Hello friends, welcome here!
So, that is a lengthy title but welcome to “I’m Not Scared, but I’m Scared: Thoughts from a Mostly Solo, Average Trail Runner”. I spend a lot of time outside, it is kind of my favorite place. It is also a place that can cause me great anxiety at times. Runner’s World has been doing some polling recently about perceptions of safety while running and it got me thinking: I’m not scared, but I’m scared.
Most of the time when I am running, I am running alone. Sometimes, my amazing partner is out on the trails with me on his bike, but we are not usually in close proximity to one another. Other times, I am able to run through the city with my two best friends, but if I had to guess, about 90% of my miles are solo adventures (sometimes including the doggo). Some of my runs are short, just a couple miles, others are l o n g, many are on trails.
When I tell people about my running, they always say something along the lines of, “You did that alone?” “Aren’t you afraid?” “You really should carry self-protection of some sort.” I get it and appreciate their concern for my well-being, but there is a huge part of me that can’t help but get frustrated when people say those things – especially because they probably wouldn’t be said to my male counterparts- but because I don’t *feel* scared, but then again, I do.
If you follow me on instagram, you probably have seen on my story I post multiple photos throughout my run… Usually cool graffiti throughout the city or incredible trail views. On one hand, I want to share my city with all my people, on the other I know in the back of my mind if someone needed to find me, they could use my story to do it. Kind of morbid, I know, but I’ve thought about it.
I feel like people in my life who do not run are worried about me being snatched and thrown into the back of a van somewhere. For me, I am most concerned with far more practical, common dangers I encounter on trails. I am not saying that could not happen, but I am far more likely to trip on a root and seriously hurt myself, or find myself deep in the national forest with very aggressive boars. I worry about stepping on a snake and getting bit or getting caught in bad weather, because y’all, if there is one thing to know about Florida it’s that there is a l w a y s a chance of severe thunderstorms. I’m not scared, but I am.
Something does happen at night though that rewires all the pathways in my brain to be fearful of well, everything. The street I take to get to the park during the day? Too many parking garages. The roads around my favorite restaurants? Too much construction. The peaceful, quiet, empty roads in my neighborhood? Too dark, which means my nighttime miles typically get relegated to one of Tallahassee’s many well lit, well populated parks. Then at the same time, sometimes I intentionally run at night to feel scared. I want to challenge myself and overcome these perceived obstacles, because once again, I’m not scared… but I am.
One of the reasons I love trail running is it offers me a place to escape away from people and my day. It keeps me passionate about my work and supports my mental well being. Sometimes I find myself 5, 6, 7 miles down trails and I am in love with the world. Other times, I have a sudden, weird realization I am completely by myself and I start looking over my shoulder or even turn around. The solitude is refreshing and unsettlingly eerie, but it never keeps me from coming back and running the same empty trail because I am not scared, but I am.
Basically, when I am running or planning to run my personal safety is something I think a lot about but also don’t, which maybe is the most dangerous. I trust myself, my knowledge of trails, and my physical ability so much maybe I should be more scared, or that is what I tell myself when others’ concern for my safety exceeds my own. But then where would the fun and enjoyment be if I was constantly afraid of doing the thing I love? Are surfers afraid every time they get in the water they are going to be attacked by a shark? Maybe, it has to be in the back of their mind somewhere, but it doesn’t keep them out of the water. There is an assumed risk in everything we do each day in our existence, but it doesn’t keep us from living.
I don’t know, the best I can come up with when I think of my personal safety while running is: I’m not scared, but I’m scared.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Love, love, love ❤ Cyndel