Wednesday, April 22, 2009

7 (Female) Runner Safety Trumps Politeness


I don't have a lot of time to write this post, so I'll try to be brief.

Most of you who know me know that I'm polite, usually to a fault. Even in Twitter, I like to respond to people when their reply merits a response, because I don't like to be rude. However, there's one instance in which I will make an exception to this rule, & that's when it comes to runner safety.

Let me explain. I took a bit of an unintentional nap this evening & woke up around 7 pm or so. Knowing that I still had to squeeze in a run, I went out anyhow. Now it was still light out at the start of the run but on my way back it was approaching 8 pm & was starting to get dusky. (Please note that for safety reasons, I won't run alone if it is pitch black outside, & if I do, these runs will be done with a running group, particularly in winter, when it gets dark outside at 4 pm!)

Anyhow, I only had about a mile & a half to go when a red car slowed up next to me & the fellow inside rolled down his window. He was gesturing for me to come over, but I didn't stop.

Now, it very well could've been an innocent attempt to obtain directions or what not, but as a female running alone on the sidewalk in an urban locale with the sun setting -- and at that, one who was armed with pepper spray, I still wasn't about to take any chances.

I thankfully was wearing headphones & pretended not to see him, but he wouldn't let up. His car kept sliding along beside me in a creepy kind of way. So, next I pointed to my headphones & armband, as if to say "Sorry, I can't hear you & am in the middle of my run," & then promptly sped up to try to lose the dude. He made one of those dismissive downward hand gestures to imply "Whatever," & was obviously annoyed, but I didn't care. I wasn't stopping. For obvious reasons, I didn't think it was a very good idea to approach the car!

Truth be told, I was annoyed on multiple levels: First of all, aside from the obvious safety issues at hand, I was timing my run & didn't want to stop -- it'd break my flow. Don't people know not to stop runners who are quite obviously in the middle of their workouts? Can't they ask walkers for directions instead?! ;-)

And secondly, I couldn't believe how clueless this guy was, because he obviously had no idea why I wasn't stopping. It wasn't just that he wouldn't let up, but that he couldn't understand why a lone female running on the road in the evening just MIGHT NOT want to stop and give him directions. It's like, "Duh! You idiot! Put yourself in my shoes. You, an unknown male of undetermined age & intentions, are slowing your car up next to me, a lone female running on a city sidewalk as it's starting to get dark outside. Don't you know that most women would be thinking in this scenario?!" I couldn't get over it. Apparently, some people are REALLY dense. ;-)

As a city-dweller, I am acclimated to all sorts of harsh realities, & as a runner, I pay particular attention to pedestrian safety issues, both vehicular & otherwise. And, as I'm sure many of you already realize, women have in fact been pulled into vehicles for seemingly innocuous activities like stopping to give directions, & dragged off to some unpleasant end. In fact, that's right out of the criminal playbook; the "perp" will act like he's lost or needs your assistance, & will ask you if (a) you've seen his missing son or lost car keys, (b) you can give him directions (!), or (c) he will do or say whatever else he can to distract you from his true purpose.

This is why I firmly stand behind my decision not to stop. This isn't paranoia; it's reality. So, ladies, if you happen to be running on walking alone, it's better to be perceived as impolite than to potentially risk your lives.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you...I've experienced similar situations while running and always feel torn between being "rude" and being safe. Always better to err to the safety side!

Dane said...

I think you were completely within your rights as as smart woman to not stop. Don't fret at all about this one.

cyberpenguin said...

Thanks, CK & Dane, for your support!

It's really important that female runners feel confident that they are doing the right thing by not stopping, which is why I wrote this post.

It's also my way of likewise showing runners my full support & solidarity in this matter, & encouraging them to make decisions which help keep them safe.


Blaine Moore said...

I don't see any reason to stop no matter what your gender. If they need directions bad enough they can either try driving alongside you or (better yet) stop and ask at a local gas station or something.

Abimars said...

I would have done the exact thing!

jeanne said...

well duh, of course you're not going to stop at night to talk to strangers in a car!

btw, carrying mace is illegal in maryland, and apt to create more danger for you.

try not to run at night, or run with friends if you must run at night.

cyberpenguin said...

Thanks, Blaine, Abi, & Jeanne, for your comments.

Yes, it's not like we runners are an instant information service for roadside traffic. LOL.

BTW, what I use is actually pepper spray, which is in fact legal in the MD-VA-DC area (& in all 50 states).

Jeanne, thanks for your concern. As I mentioned in the post, most evening runs are done with a running group.

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