despite the fact that women are more likely to be attacked by their romantic partners and family members. The threat of attack from the lurking stranger is culturally embedded, and it restricts the freedom of women around the world. Yes, all women. You may be shaking your head, saying that no, that isn’t you, that you run at night and it doesn’t bother you. But if you were indeed attacked, you would surely be blamed for going out alone. Because the onus is on the woman to protect herself from men who apparently cannot control themselves.

What’s the most treacherous thing about going for a run in the woods, in the dark, in the rain, alone?

It isn’t rapists. Though that was in my mind from the moment I got up and saw how dark it was, how rainy and foggy and quiet. It isn’t attackers. Though I couldn’t help but look behind me on the trail, my flashlight bouncing into moths, sure that the pattering rain was someone’s footsteps. It isn’t murderers, though I peered between the trees and startled at deer and cardinals and the sounds of owls.

It’s frogs. 

Seriously, people. They are a hazard. They hang out on the trail, and they look like leaves, but they’re slimy and they move, and I dare you to keep your balance when you step on one. Frogs are treacherous motherfuckers.

Oh, and I’m going out tomorrow in the dark too. 

"Kroete3" by - taken myself. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
This is the face of evil.

* Spouse was sleeping peacefully, because he doesn’t ever, EVER say dumb shit about why I shouldn’t go running alone. 

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