I did not want to run Saturday. I’m on a taper now, but still the 10 miles in the moderate Michigan heat did not tempt me. I long for the days when I looked forward to the adventure of long runs. For some reason, my love affair with endurance running seems to be waning. I have moments of joy but the exuberance of my long run days in Memphis is a distant memory. Still I set a goal, and I want to get through this season before I re-evaluate. I may find my heart for running yet.
The first 3 miles were grueling. My mind was grumbling and complaining while my conscience kept saying “give it time”. About mile 3, I started feeling some of the joy of running. I felt light on my feet. The breeze was cool. Although I couldn’t see the lake on my route due to the over-development of the beachfront, it was nice to be near it. A deer grazed on grasses near the road. A baby bunny darted into the bushes. Ahhh… it’s nice to have a sport that gets me out in nature.
A pickup truck slowed next to me, and I realized with dismay he was keeping up with my slow pace. “Sh*t,” I thought. “Ignore him.” The old white geezer mumbled something about the day, and I just kept my eyes straight ahead. Tension seized my shoulders. My gut clenched. I thought about the recent murder in the news. “Leave me alone,” I wanted to scream. “Keep your cool,” I whispered to myself. “He’ll go away.”
When I was in Memphis, I lived in a beautiful garden district neighborhood that was classified as an arboretum. I ran my morning runs down the streets lined with beautiful old bungalows and mansions. A man in a red van would stalk me in the darkness. He’d throw newspapers, so I initially thought he delivered papers. After a few rounds of his relentless drive-bys I even called the Commercial Appeal and complained. Later, I realized he was using that as decoy. He was circling. Newspaper delivery people had a route, and they were in a hurry to get done. He was a predator, and runners like me were his prey.
I saw him hundreds of times. I guess he was harmless. He never did anything except drive up on me and shout good morning as he passed by. But he slowed down beside me, circled around the blocks and ruined my run. I often thought of Ted Bundy with the missing seat in his car where unsuspecting women faced their violent deaths. “Just don’t let him get near you,” I’d whisper to myself. “Ignore him.” “Run up to a house if it gets too uncomfortable.” “Scream.” The familiar tension gripped my shoulders. My gut clenched.
I wouldn’t say this happens often, but it happens enough to say it’s not unusual. Later in the run Saturday, another truck stopped while it’s driver leered at me. He turned right then pulled over on the side of the road. I turned left just to get away from him. “If he turns around, it’s obvious he’s stalking me,” I said to myself. I’m not sure what power that gave me, but I felt better knowing I dodged his stare. My joy in my run Saturday never returned. The predator got his prey.
When I read the Mollie Tibbets story, I felt really sad. I felt very sad for her and her family, and I felt sad for me. My predators have almost always been white men. They leer at me, slow their vehicles to match my pace and often shout something seemingly innocuous. I try to shake it off. Most are probably just perverts who can’t get their thrills any other way. It’s been a little harder to shake this weekend. I’m angry, and I’m sick of these selfish assholes. I just want to get some exercise. I didn’t sign up to be prey.