Saturday a woman was attacked near one of my favorite running spots. Thankfully, she wasn’t seriously hurt. But the attacker took something from her. I can’t imagine how long she will struggle to go running by herself again. It turns out, the attacker took something from me, too. He stole my favorite run of the week. There’s something that I really love about my Sunday morning runs. I can get up as early as I want to go as far as I want before hopping in the shower to get ready for church. I don’t have to worry about being in the way while Clay gets ready, and I don’t have to worry about getting the kids to the bus stop. Everything is quiet on Sunday mornings. My house, the streets, the trail. I’ve seen deer, foxes, bunches of bunnies, and the occasional cyclist. There is one older gentleman who runs every Sunday morning, too, and no matter how far I’ve run, we always pass at just about the same spot, when I’m about to get off the trail, to head through the neighborhood back to my house. He was there every Sunday morning when that was my weekly 6 mile run as I prepared for a race a year and a half ago, and as my mileage dropped after that race, I’d still pass him in the same area. Last Sunday, I only managed to run two miles, but they were strong, and it was so reassuring to pass him again. I imagine he’s been there every Sunday morning the past few months, when chemo and surgery managed to convince me to forgo my favorite run. I wonder what he thought as we passed last week—did he ever even notice that we used to pass every week? Did he notice that it had been a while?
Did he notice that I wasn’t there this Sunday morning? That attacker took my favorite run from me this week. Instead of heading to the familiar peace of the trail yesterday morning, I decided to stick to the neighborhood roads. Man, my neighborhood is hilly! Even though it was daylight, I took my flashlight, which I affectionately call my face shredder, just to be extra safe. (A friend in law enforcement suggested I get one—his best bet for personal security.) Really, I should be so thankful that I have such a nice place to run—lovely homes, well cared for sidewalks, friendly neighbors. But still, my ability to make my own choice was taken from me, and that made me angry. When I was running during chemo, I used to imagine what I’d say if someone approached me while running, made me feel threatened. (I should say that I run in a very safe place, but still the mind wanders…) I used to imagine how empowering it would be to rip off my hat and tell someone that I was on chemo—stronger than cancer, stronger than them. And if that didn’t work, I’d threaten to spit on them—the chemo nurse made sure that we knew that our saliva was toxic for a day or two after treatment! Yesterday as I ran, I was thinking how mad I was to have made it this far, past cancer, past chemo, past surgery, only to have my run thwarted because my safety was threatened.
Last night, I finally managed to figure out from some small news items that the place the woman was attacked wasn’t actually on my trail. There is a whole series of trails around us, and the one she was on was more isolated and close to a road to allow an attacker to flee. I wasn’t going to stay away forever, but I guess that means I’ll head back out on the trails for my very next run. I’ve never been one to let fear rule the choices I make, but perhaps I’ll start taking my face shredder, even when it’s not dark. And while I’m sure it’s probably the wise decision, feeling it in my hand will only remind me of why I need it, and that just makes me a little bit sad. But if I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that I’m stronger than fear, and so I’ll keep on running.