It's dark and cold. I like running in the dark and cold, I'm feeling good. I have my headlamp on, my reflective pants and neon jacket making me more visible. It's a good run.
I'm heading back home, just a little over a half a mile away, when a beat-up van pulls into the parking lot directly in front of me, parking at a weird angle less than twenty feet from me, almost blocking my path. The driver, an older white man, tries to get out of the car quickly. Something is off about this, my fight or flight instincts kick in. I choose flight.
I am sprinting as fast as I can, praying cars continue to drive by on the street, praying I can make it across the intersection before the light changes. My cell phone is in my pocket, I simultaneously fumble for it while focusing on GET AWAY RUN, RUN, RUN.
When I cross the street, I take a second to glance back. The man and the van are gone. I slow down, my heart in my throat, finish my run as fast as I can. I am shaken and nervous now, no longer enjoying the solitude and the darkness.
I like to consider myself a strong and fearless woman. I try new things. I take care of my own damn self. I am bad ass. I fix stuff. I use power tools.
I have never felt as small and weak as I did in that moment. I feared for my life. Someone might say, how silly of me to be worried over a man in a late model van, but I am telling you something was not right with him. For a second, I felt powerless.
I should not be afraid to run in my neighborhood. I should not even think for a second, "oh crap, that person is going to hurt me." It's awful.
That is what it's like to be a woman runner/walking alone on campus/walking out to her car after work/heading home from the bar/walking the dog...the list goes on and on.
There is something super fucked up about that.