I’ve been running the same tired routes for years now. I either stick close to home for hills or if I’m looking for an easy/flat route I drive about 10 minutes into the heart of our town. At this point, it’s become a bit old. There’s one street in particular that I am so sick of running on that I get irritated just looking at it…even when I’m driving.
Recently, I’ve been chatting a bit with two guys from our neighborhood. They’re part of the seven person relay team I’ll be on in August. They are far more experienced runners than I am and I was eager to hear their advice regarding running routes. They both (separately) recommended one route in particular. Basically, I would drive there, park at the earliest turn-off and run the length of it. It’s a long enough road that I could really rack-up some miles. The word “peaceful” was used by both…several times.
Right. So. This is where we learn a fundamental difference between men and women. To them this route was “peaceful”, to me….it was desolate. I had a baaaad feeling about it right away. After arriving on the road, I turned into a cleared out area of the woods. Parked off to the side was a guy. Alone in his car, door open, smoking a cigarette. At 9:15 on a Thursday morning. Shifty. I hooked a U-ey and got the hell outta there. I found an empty turn-off and parked. For a brief moment I considered going back to civilization, but I thought that would turn out to be an overreaction, so I locked up the car and started my run.
Don’t get me wrong. The route was fantastic. Gorgeous scenery, the fragrance of wildflowers everywhere, a variety of birds, butterflies and the sound of the Delaware River off in the distance. As for the run itself, challenging but not overly so. Nice rolling hills the whole way.
There were also random pick-up trucks and vans parked off on the side of the road. With a guy or three in them. They looked a bit like hunters, which means there were probably weapons of some sort nearby. Not a whole lotta’ cars passing by. Just me. Running past strange men, possibly armed. In the middle of nowhere.
Oh, and then I discovered the Blair Witch House.
Call me paranoid, but the whole thing had the feel of an After School Special. I’m sure for a guy this was a great route, but as a female (running alone) I feel as though I can’t just consider the challenge of the route when I head out. I need to know that it’s safe. That there’s a steady stream of people nearby. That there are stores, gas stations or homes surrounding me.
I really did enjoy this route and I can totally see why they both recommended it to me, BUT I will never run it alone again. It didn’t feel smart. It felt creepy. And the last thing I need at the end of an 8-mile run when I’m completely tapped is to have to deal with whether or not the smoking guy in the middle of the woods is harmless or not.