Yesterday was my long run for the week. I didn’t take Miss B, because it was over 10K and I worry for her paws. Also, I knew I would need most if not all of my resources to keep going, with little left over to deal with her being interested in other dogs or chasing buses or whatnot. Plus, at about 8K she sort of gets the idea that we’re not going to catch anything, so she slows waaaaay dooooooown. Which is fine, normally I’m running for endurance, not speed. Still, anything near or over 10K is not for my running partner.
It struck me, while running through a park near the Little Prince’s burned-down school, that I was feeling odd. Not breathless, it was just a steady run, not a tempo or anything. It took me about a kilometer to figure it out.
Without Miss B, I felt…vulnerable.
I don’t just run with her to take the edge off her working drive so she can rest. I run with her because she’s good protection for a lone woman. Odd Trundles is so sweet-natured he’d probably be useless in a tussle, but not so my Aussie. Besides, Odd’s a sprinter. Dangerous over short distances…if you’re a bit of kibble. Miss B is fully capable of chasing someone down, and keeping them on the ground until I can get there.
Miss B alerts me to people walking ahead on our route, or odd things in bushes. She once flushed a guy hiding in some blackberries by lunging. (To this day I don’t know what the hell he was doing in there, since there were no berries. *shrug*) When I run alone, my “space” is invaded far more frequently. Males get a lot closer. Some of that is just the social training men receive to “own” a bigger chunk of sidewalk real estate. Other female joggers instinctively give me a wide berth, as I do in return. A woman with a stroller and a small kid will try to get off the pavement when she sees me coming, before I swing off into the grass or the bike lane. A lone man will sashay down the middle of the sidewalk, taking it all up as a matter of course, ninety-five percent of the time.
In a perfect world I’d be able to run without thinking about my chances of being assaulted. Since I don’t currently live with a man I’m emotionally involved with, I realize I’m statistically safer than a lot of other women. While I run, though, there’s the yelling out car windows. The inappropriate comments when I jog by guys doing yardwork or unloading their cars or even just walking by. About the only guys that don’t make some sort of comment when I pass–usually rating my attractiveness or getting pissy with me when I don’t respond to their greeting, because of course I exist to make nice at your sallies even while I’m doing a tempo run, right?–are themselves jogging or cycling and apparently saving their breath for other things. Even when I used to run at 5am there would be, at least once a week, a car horn or a scream out a car window, usually a comment of a sexual or suggestive nature.
You’d think, at 5am, everyone would be too tired to be assholes. Apparently not.
In a perfect world I wouldn’t feel vulnerable while running (except when I’m crossing the street because some people just don’t look where they’re piloting their tons of moving metal, OMG) or have to give my daughter the “if you set your drink down and take your eyes off it, GET A FRESH ONE, get into the habit of doing this now” when she attended her first school dance. In a perfect world I’d run with Miss B because she loves it and it gives her a job to do, because she’s happiest right next to me. In a perfect world I wouldn’t have to feel that tightness all through me when I’m in my own neighborhood enjoying the sunshine and I see a male human approaching from whatever direction.
We don’t live in a perfect world. We can work like hell for a better one, but we can’t afford to overlook how the world actually is at present.
Do I feel ridiculous sometimes, because I have to make this mental calculation whenever I go anywhere alone, or even when the doorbell rings? Yes. Do I wish it wasn’t necessary? Yes. Am I going to stop making these calculations? No. I realize I am relatively privileged, that I do not live in a war zone, so on, so forth. Does it mean I feel less vulnerable while doing something so simple as jogging alone, during daylight, wearing long pants and long sleeves (and how ridiculous that I have to note what I’m wearing, really?) and not doing a blessed thing to anyone?
No. It does not.
I run anyway, but the consideration of my vulnerability, trained into me by the society we live in and bolstered by the fact that I am a survivor of abuse, does not ever go away. How much faster and further could I run if I wasn’t forced to spend energy on that? I suspect I’ll never know, and that it will only get better slowly and incrementally over my lifetime, my children’s lifetimes, their children’s. (If they choose to have any, that is. OH MY GOD, SO NOT READY FOR THAT THOUGHT.) Still, I do the work for change that I can, investing in a better and safer world for my daughter, for everyone’s daughters. Taking what steps I can to have a full life and reasonably protect myself at the same time.
But I still feel vulnerable when I run.