I was recently running one of my favorite training loops here in D.C., getting in a few miles before work. It was at a time of day that I especially love – about 4:30 a.m. The noise of the city is mostly gone; traffic lights blink stubbornly above empty streets, and both rats and deer are equally likely to make a surprise appearance. The city looks different at this hour, both foreign yet familiar. It’s a moment for me to discover it anew.
I choose familiar routes for these early morning (or perhaps late night?) runs. the familiarity allows me to withdraw just a bit, to let my guard down, and simply run. I’ve taken lately to playing music on these runs, losing myself in the rhythm of the songs and my pace.
On this one morning last week someone intruded on my pre-dawn run. I had just turned the corner of Georgia Avenue and U street NW, when I sensed someone nearby, off my left shoulder, about 20 yards back. Pretty close. I turned my head and saw some guy in street clothes running after me. He was saying something — I couldn’t clearly understand what it was over my music — but I did hear him telling me to stop.
My instinct was to speed up; the look on his face and the way he was approaching me certainly didn’t seem friendly. I looked back and saw that this guy had also picked up the pace, so I began to sprint. He did the same, and angrily yelled “What you running for!?!” Thankful for the speed work I’d been doing, I quickly dropped him.
Later, after I felt safe and settled back into an easy pace, I wondered what that was all about. I guess there was the possibility that he only wanted help, but I doubt it. Years of city living told me that it was more likely that he wanted to help himself to my Nano mp3.
I wasn’t particulary scared, actually. As a runner, I knew that unless he jumped me immediately, he would never catch me. The only thing that really bothered me was that he had gotten so close before I realized he was there. What if I’d been just a bit slower on the uptake?
So whart to do? Give up my pre-dawn runs? Change my route? Leave my Nano at home?
I’m inclined to change nothing. I’ll try to pay more attendtion, butI live in the City and I want to do it on my own terms. It may not be much of a line in the sand, but it’s my line, and I intend to keep it.