Sunday, February 22, 2015

Staying Safe

Weekly milage: 30.2
Yearly total: 212.45 miles

It's been friggin cold in Michigan the last few weeks, and it will continue in this vein until at least next weekend. Yay! Running outside has been nearly impossible. Yesterday it warmed into the teens by mid-morning, so my husband and I took advantage of this.

There are two things on my mind while I write this. First, cold weather running requires a lot of thought, layers, and willingness to accept you just can't be outside for long periods of time, especially if you are a sweater like me. Not a jumper type of sweater, but like sweat dripping off my face in spite of it being 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Long runs outside really are dependent on a little bit of cooperation from the weather gods (and this true in every season, I suppose). Staying safe in the cold requires one to plan an outfit that allows for the addition or removal of layers, wind speeds or chill, and the willingness to accept the days where the treadmill might be the better bet for staying healthy and uninjured.

The second thing on my mind is a very different type of safety. Yesterday, as my husband and I were running on the bike path close to my apartment, some kids thought it would be funny/clever/smart to pull an Airsoft gun on us from a railroad trestle and shout "Give me all your money!" These kids had removed the orange tip that helps indicate the gun is an Airsoft; it looked like a scary gun. Was I in any real danger? Probably not. Even if I had been alone, and this pack of 12 year olds decided to try to beat me up, I probably could have fended them off. As soon as I realized the age of the kids, and the fact the gun wasn't actually capable of hurting me beyond superficially, I immediately became frightened not for myself, but for these young men. What if they had done this to an off-duty police officer, or someone who carries while they run just because? What if, what I view as, a REALLY STUPID prank turned into a REALLY HORRIBLE situation? What if one or more of those young kids ended up on the 10 pm news as the most recent victim of gun violence gone awry?

Runners on the whole tend to be kind, nonviolent sorts. The reaction of the running community to violence that occurs in or around it seems to trend to surprised and saddeness that someone would attack runners, because what on earth would a runner do to deserve that?

This is how I reacted: I screamed and froze (stupid, right?). One of the young men said "Lady, this is just a joke, it's not serious!" I think he was scared of getting in trouble. I realized all of these young men were either Black or Hispanic, and I realized right then and there that there was a good chance if they pulled this again, the result would not simply be a slightly freaked out 30 something year old runner. My husband looked pissed. I almost waved it off and started to run again, but I stopped, turned back and spoke to the kids. I don't know if anyone has talked to them about the state of violence in this country, but I begged them to not do this again, and to please stay safe. I told them to never pull this stunt on the wrong person (whatever that means). And please please please stay safe. I don't know if they heard me. I don't know if they made fun of me after the fact, but at least I said something that might make them stop and think about consequences of action in the future.

Which brings me to where I am now: worried about the violence these young men could elicit by pulling a really stupid prank, and worried that I haven't been concerned about the possibility of violence to my own person while running. I'm not a stupid runner. I avoid the places I know I'm supposed to avoid after dark, and I wear bright colors if I'm running somewhere hunting is allowed. I've never felt unsafe when I run. Is this naivety? Is this a stupid one off thing that I never need to think about again? Should I get a giant dog for a running partner (actually, I think this is a good idea any way... but there are several reasons for this)?

Two things I wish I had done: demanded the kids go home and tell their mothers how much they love them, and demanded each one of them hug me. That's the runner in me, I think. Hug it out. It will be okay.

In this cold weather, promise me two things: you will dress in layers if you go for a run, and forgive yourself for not being able to be outside as long as you would like to be. As for violence, what can we do? Do our best to be kind, and hope that our kindness will always win out. A weak suit of armor, but something I still feel like I can stand behind. And maybe get a big dog that needs a lot of exercise.

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