When I lace up my running shoes, there are only two things I fear: the ground and other people.
By the ground, I mean uneven parts of the sidewalk where a tree root or poor construction means a gap that my foot will catch on. These spaces have been the causes of my main running injuries. A missed step while looking at a plastic flamingo led to scraped up knees. Tripping on a bridge sent my phone flying into a bush, and me falling (without style) onto the Portland Esplanade. And the last mile of a trail run took over 30 minutes thanks to a rock and then a sprained ankle.
Other people are of course more dangerous than the ground can ever be. If the ground tries to hurt me, really the worst that will happen is me laying flat on top of it (been there, done that, called a friend to pick me up).
People can do much worse.
Almost every time I go out for a run, I will pause at least once at a crosswalk or corner for an oblivious driver. The driver is usually turning right onto the street. They look left down the road, checking carefully if their intended lane is open. It is only at the last minute, if ever, that they look to the right to see me standing on the sidewalk. I put on my cheesiest grin and wave at them, believing that they might think they know me and feel more guilty about almost ramming into a friend rather than a stranger. Some of these drivers turn without ever looking in my direction; I hope they get a ticket to catch their attention before someone is hurt.
On some runs I am honked at. Apparently running in the crosswalk with a green walk sign is a crime against drivers who want to turn on the red. One of my professors, in our first day of class, said that you can prove human pride by standing at a crosswalk and counting the number of drivers who run a red light. These individuals believe their destination is more important than other drivers, driving guidelines, or even the laws of physics as they attempt to drive faster than the speed of the red light.
It has only been a few times that I have been yelled or whistled toward. I always have headphones on, even if the music is turned off, to give me extra reason to ignore the words thrown at me by a stranger. It has been a few years, but closing my eyes brings me back to the sidewalk in my neighborhood when a car drove past and the passenger shouted out: “Run fat b#$%^.” I got all the way home before I let a single tear form. I refused to let him see even an inch of impact.
Running while female has its struggles. I am not alone in what I have experienced, and really I am #blessed compared to stories I have read. I have learned from my running community what to carry with me, places to avoid, and how to keep myself as safe as possible while experiencing the miles that are part of my identity.
Running while White means that while I have minor fears about the ground and other people, I do not fear the police. I do not fear that pausing at a construction site (I’ve done it) will get me shot. I do not fear that running in a nice neighborhood (done it) will have me questioned. I do not fear walking sweaty into a store for the bathroom (done it) will have me followed. I do not fear pulling an object from my backpack will (done it) will have a cop pull a weapon on me. And I do not fear walking up to a police officer for directions (done it) will lead to anything showing up on the news.
I have privilege. What I do with that privilege matters.