A few weeks ago, a link to an article about Eliza appeared in one of my running groups. I hesitated a bit before clicking but ultimately found myself reading about a situation far too close to home. What I read reminded me of what I've witnessed & the reason my running has been off for almost two years.
Twenty Years Ago
I remember the day I decided to take up running again after a long hiatus. I sat on a bench waiting for my daughter to finish an art class. As I waited, I watched runners continually pass by me. I wanted to run. I hadn't really run since high school track, but still. I missed running. Up to this point, even tiny amounts of running caused my right knee to hurt for days. Because of this, I would avoid running. Well, that day, sitting on that bench, I decided I would start running again. With the help of Couch to 5k (as an mp3 not an app mind you), I did just that. That was almost 20 years ago.
The first few years I ran with a dog and a big stick (to ward off stray dogs). All was right with the world. When my dog died, I continued to run, just me and my stick, still mainly for stray dogs. See, while I was aware of my surroundings and possible dangers around me, I never felt unsafe. Even though the neighborhood I ran in was considered "dangerous," I always felt safe. I continued to feel safe on my runs for many years with and without a canine companion; that is, until the one year I didn't.
The Day That Changed
I remember this day well, too. I was out for an early morning walk and as I crossed the street a block and a half from my house, I noticed a car on a side street in the middle of a U-turn. I made a mental note. After completing their U-turn, the car passed me on the main street going north, the same direction I was headed. I made another mental note. The car turned onto a side-street about twenty-feet ahead of me and I made another mental note.
The next mental note raised an alarm when I saw that same car reappear on the main street headed in the opposite direction, window down, and the driver attempting a conversation with me. Spider senses on; mace unlocked. The car made another U-turn and we are going in the same direction; another attempt at conversation and another side-street turn a block and a half ahead of me.
This time, I crossed the street to avoid another pass-by encounter with this car.
What happened next shook me to my core.
As I neared the next corner, I saw that he had completed another U-turn. Only this time, his car was parked and he was standing there waiting for me. Since I was across the street, I saw him much sooner and would avoid walking directly past him. I was in shock!
All I had the sense to do was turn back around and head home. I was still within five blocks of my house; five blocks from my home! I then thought of calling the police, but I knew he would be gone by the time they arrived. So, I just walked. I headed toward a gas station a block away knowing that I could go inside if I needed to. This time, he did not follow.
Days, weeks, months passed. It was over a year later before I finally got the nerve to venture that route for an early morning run. It is not the same. There is the feeling I had BEFORE and the feeling I have AFTER. My heart aches for Eliza's family. Her AFTER is much different than mine.
A big part of why I run is to maintain a sense of mental clarity and stability in my daily life. When you add the stress of not feeling safe, it takes away a lot of that peace and stability. As I head into one of the worst months for my seasonal depression, I need the consistency of the run. That space that is all mine to settle my mind and release thoughts that grab at me in the darkness of winter.
It’s been almost two years and I’m still struggling to get back to what I had BEFORE. I don’t know if that will ever happen and yet, Still I Run.