Trusting my instincts

Life circumstances have brought me out of town for a few days and hence my 10-mile run was to be completed in unfamiliar territory.

Tip No. 17: When asking someone at the front desk of a hotel about a good place to go for a run, understand they probably aren’t runners themselves. Hence the term “long run” is relative. The .75 mile stretch of residential section was nice and the suggestion to run around a nearby school track was cute, but it wasn’t going to get me 10 miles.

I took the advice about the residential neighborhood and returned to my trusty laptop to investigate it on Running Ahead — a website with online tools to track your training including an area to measure and map routes. It was on this I discovered a park system nearby, perhaps a mile down from where I was staying.

Initially, excitement came, followed closely by fear.

“I can’t run through this park,” I thought to myself. “I don’t know the area. I don’t know what the park is like. And I’m running by myself. I can’t go running in a park I don’t know by myself. It’s too dangerous for a woman.”

I had seen enough episodes of Law and Order (all parts of the television franchise, mind you) to have learned that bad things happen to women who run in parks. Heck, sometimes you just need to turn on the news to learn that lesson.

So I started out on my run, content to loop around the neighborhoods and go back and forth if necessary. But one of the streets ended at the entrance to the park. The paved path looked inviting. I checked in with my gut and decided to try it.

Five miles later I had been in a running heaven — beautiful parks, nicely kept paths which were mostly paved and plenty of others using the paths for running or walking or mountain biking.

And it got me thinking.

Why are women always taught to be scared?

There are times to be open and times to be guarded. But there’s a line between being cautiously aware and being paralyzed by fear. That line is different for each of us. In the name of safety, we’re taught as girls to be acutely aware of our surroundings, that potential danger lurks around every corner, that really bad men want to do really bad things to us. The lessons, scary as they are, are based in love and concern. Those who care about us want us to be protected, to be safe, especially when we’re by ourselves.

But as we grow older, gain life experience and a better understanding of ourselves, we have the tools to better trust our instincts. In some ways, I wish we were taught to be strong and confident rather than how to avoid being a victim.

On this particular adventure, I was strong. I was confident. I was present to myself and my surroundings. And that made all the difference in the decisions I made — on the run and throughout the day.

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