About a year ago, a man yelled at me out of his car window while I was running with my Four Leaf Rover, Seamus O’Malley. At that time, I ran mainly on sidewalks in an urban environment, so lots of cars whizzing past us was not unusual, but a man taking time out to yell that my ass was sweet does not happen often. He hung his head out the window for a few seconds, presumably to see if I’d have a reaction. I did not. I cared as much about his opinion as I do about the color of Q-tips.
Besides, how could he possibly know if that was a true statement or not? That ass was encased in a pair of Lululemon Speed Up Tights and they make your rear look way better than it actually does. Think of a push up bra for a caboose.
Did this guy think that this was a romantic strategy? NOPE. He was simply being an ass. I’m pretty sure that in the history of women running, when cat called, not one of us has ever stopped mid run, torn our clothes off and yelled, “OMG!, take me now you silver tongued devil you!”
Could I have given him a particular and definitive finger in response? Certainly, but then I just risked the asshole becoming unhinged and perhaps getting the driver to turn the car around and come after me and my Irish Setter. Would that have been a likely scenario? No. First of all Lakeshore Road in that particular area of Oakville is pretty busy. By the time he would have been able to turn around, it’d be the next day. Even if he did manage to turn around, as I mentioned, it’s a busy area. I felt safe in the knowledge that if he tried to harm me and my beloved Four Leaf Rover, there would be about 100 nice people that do not harass others, ready to help me. Let’s be real, though. This type of man is a gutless poltroon. The mencowards that shout cat calls from a car, rarely have the jellybeans to actually say that to your face.
No, the real reason I did not give him that time honored salute is that it just is not all that important to me to respond to idiotic behavior. I did not feel threatened. I did not feel abused. I did not feel violated. I did not feel triggered. What I did feel was amused, and the overwhelming need to get on with my life….and run. So I did. You can’t change stupid, so the best thing is to ignore it. I simply do not allow other people’s bad behavior to have influence over me. What would be the point of that? They eventually get their comeuppance. Honestly? I’m stronger than a few meaningless comments thrown in my direction from a speeding car. It takes much more than that for me to be outraged. For example: finding out that Tim Hortons discontinued their Dutchie donut right after I moved back to Canada in 2014. I’m still not over that.
I thought of this today only because I no longer reside and run in an urban area. I now live in a very small town, that gets much bigger in the summer, mainly because of my favorite people: Americans. Almost all my neighbors are US citizens who have chosen to buy summer homes on the beach here in this part of Canada. I love how friendly they are. Most mornings I’m greeted with a cheery wave and a big smile when I go outside to water my plants or take a walk on the beach with my dogs. It’s a complete contrast to my Canadian neighbors who are nice enough, but icily polite and have an aversion to waving. Think non homicidal pod people saying “sorry” all the time.
This temporary influx of people during the summer causes things to get quite a bit busier here, which includes the roads. As my street is the one that the beach is on, it is busier than most in the summer AND there are no sidewalks. It’s a bit of a gamble to even walk along this road, let alone run. When you attach a rocket red Irish Setter to you, that makes it even trickier.
What I do to make my runs a bit safer is to either drive to a local school and run a combination of streets with sidewalks, transition to trails and fields, and then drive home OR I start my run from home and head for the nearest side street, which still does not have a sidewalk but is much less heavily traveled, and then head to a nearby trail. I did the latter this morning. It is one kilometer to the nearest entrance to the trail from my home. Half of that distance is done on sleepy side streets that barely get any traffic, but the last half kilometer is a busy main street…no sidewalks (a recurring theme).
So, there I am…the trail entrance within sight with Seamus O’Malley pulling me along, impatient with my pace, and I’m doing my best to avoid colliding with idiot drivers who refuse to slow down or give me a wider berth. I get it. They think I have no right to be on the shoulder, running with a dog. Either that or they’re checking their messages on their smart phones. Could be both, really.
I can see a bright red truck approaching me. I should insert here that I run against traffic, as any sane runner should do. This truck with three men in it, stopped right at the trail entrance, but not to the side. They were blocking traffic behind them.
My eyes started rolling, as I anticipated some comment from them. I was not anxious, merely pre-annoyed. As I got closer, the guy in the passenger seat leaned out and yelled: “Are you turning on the trail?” When I nodded in the affirmative and gasped out yes in a loud voice he yelled back: “Don’t worry, we are stopping the other cars so you can get to the trail safely.” The truck had American plates, I wasn’t grabbed and kidnapped as I went by, and I waved cheerily at them as I turned SAFELY onto the trail.
As I ran on, I was reminded of yet another experience I had five years earlier. In 2012, I was living in Raleigh, North Carolina. I was consistently running on a neighborhood trail that was known for its beauty, and in some spots, its solitude. One day I was running under a train overpass and noticed a man huddled up against a retaining wall. I didn’t see him right away as he was in the shadows. I felt a bolt of adrenaline jolt through my body and I picked up my pace. I had a million scenarios go through my brain as to what I would do if this guy tried something. At the time I carried a couple of self defense items that would be considered illegal here in Canada. I was ready and prepared to use them.
The shadow man did not move, but watched me as I speedily ran by. I had not gone more than a few meters when I saw another man up ahead on a bike. He had stopped and was clearly waiting for me. I quickly recognized him as a biker that had passed me a few minutes prior. I was suddenly even more wary.
As I approached him he asked me if I was okay and explained he had stopped because he had noticed the guy under the bridge and realized I’d be running by him soon. He was concerned and wanted to wait to be sure I was okay, and that the guy had not done something stupid. I thanked him for stopping, and said I was okay, but if I was being honest, I was unsettled by Under The Bridge man. I told Bike Man that I was grateful that he had stopped just to ensure my safety. Neither of us had any idea whether skulking guy (okay…I might be being a tad melodramatic now) was a bad guy or not.
He could merely have been fishing in the river that wound by the trail, he could have been resting in the shade after his own long walk, he could have been waiting for his girlfriend in a predesignated spot….or he could have been sharpening his knives. I don’t know, but that is not the point of my post.
See, this is the truth of the matter. There are far more good guys out there than there are bad. I choose to spend my time ignoring the asstastic asstacular ones, and smiling at, and thanking the good ones. I believe that is good for my mental health. I don’t live in a mass hysteria bubble believing that crime is at an all time high. It’s simply not true.
While I certainly acknowledge that there are real risks out there for women when they run, and I myself have not been immune to that, overall I refuse to allow that to curtail my running. That would be stupid. You can read about my one bad experience here. I handled that shit, and that’s the most important thing. I decided not just to merely complain about it…I did something about it.
Do I get random men yelling things at me while I run? Yes, occasionally, but I don’t dwell on it. I refuse to be a prisoner in my own house. I’m a woman that values her running time as non negotiable ME time. I will never let anyone take that away from me. I will not allow fear to rule me. I simply will not live that way. I also refuse to tar all men with the same brush. The few men who feel compelled to yell out something sexually aggressive are just idiotic. I know that there is no way to force anyone to act appropriately. There are always going to be lunkhead dimwits out there. Rather than force people to do what I want (which is impossible), I choose to control the only thing I can. My reaction. Your mileage may vary on this topic.
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