Just a Girl

“The moment that I step outside
So many reasons for me to run and hide
I can’t do the little things I hold so dear
‘Case it’s all those little things that I fear”
                                           -No Doubt

Ok… today I’m taking to the blog to vent a little, about an issue that constantly plagues me in my quest to become a better trail runner (and, well, to just enjoy life). I love to be in the woods.  LOVE it. To me, there is not much on this planet that can top peace, quite, solitude, and a blanket of pine needles underfoot.
Happy Feet 🙂
So, you ask, what’s the problem?  I am surrounded by a wide array of state forests and parks.  Get dressed and hit the trails, right?  Ah, if only it were that simple. 

The problem is… I’m a woman. Girl. Female. Whatever.  I’m a little blonde runner.  Put me in a deserted place, and you might as well put a target on my back. Because like it or not, to some, that is what I am. 

I’m a pretty tough, independent broad. I was raised to embrace my sassy, “I don’t need  your help, I’ll do it myself” spirit. I’m smart, I have a good career, and a damn good life. And I love just about every second of it. That is, until I want to go out for a trail run.  And then I turn into a little……girl.  

A girl who wants to get out there and do what she loves.  By myself, dammit. I don’t want help. I don’t want to NEED help. But the world we live in has decided otherwise for me.
“Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me to hold your hand”
                                                -No Doubt

It should be simple. Right?  Just be kind to each other. Do no harm.  Embrace and love your fellow human (or at least just tolerated them.). But, unfortunately, there are people who don’t live in my fuzzy, rainbows, puppies, and kittens world.  The fact is, there are bad people out there. People with sinister intentions. I don’t think there are a lot of them. I don’t think they are the majority.  But they are out there.  And, much to my dismay, they don’t wear a t-shirt that says, in giant fluorescent letters, “Crazy Rapist” or “Wacko Serial Killer”.  Nope.  

Most days, things are probably just fine.  I’ll never run into anyone who is up to no good. Take, for example, last weekend.  I decided to go for a run in a local state forest.  Stayed mainly on the dirt roads (the type of workout needed that terrain), and saw lots of dog walkers, horseback riders, etc. Normal people out enjoying a lovely Sunday in the woods.  So, I got a little cocky.  “I’ll just do this short little section of singletrack back to the car.”  One of my favorites, dense pine stands the whole way.   A short way into the trail, I came across a guy standing in the woods on the trail alone……. Jeans, jacket, texting on his IPhone, smoking a cigarette.  Obviously just out to enjoy nature, right?   I gave him a quick eyeball…. yup, in that getup, I could outrun him. Finger on the pepper spray trigger, I put a little pep in my step and hightailed it on outta there.  And then I got PISSED.  Because my little bit of confidence, my sense of woodsy independence?  Snuffed out.  Smooshed.  Done-zo.
Which way?  Neither. Turn around and go back to the car.
I’m just a girl, my apologies
What I’ve become is so burdensome”
-No Doubt
So, what’s the answer?   I try to recruit people whenever possible, but sometimes I can’t always find an “escort”.  And sometimes my scheduled workouts are just better done alone, without worrying about someone else’s pace, etc.  I do a lot of road running… and I don’t like But, I feel more secure and safer surrounded by people and houses. Even though I HATE being surrounded by people, traffic, and pavement.  And I HATE having to ask for a chaperone. 

I have a dog who runs with me sometimes, but she is not particularly large or frightening, and I can’t always take her on long runs, hill repeats, intervals, blah, blah, blah.  I have a canister of  pepper spray.  I’m deathly afraid I’m going to spray myself with it one of these days. Do I start packing heat?  Probably not a good idea for someone who trips and falls down allllllll the time (and is afraid of something as stupid as pepper spray).   Perhaps a trail running escort service?  I’ll peruse the classifieds.  Probably some greeeeeat prospects on craigslist.
Hydrating my loyal partner
I suppose the answer is the obvious. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way (or potential harm).  If I don’t have a partner, then it’s the road for me.  In the extremely wise and classy words of my mother…”It’s like playing Russian roulette. 99  out of 100 times, it’s fine. But on number 100, you’re like……. F@#$.”  In other words… don’t push it.
I can’t help but feel just a leeeeeeettle bit jealous of my male running counterparts, who can just head off wherever they want.  I imagine they are not clutching their pepper spray tightly, wondering just how big of a creep the guy in the woods they just passed is. This?  is the ONLY time I will EVER, EVER, EVER be jealous of a male for what they can do that I can’t.  

I’d love to hear your opinions on this. Am I just being paranoid?  Too much crime-drama TV and Nancy Grace?  I know there are a lot of women who are pretty phenomenal trail runners and hikers out there…. how do you get your training in? I know there are some places that are “safer” than others…. but is that really the case?  Or just a false  sense of security.  

To drive the point home…. I had a few guys come to our house to measure to put in some  fencing. We got to talking about my close proximity (easy walking distance) to work.  I explained that I can’t walk or bike, because I get out late and it’s too dark to walk home safely.  As if on cue, his response?  “Yeah. Little blonde?  You don’t want to be down there alone”. 
“Ohhhh…. I’ve had it  UP. TO. HERE.”
-No Doubt 

If only we could make the world a safer place….. Make everyone the good, nice person they should be.  Eliminate the evil and the crime.  And then we can all hold hands and skip happily through the woods.  Right. Or something like that.
Until then? I’m going to rock out to a little girl-power Gwen Stefani. And continue to recruit trail running partners. The sign up sheet will be going around.  Inquire within.

Music video by No Doubt performing Just A Girl. (C) 2003 Interscope Records
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5 thoughts on “Just a Girl

  1. HI Carly, I saw your blog post on FB…I am a Strider also, but we haven't met yet.
    I am 40-something female trail runner and I run in the woods alone quite often and I have been doing this since I was young. I have always felt comfortable in the woods. My thoughts on this subject are I feel safer in the woods than I do running on the roads. The reason for this is my chances of being hit by a car are drastically reduced, my chances of being abducted are reduced (I figure this because it is much easier for a van to pull over on the side of the road and someone jump out and grab me), and when I am running and pass others on the trail I confidentally look them in the eye, smile, and say hello. If someone looks strange, I just turn around and go the other way. I have asked male friends what they think of women who pass by them running in on the trails alone and they assume they have some kind of protection (rare seeing women alone in the woods; probably packing a pistol) or one or more runners are trailing behind her. Since it is so rare for women to run solo in the woods I am assuming sick men who are looking to assault or abduct a women aren't wandering the woods in search for them… they are probably looking alongside roads weeding out the vulnerable types. When I run in the woods I keep my distance when passing most people, I don't start conversation, I carry pepper spray and a cell. Like I said, I believe we are safer in the woods than on the road. And I feel like a strong confident woman; not a girl.:) -Ginny

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  2. Thanks for the great comment Ginny… can't wait to meet you in person! I'm working on improving my comfort level and hoping I can get over the fact that a lot of what I'm “afraid” of is really boogey-man sort of stuff. The fear that something could, possibly, maybe happen. Gotta get those monsters out from under my bed (in a safe and smart way) so I can get out there and enjoy what I love. And good point about the roads. I often think that as well, but for some reason have that false sense of security there.

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  3. Really well-written post on a very sad – and infuriating – topic. I just started running, run alone, and my favorite time is in the dark just before dawn. I run along the roads, but most of the route if pretty remote. But here's the thing – I'm a guy. The kind of fear you describe doesn't even occur to me. My wife feels the same way you do, and it makes me angry that we live in a world where she, and you, and any woman can't be free to just go out, without fear. I *did* get just a little taste of what you're talking about though – last fall I took my MTB on a long (15mi) trail through the woods. I have my pistol permit and actually considered carrying that day. I didn't, but felt a little wary much of the ride. If that's anything like what you're describing, that really really sucks. I'm just glad it's not keeping you from doing what you love. (btw – thanks to Anthony for letting me know about your blog – really enjoying it, despite your “rant” 🙂

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  4. Chris showed me your post just now, and it is nice to know another woman worries about this too. When we started road biking, he didn't understand why I refused to ride on rail trails alone. But after the Chandra Levy murder on a running trail in a D.C. park, and a woman in Georgia who was raped and murdered while riding her bike on a rail trail, there was no way I was going to go out alone. I feel like a coward, but at least I'm a safe one. Unfortunately, it's one of those ways that I don't think men and women can truly be equal in terms of having the same freedoms.

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  5. Hi Debby and Chris! Thanks for reading, and for the comments. This is obviously a topic near and dear to me, since I deal with it every day. In short? It sucks!! I know a lot of women who are completely comfortable out there alone, but I just feel so uneasy out in the woods alone. And like you said Debby… I don't think that will ever go away. In the meantime I am scoping out some other options.. including a krav maga self defense class. Thanks for reading, glad you liked it! 🙂 🙂

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