Tuesday, November 3, 2015

When anxiety creeps into your run

How is it possible that it is already November?  Maybe it is because I have no more "goal races" for the year, but I feel like the year is over.  Like it is time to just wrap up shop and welcome in 2016.  Yet, in many ways I feel super overwhelmed with everything that I have left to do this year and also the plans that I have begun to make for next year!  2016 is already looking to be a busy and exciting year ahead.

I started November off with an 8-mile run.  Per my little plan of keeping myself in running shape enough to make it across the finish line at the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon, I need to get some longer runs in.  I am planning to build my mileage up to 13 over the next two weeks.

Sunday morning I got up early.  Which, due to Daylight Savings, meant I actually still got a decent amount of sleep in, even though I stayed up later than I should watching TV and eating candy alone on the couch doing awesome and cool things.  I made it over to the Silver Comet Trail, which is a trail I have fun at a lot, at about 7:30 a.m. to find only 2 or 3 other cars in the parking lot.  It was quiet, everything was damp and cool from having rained the night before, and it was a very serene morning.  There was barely anybody out.

Beautiful and perfect for running, right?

In many ways, it was.  It was calm, cool, quiet, and still.  However, as I pulled into the parking lot and saw that there were only two cars there as opposed to the entirely full parking lot I usually arrive to, it left me with anxiety.

Granted, I am an anxious person in general.  So a lot of things leave me with anxiety.  But it made me feel worried to head out on a wooded path by myself.  Maybe it is all the Law & Order: SVU I have been watching lately, I don't know, but I got really freaked out and almost didn't even go on a run.

As a female, I always pay attention to my surroundings and be sure to take precautions for safety.  Especially traveling, as I do, around the world, often alone, there is no way to do that without having some street smarts and the sense to have a good understanding of your surroundings at all time.  Evaluate and mitigate against potential risks, be sure to do everything possible to not put myself in dangerous positions, remain aware and calm when in potentially unsafe situations, etc.

The problem is, that sometimes in our world, pretty much anything can be an unsafe situation.

Driving a car.  Flying in an airplane.  Walking alone to your car at night.  Walking around in crowded tourist areas.  And yes, going for a run alone.  These can all be potentially unsafe situations.

Running in the mornings, even when I am with friends, I always am careful to think about safety.  We run in populated places in the city.  We wear reflective gear and carry lights.  We run routes that we know have good visibility and other runners out, both because we want to be able to see the ground in front of us and not worry about tripping, but also for security of having others around and being in well lit areas.

There are a number of nice running paths near where I live but I never run on those in the morning because they are unlit and because they are not populated (through the woods.)  All summer long, no matter what time of morning, there would be people out on the paths.  I know not to run on them in the evenings when it would get dark or in the morning before the sun would go up.  Due to daylight savings time, the sun was up when I arrived at the trail but the lack of people made me cautious.

Recently, a runner was murdered in Dallas, Texas at the White Rock Trail, which is a trail I ran on literally last October for a 12-mile run when I was in Dallas for work and training for Kansas City.  A former Texas A&M football player murdered a runner with a machete.  This is a true story.

I have always been cautious of my surroundings, as I mentioned above.  But this story continues to pop into my mind.  Between the seemingly approachable attacker of a former football player.  To the fact that I have RUN this EXACT trail on an early morning by myself.  To the particularly gruesome and graphic way that this murder took place.  It keeps popping back into my mind.  It was already lodged there when I was telling a friend last week about it and pulled up an article on my phone to show them and learned that the victim was also an employee at the same company where I work, GE.  It just startled me and shook me even more.

It sucks that we live in a world where people do horrible things to one another.  It sucks we live in a world where everyday things like going for a walk or a run on a pretty path can be something that has anxiety around it.  That something that has become soothing and an outlet for me, is something that has to have the fear of attack around it.

I even think back to the Boston Marathon in 2013.  I was not even a half marathoner, none the less marathoner when that happened.  It was horrible and scary and shocking to everyone, whether or not you were a runner.  And you know what?  When I was finishing the Chicago Marathon and running through the last quarter of a mile to the finish, amidst the joy and agony, I also had the thought flash through my mind, "What would it be like to have a bomb go off in this moment?"

I know I have more anxious thoughts than others, but I would be shocked if I were the only person to have had that thought when finishing the marathon, or any other marathon from April 2013 on.

As for my run this weekend?  I still did it.  I decided to run without music, to be sure to be incredibly alert.  And to turn back if the route felt off at all.  I thought maybe I would only go 1 mile out on the trail and then just do a bunch of out-and-backs rather than go 4 miles from my car.

Once I started running, I realized that there were many other runners on the route.  However, I still remained alert and aware and careful of my surroundings.  I don't really have a point with this post.  I just wanted to comment that I thought it sucked to be looking over my shoulder for a man with a machete during an otherwise beautiful Sunday morning run.

I also wanted to publicly wish my condolences to the family of the runner in Dallas who was murdered.  And to all the runners and victims in the 2013 Boston Marathon.  And any other runner who was ever attacked or made to feel uncomfortable on what should be a source of joy.

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