Thursday, January 31, 2013

So, this happened.

I'm talking about this, a few weeks back, on my favorite trail (the Custis).  Oh, this also happened, very recently.  And this happened some time ago.  Attacks on a variety of DC area running routes.

(and no, I wasn't the involved party in any of these.  Just another reader of local media.)

Usually, when something like "this" happens, we look for "the cause."  Was s/he running alone?  Wearing headphones?  Running at night?  Running on a secluded trail?  

And of course, by "the cause" I mean "the thing that I can use to distinguish between what this person did and what I do, so that I can feel safe."

[interesting to see how many people miss the point of this post, and respond with a litany of all the actions they take to ensure their safety]

But the truth is, we're never completely safe.  We each have a balance that we strike between risk and security.  For myself, I won't run on trails by myself when it's dark, and avoid heavily wooded or isolated trails at anytime when alone.  I also don't run with headphones at all.  Some think that I'm overly cautious - "headphones are fine."  Others think I'm overly risky - "I never run by myself."   And that's fine.  We each have our own balance, our own comfort zone.

And that's what it is - a comfort zone.  We feel better for being in it, and maybe we've improved our odds, based on our choices.  But the comfort zone isn't a cone of invincibility, we're never safe.  There are no guarantees against not getting jumped while running.  Except not to run.  And not running is firmly outside my comfort zone.


That same urge to differentiate occurs any time a friend gets injured.  We make snap judgments about the "cause" -- "well, what do you expect if you only run on the treadmill/towpath/concrete?"  Or..."of course he got injured, he wears Vibrams/Newtons/Kayanos/Adrenalines."   You ask the injured person if they've ever tried foam-rolling/stretching/etc.

The selfless part of it is that you want to be helpful, and you don't know what else you can do.  The other, selfish part is that you want to distinguish between yourself and your injured friend.  If you don't run in that shoe or on that route, if you foam roll daily, then maybe you're safe.  It's only those who don't pool-run every Tuesday that get injured.  It's a bizarre type of elitism.

But it's just like the trails.  You can make choices that control your odds to some extent, but in the end there is only one certainty.  Shit happens, and the only certain way not to risk running injury is not to run.  And that's not an acceptable choice.

So we run on, zealously adhering to our careful selection of shoes/routes/accessories, convincing ourselves that those choices create an impassable barrier between us, the injured, and the assaulted.


  1. Great post. I was a crime reporter for a while, and people would ask me if it made me more afraid of crime. It actually made me LESS afraid of most crime (because so much of what I covered was not at all random) but MUCH MORE afraid of those few crimes that truly were unpredictable — when there was no reason why it couldn't have been me. Accepting that -- that there really is no reason sometimes -- is the hardest thing for me, even as I know it's true.

  2. This is so true, and I never thought about it that way. I totally do this, but logically I know that I am not exempt from these types of things. I run through residential areas so I don't really worry about assault, but I do worry about getting hit by a car-- especially when it's dark.

    Good post, very well articulated.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post if you have time please stop by for our Fitness Friday linkup

  4. Great topic and thoughts. I have argued this for ages. There is no reason to be anymore afraid/careful when you go out for a run than if you go out for a walk to the corner store. On either, someone could pull up in a van and grab you, or whatever. The only thing you can do is to be always alert, AND have good luck.