As I ran in the early morning darkness (the sun rises late here compared to NYC and I had to work early, so it wasn’t the best timing on my part), I found myself hyper aware of my surroundings.
That’s just good sense in a strange city, especially without the light of day around to make things look less dangerous, and I would have been paying close attention in a new place no matter what. But as I sprinted past the homeless and aimless population of downtown in the pre-dawn stillness, I couldn’t stop thinking of a recent incident in New York where a woman was sliced on her face by a seemingly random man walking by in the still-dark morning.
This guy could slash me, I thought as I veered so far to the left on the sidewalk I was practically in the street. Those people could attack me, I realized as I ran toward a group of people near the park. That person could rape me, I knew as I stopped short of a man standing next to a trash can.
And while maybe it’s true that as human beings we all need to be careful, I can guarantee the middle aged man I saw jogging in the same area wasn’t second-guessing each footstep because he didn’t want to become a headline.
I can also guarantee the guy who asked me how far I was going to run as I left my hotel wouldn’t have asked that man. He wouldn’t have continued to ask questions about how many miles he runs per week. He wouldn’t have said something as the man later ran by, a careful distance away from him.
When I recently explained to someone–a man–why I have to pay close attention while running–because I am a woman–he said that was too bad.
Which it is. But he’ll never really know exactly what that means, living with this reality every day.