Sometimes, when I run, I imagine myself being attacked.
Let me rephrase that: I imagine someone attempting to attack me, because this daydream doesn’t end well for my attacker. Once provoked, I proceed to beat the crap out of the guy, using a trick I learned in a self-defense class in college: Poking a man in the eye with a pen or pencil is more effective than almost any other form of injury. Why? Aside from the obvious (ouch!), when identifying him later, it’s easy to say, “He’s the one with the missing eye.”
But back to this crazy, elaborate daydream, which goes as far as me being interviewed by local news organizations about what it took to kill a man (“I’m just glad I had a pencil with me,” I tell them breezily). The daydream floats into my head when I’m running somewhere I shouldn’t: an unlit neighborhood at night, or Rock Creek Park alone pretty much any time of day. I was reminded of just how dangerous the latter venture is by the news earlier this week that a woman was attacked and sexually assaulted while running in Rock Creek Park at 7 a.m. Wednesday.
When I was living in Gainesville, Fla., writing for The Gainesville Sun, we ran a series of stories about a similar attack and sexual assault on a female runner. Of course, we ran safety tips for women runners — run in a group, tell someone where you’re going, etc. But in talking to other women runners in the newsroom, we agreed: Sometimes, even if it’s dark, even if no one’s home to tell where you’re going, you just run, anyway.
I also learned I wasn’t the only woman runner to harbor fantasies of attacking an attacker while running. Though we got some strange looks from male co-workers, we shared our weird imaginings (one runner pictured escape routes wherever she went, and imagined out-running whoever approached her) — and realized this is probably a pretty healthy habit.
For all the safety tips I don’t follow, I do one big thing right: I am not only aware, but hyper-aware, eying all possible predators warily, using accidental eye-contact as an opportunity to give them a look that says: “I will f— you up.”
Of course, this is not enough, and I’ve compiled a whole bunch of self-defense tips for women runners in today’s Examiner.com post. I tried to stick to tips that go beyond the obvious “don’t run alone” and “don’t run with headphones,” though those are important reminders, too. One of my favorites is the suggestion to run with ID, so rescuers can locate loved ones if you are injured. I don’t do this now, but I certainly will.
Bottom line: It’s a scary world out there for women, but cowering in our homes isn’t going to make it any safer. What will: Being alert and prepared, whether we’re running the trails or parking our car in an empty garage.