Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, I spend most of my Tuesday morning in the dark. So I stopped going through the park. I changed my route to not go down an alley. I run a slightly different route each time I go out.
Just to be safe. Just in case.
It’s a feeling any woman is familiar with. No matter how safe your neighborhood is, it’s hard to not put that filter of “what if” anytime you decide to do something alone outside.
I got back from traveling for the holidays and decided to avoid running in the dark by taking advantage of the day I work from home. The following Thursday was be perfect. It was sunny. It was 50 degrees. My husband was out of town so I didn’t worry about working late to make up the time I spent getting out to the trails.
But as I was packing up, I started feeling really nervous. Billy has always been my security blanket. If something bad happened, I’d have him there for help. And I didn’t have to worry about anyone following me, or making me uncomfortable because I had my man security blanket with me!
I thought about not going. But fortunately, I have a significant stubborn streak.
I was almost angry at myself for being so scared, but I also realized that it’s completely natural. I realized these feelings were real. But they weren’t true.
I don’t need my husband to get outside. Men never worry about these things! I’m going to a busy park and running a trail that I’m very familiar with. If something happens I’ll have my phone with me. It’s 2017 and I’m an independent woman!
I got in my car and drove.
I got to Green Mountain and started my hip warm-ups (although I cut them short because I was feeling self-conscious doing them by myself…I’m a work in progress).
I reminded myself that while it was totally reasonable that I was nervous, I picked a safe park, I was in the suburbs, and I was familiar with where I was going. I packed plenty of snacks and water. I dressed appropriately. I was going to be fine.
I double-checked the map, and got on the trail.
I’d like to say after I started running, the anxiety melted away, but instead, I became obsessed with getting attacked by a wild animal. I was 100% convinced that every rustle in the grass was a mountain lion (because they are so often out in broad daylight at super busy parks).
But then I saw a few lady mountain bikers, hikers, and runners all out on their own. Each time I passed another woman by herself, it was a mental reminder to settle down. That I belonged here. That I was okay.
Soon enough, I was having a great run. I soaked in the sun and reveled in the fact that it was January and I wasn’t even wearing a jacket. I took some photos. I walked a few times when I needed to. And before I knew it, I was back at the parking lot.
Running by myself was definitely different. At times, I missed having someone to talk to or pep talk me up hills. But the solitude was also rejuvenating, and it was empowering to do something new on my own.
When you look at how many groups have popped up for women to get outside together, it’s obvious that we struggle with that very first step – just getting out there. A lot of people don’t have a spouse or other built-in buddy to do things outdoors with, and until this weekend I didn’t realize how scary that was to try.
I can’t guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen to you, and I don’t have a magic solution to feeling confident on your own outside. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a go. I can only hope that it helps to know you aren’t the only one feeling the way you do.