I allowed a baby elephant to knock me right off track yesterday evening. I went out later than usual for my after school run and it was actually one of the best runs I’d had in a long time. I was getting that old childhood feeling where I was semi-flying, my body skimming over the ground at an easy, but sustained pace. It felt good. I felt good. But the dark was creeping in and the world always changes subtly with the setting sun. Figures no longer stand, they lurk. Intentions become questionable, and a shadowy figure waiting for the bus not far from my house pinged my “Be on Alert!” senses and I wasn’t watching my feet properly. I tripped over a crack in the pavement and went flying. I managed to roll a little in the air and take some weight on my hands and shoulders, but my poor left knee also took an almighty crack. I limped home embarrassed and frustrated.

First off, a guy cycling his bike checked in if I was okay. I really appreciated the manner in which he did so: he kept a respectful distance and asked if I was okay, double-checked, but never approached me, never breached the socially convened bubble of personal-space. You see, people do know, men do know – those unwritten rules. They mightn’t explicitly know that they know, but they can pick up on our body language too. After dark (sometimes in the daylight too), it’s not okay to come physically close to us – especially if we’re in a physically vulnerable position like I now was.

Knowing this, I’m even more annoyed about those men who have used plausible deniability to make me uncomfortable in life: sitting too close, casual hands laid on me, standing inside that unspoken bubble. Okay, so there’ll be the odd oblivious person – in fact there’s someone I work with (another woman) who is a total Space Invader, but that’s a rant for another day – but the frequency of the invasions is too high. By and large, I don’t feel bad about concluding that they’re doing it on purpose.

I don’t claim conscious purpose or anything like that. Maybe it’s just a little thrill from stepping over an unspoken line, exercising a bit of that power that they were gifted with in exchange for half a chromosome.

So look, basically I’m blaming the patriarchy for my sore knee.

Because I was distracted by the dark and figures whose mere presence became a threat due to men’s ownership of public spaces. Especially after dark.

I’d actually love to run after dark a bit more. I’d get flashing armband lights and be super careful of roads and the likes. I like how the world changes, gets a bit magical at twilight, transforms into something else as at the lights come on. It was indescribably beautiful running around The Lough with the boke lights dancing on the ripples of the glassy water, and the horizontal light fading with the sun below the horizon. Even the smell and texture of the air seemed to change. It was delightful. It was, yes, magical.

And I resent the fact that it feels like “not for me”, not allowed. Sensible women don’t put themselves in “that” position. And yes, before your side-brain accuses me of over-reacting, yes, people get attacked. Sure, men too, but women more likely. And yes, runners get attacked. And I can fucking guarantee you that “What was she doing running after dark?” trips from the tongue of several people whenever such an incident occurs.

I’m over it, mostly. The resentment rises again every time around this time of year, as the dark takes up more of the hours and thus my unaccompanied outdoor time is increasingly truncated. But I don’t really want to live in resentment and anger, so I choose to “get over it”. It’s not “fair”, but plenty in life isn’t, and substantial portions of the “not fair” benefit me. I hope for change, I write and rant and discuss and small changes do occur, I think. I often say that I hope to live for at least a thousand years, and I guess lots of change would come in a timeframe like that, but whatever body I have is unlikely to be a running one. Or to need to run – I’m guessing robot-body.

I’m surprisingly saddened by that. I thought I was all about the robot-body, but maybe the work I’ve being doing to get a bit more connected and caring towards the body that houses me is actually doing something after all!

So c’mon and heal dear body. We have light-drenched runs together in our future.

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