Safety Vs. Fear

Last week, while out on a run, I called myself the “P” word, as in, “Don’t be such a.”

I deserved it. I was wearing my trail running shoes, had made it to my favorite trail and then creeped myself out. I thought about the two coyote sightings I had this week, very near my house. Within five steps I envisioned a coyote attacking my beloved greybador retriever. (What, never heard of that breed?)

So I scooted toward the road, intending to run through a more populated neighborhood.

It took about three minutes for me to come to my senses. First of all, really, what is the likelihood of a coyote attacking us? Besides, those coyotes were pretty puny, half my dog’s size. But most of all, I was wearing trail shoes. My intention was to run on the trail. I was looking forward to the scenery, to the (friendly) wildlife, and the calm and rejuvenation I feel when I’m there. I was not going to be scared off my own trail by my own irrational thinking. So I called myself the P word and turned around.

This fear factor isn’t always such a bad thing. A certain amount of fear helps us take precautions to be more safe. And let’s face it, there are a lot worse things out there than mangy coyotes.

I will never forget hearing about a woman who was severely beaten and sexually assaulted in an area near our old home in Texas. I had run through and walked my dog many times in this area, forging a path to the trail by the lake, something I’m sure she was doing, too. This happened within months after we moved away and it haunted me, and haunts me still. I had always felt a certain amount of safety in those places that I considered “mine.” Now, as a result, I am more apt to avoid secluded areas when it’s dark and when I do choose the road less traveled I prefer to run with a pal, even if it’s my four-legged one. She’s getting old but she would defend me to the death, I’m certain of it.

Sometimes weirdos are out with the masses. One of my first wake-up calls to be aware of others and take measures to be safe came when I was in my early 20s. Coming home from a run, on a path along a busy road, I was listening to tunes (on, yes, a Walkman), when a man grabbed me on my rear. I stopped, yelped, and looked around for someone else who might have seen what happened. Cars kept driving by. I slid the enormous foam headphones off my ears and watched the man run off and listened to his footsteps. I’m certain that incident affected my ability to listen to music as I run. I just don’t do it. I like to hear what’s going on around me. Besides, I love the songs of mourning doves and chickadees, peepers and geese honking overhead.

We had a great run, my dog and I. We did not see any coyotes. Just two blue herons and a hawk. I cleared my head, hit my internal reset button, and enjoyed nature in a way I wouldn’t have had I taken the other route.

It’s a fine line between being safe and being afraid. I always want to be safe (ever more a priority since motherhood it seems) but I never want to avoid doing something out of fear. Sometimes it takes me awhile to know the difference. Last week that took about a quarter of a mile. And I needed the extra distance anyway.

Any safety tips to share?



1 Comment

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One response to “Safety Vs. Fear

  1. Anonymous

    What a great post and a simple reminder about not letting our fears dictate what we do and don’t do. What is the likelihood of a coyote going after you on a trail run? I don’t know. And the likelihood of a stranger attack? They do happen. Like most women, I never thought something like that could happen to me. Ever. But it did. Not when I was running, but I think the lesson is the same. If it can happen to me it can happen to anyone. I definitely took my safety for granted-maybe not in how I behaved but in how I thought it couldn’t happen to me. Some things are just out of our control and to try to limit ourselves or our experiences out of fear really only lets the creeps win. Believe me, it has taken me a while to get to that point of not only believing that again but trying to put it into action. We should always do what we can to be safe when running-run w/a friend or a dog, carry a phone, don’t have both earbuds in, carry pepper spray if it makes you feel better, take a self defense class, carry yourself confidently, make eye contact with others you pass. And then live your life. Good for you for going back on the trail!

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