Thursday, January 06, 2011

Not Afraid of the Dark

When you're a little girl, you're afraid of the dark because of imaginary monsters that live in your closet and go bump in the night. When you're a grown-up girl, you're afraid of the dark because you're very aware of all the bad things that can happen at night.

Night Time

When I moved back to the DC-area after my first job, I was terrified to run around my new house in the dark. I was worried I'd either get hit by a car crossing a busy intersection, trip over the uneven sidewalk and get hurt or get attacked by some shady character.

Fear of being attacked was my biggest concern. I live not far from the park where they found Chandra Levy. Stuff like that makes me worry.

After moving, my fear of the dark was crippling. So much so in the beginning that I didn't run at all. I eventually discovered the treadmills in my community's fitness center and did most of my running indoors.

But after a year and a half of dealing with treadmill runs and having crappy races because of it, I decided enough was enough.

I missed my morning runs and I was sick of letting my fear of boogey men determine when I could run.

Mentally, a few things helped me deal with the fear.

A while back, Jess wrote a great post about not letting our fears cripple us. More recently I read a line in Women's Running Magazine that said something like "Don't be scared, be aware." The gist of the article was that you don't have to be terrified of running in the dark, you just need to be aware of your surroundings and take basic safety precautions.

So here's what I did:
  • I wore my reflective vest so cars could see me.
  • I left my iPod at home.
  • I carried my cellphone.
  • I wore my RoadID.
  • I ran on sidewalks with streetlights.
  • I trusted that I would be OK.

None of those things would protect me if someone decided to attack me, but I was done letting that fear rule my life and have such a negative impact on my running.

Since that first run, I've done countless morning runs in the dark. I trained for Philly, Baltimore and Philly again all in the dark.

Sure there are times I'm still a little jumpy, but mostly I've come to enjoy the solitude of my morning runs in the dark. It's very peaceful to be the only person out enjoying the city before everyone else is awake.

It took me a long, long time to get there, but I think it's safe to say, I'm not scared of the dark anymore.

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