I Run Because I Am, Not Because I Am Not

This post is in reaction to the broad range of illuminating comments left by readers on the blog post, What Do I Deserve by Erin Bailey. Erin is a young woman who recently spoke out on her fitness blog (linked above) about the harassment she receives/has received as a female athlete practising her profession in Boston.

Am I supposed to stop going to the park? Am I supposed to not run in downtown Boston in the broad daylight? Am I supposed to not go to 7Eleven or the laundromat at 6PM on a Wednesday night? Am I supposed to not go to the gym?
I am careful. I don’t go to dangerous places alone. I don’t run in dodgy areas by myself. I carry keys on me, and soon pepper spray to put my Moms mind at ease. But that’s not the point.
What do I deserve?
- Erin Bailey

Each morning I wake a simple and uncaged animal. I wait for the drowsy sun to lift its lazy lid and with heated overtures, coax traces of dew to rise up from thirsty emerald blades. When the scanty drops turn effervescent and join the air I drink deeply from, anticipation grinds, hot and nervous in my belly, wave on mounting wave, and I feast on the spirits of life until I am filled to the brink.

Soon, soon, soon.

It is for this moment that I have been given the generous gift of mobility.

Corded limbs moan with pent up release, and I sway and I reach. A ballet of curving arches, a deliberate dance of blood and bone. Stretch, stretch, stretch. Ritual in its purist form. Movement is my god, and I am ready to pay homage.

Breathe in once, long and expanding. Send it back out, richer and more fragrant.

It’s almost time.

My falling weight, pedantic, crushes bits of earth and pebble beneath my soles as I prepare. Bare toes flex. Nails bite down and dream of upending the musty soil rooftops of beetles and worms.

…we are all one…

Sunlight and musk blow past, beckon me. Purpose calls, and I am unleashed.

Coils of fire explode, turn voracious and wild, and I propel forward; my faithful limbs execute my body’s concealed agenda. Passing through glorious emptiness, fast at first, faster still. Pounding the hard earth into submission beneath. The wind, fresh, clean, cleansing, bathes my greedy follicles, rushes over my body, invades my welcoming spaces. Unrelenting freedom all around, insisting that I become exactly what I need to be. I give in, and I believe, and I exist.

Run.

Unknowing eyes, fresh to waking as night’s fog dwindles, blink round moons at me. Firefly flashes in my peripheries. Scenery unseen and so quickly fleeting. Restraints have no place in freedom. In shamelessly passing by, I surpass my inhibitions.

Run faster. Go further. Keep going.

My breathing heavy hot steady, propels my sternum faster along a hotblooded current. I heave. I rage. I undulate. I persist. My heroically pumping limbs devour land and I soar …

The song that traces my path in the wind is fearless and fierce. It is my song.

I am strong. I am free. I am alive.

I am —

— Not.

Senses seize and hackles rise before the tangible signs of wanton pursuit reach my ears, my eyes.

I am interrupted, and I slow down.

Black pooling shadows impinge my path, sliding this way and that, obstruct and lash out with catching darkness. Malicious and hostile intruders insert themselves and thrust their wishes upon me. They demand for an abrupt end to my worship.

Look over here, comes the starved cry, a thunderous voice that I can’t ignore. See us! Because our desires have seen and need you more than you need your Self.

Insatiable hunger taints their jeers and forces their jaws to hang open. Lascivious poison drips thick.

And like that, my unwelcome prison returns.

The predators amongst us will never let me forget. They don’t want me to be alive like this. They don’t seem to know how to witness me shine without needing to colour my glow. So my bright light dims.

My echoing bliss, a proud voice grown loud from celebrating life’s vibrant pleasures, makes me a glossy, worthy meal to demolish. To diminish. To consume and delete. I am juicy, and firm, and make a perfect mouthful that once swallowed is used up and less than before. Or so they would have me believe.

They would have me believe that my preferred self doesn’t exist. They would have me believe that they have a claim to pieces of me, and that those pieces are worth more to them in isolation than the sum of my parts. They would have me believe that I am a service, a product, a consumable thing that is easily replaced.

Though I believe none of those things I stop running and start fleeing. I am reduced to a mammal preyed upon, and I am scared.

Shrouded in self-constraint and regret and the shame that results, I crawl back to my dwelling. Embrace my cave of safety. Must protect my babies that will come tomorrow, and live to see another dull day.

But simple animals we are not.

And I tell you now, I will not stay hidden this time.

When they see me next I will shine so brightly that not even their dark shadows of pain and fear and death and shame will diminish my light. I am not prey to be hunted, a meal to be supped; and they are not consummate predators.

I am no more hare than they are lions, but as hotblooded humans we are beasts, and we all carry within us the potential to become monsters. Those who choose to be monsters are deservedly vilified. The choice is theirs. The fault is theirs. The blame is theirs. The consequences are shared and they are dire, but they will not conquer me. So in the end, I say let the predators have those too.