This weekend I heard the story of Sherry Arnold, a Montana teacher who was abducted on her morning run in January and who is now "believed to be murdered." I can't seem to get her out of my head...
I usually don't use this blog as a journal about what is new in the World of Runners, but in this case, I am making an exception. Her story is worthy of attention and reflection from all of us who care about women and the sport of running.
When I first heard her story, I felt goosebumps cover my whole body and tears fill my eyes. I am sad for her, for her family, for her community, and frankly, for all female runners out there who fear their morning runs now because they might share a similar fate to Sherry. And I have to admit, I feel that fear on some level.
You see, I grew up with a very protective mother who warned me about the dangers of life - everything from turbulent water in the ditch below our house to the hazards of wearing earrings while playing sports to the sick actions of of kidnappers and rapists. I grew up fearing being alone. But before you judge Mom, please reconsider. Her lessons kept me safe, and I have learned to trust my instincts about dark alleys and creepy men.
But running has been a liberating activity for me; it has been an activity that has slowly gotten me more comfortable with being alone. I have run on Moscow Mountain alone and experienced nature in a way I never had before. (I also went on a couple of solo road trips/camping trips in the past few years that I never would have had the guts to go on without running.) I have also run on the paths of Pullman at night and in the dark fields of UI, feeling secure because of my reflective gear and the small, pink pepper-spray canister I keep on my hip. I use good judgement about where I run and make sure someone always knows where I am and when I will be back. But this story... well, it pretty much sums up my worst fears and gives me reason to protect myself more and not go out there on the trails, roads, and paths alone. I don't want to end up like Sherry. I mean, I enjoy running, but I don't want someone to come across my shoe on the side of a road...I don't want hundreds of people searching for my lifeless (and probably very abused) body.
I don't want to live in fear; I want to be safe. But I don't necessarily want to ALWAYS have to be with a big, strong man who can protect me from the scumbags of the world.
So what's the answer? What do the female runners of the world do now? How should we feel? What responsibility - if any - do the male runners who share our trails have to us? I'm feeling reflective today and welcome any thoughts you have.