I ran alone today. It’s a big deal.
I have always had a fear of being kidnapped, thrown in a van, raped and murdered. I have never said that publicly, but I don’t hide it and many people know it. Some think it is rational, some think it’s understandable but unhealthy, and some think it’s laughable. I can tell you it is not laughable.
When I am thinking rationally, yes, it’s unlikely. Is it possible? Yes, definitely. And the only reason it’s unlikely is because I’m aware of how possible it is and don’t put myself in situations where I might be physically vulnerable. Anyone who’s aware of the world we live in knows it’s far too possible, and unacceptably likely. Does the fear present itself even when I’m not particularly vulnerable. Yes. And this has been apparent for as long as my memory.
As a child my three sisters would wake quite bemused after kicking me, curled up like a cat at the foot of their mattress. I felt safer there than alone in my own bed. Safety in numbers. My two elder sisters who were not strangers to anxiety were usually compassionate to their little sister, despite being frustrated with the decreased bed space. My younger sister however, who remains incomprehensibly anxiety free, was a lot less accommodating of her annoyingly anxious elder sister. I had the most ridiculous strategies in place to make me feel safe: Pegging my curtains down the middle and thumb tacking them to the wall at the perimeter so potential predators would not see in; sleeping with my entire body under the quilt (including my head) and taking shallow breaths, so if there did happen to be a predator at my window, and they did happen to see in through my well-secured curtains, they would think my bed was empty; and many more seemingly ludicrous strategies. I don’t think I ever voiced the vision in my head that was this fear, and therefore my parents and other people around weren’t able to help me learn to get to know my anxiety and manage it effectively.
I have been purposefully managing my anxiety for almost 20 years now, and the vast majority of the time it doesn’t inhibit my life and the things I want to do. I still don’t sleep alone, but I have and therefore know I can.
At high school I used to run. I used to enjoy it and be reasonably good at it. But since leaving school I haven’t been a runner. After a knee reconstruction two years ago I started running. It began with Parkrun (what an amazing initiative), and has progressed to trail runs. My commitment to running definitely comes in ebbs and flows. Primarily because it is entirely dependent on whether my friend Batman is running and whether I can run with her. Turns out, much like sleeping alone, running alone is also a trigger for my age old fear. Batman travels a lot. She’s out of the country for about 15 weeks of the year. I don’t run when she’s gone. And we can logistically only run together on the weekend. This is not ideal training for me. Batman doesn’t have an issue with running alone, so she runs through the week. We have a 16km trail run scheduled and I cannot rely on running 5km every Saturday and 12km every Sunday to adequately prepare me. I need to be able run alone.
And as of this morning I’ve done it twice 🙌🏻.
The first time I ran a 1km loop five times, was never more than 300m home, and ran past my own front door each lap. After the first lap I felt safe, but mentally exhausted from talking myself out of stopping each time I passed home. Today, instead of Parkrun, I ran a 2.5km loop twice, but did not run past my own front door. Feeling safe versus feeling vulnerable was constantly swaying. I had to mentally focus on running as well as convince myself that the sound of my own footsteps was not the sound of someone behind me. But I did it. I ran the 5km. I ran it alone. And I might be a little too proud of myself. My Apple Watch can’t replace Batman, but she definitely makes me feel accompanied.
The plan is to run alone during the week twice a week before the trail run. I’ve just realised the trail run is next weekend 😂.