I'm back from our family vacation to Vancouver and Whistler, BC. One of the things that I enjoyed most in Vancouver was the two runs that I did in Stanley Park. There is a wonderful bike and running path all the way around this urban park. It borders the ocean for most of the 10k run, with beautiful views of bridges and a light house.
On the first run, Mike took off with our teenage son and I quickly lost sight of them. I figured it couldn't be too hard to figure out the route, just follow the sidewalk until the water was in view and hop on the trail. After that it was just a big circle. I quickly found myself off of the paved sidewalk and on a dirt path in the middle of a forest. The trees were bigger than any I have ever seen at home, and the forest was so dense that I couldn't see more than a few feet off of the trail. I knew right away that I had gone the wrong way.
Since I run alone in parks a lot, I get asked by other women quite often if I am afraid. It occurred to me as I was on this secluded path that maybe I should be afraid. I was, after all, lost. No one knew exactly where I was. I had no cell phone. I had no ID on me. Maybe there was some person hiding in the bushes, waiting for some unsuspecting tourist to wander by. As I was running in this beautiful, urban oasis, I knew in my gut that I was not afraid. I was excited to have found this secret garden, alone in a huge city far from home and seeing things I had never seen before.
Every few months, someone tells me that they would love to walk or run at our local park but they are afraid to go there alone. I'm always a little surprised when I get asked why I am not afraid. I am lucky enough to live in one of the safest cities, in one of the safest states, in one of the safest countries in the world. I have the luxury of living within walking distance of an extensive park and trail system. What a waste not to take advantage of it. My presence on those trails makes it safer for others to use them. I am always grateful when I see someone else on the trails, not fearful.
I understand that there is a slight risk to what I am doing, just as I understand when I get behind the wheel of a car that there is a risk to being on the roads. I don't want to live my life being afraid. I want to do what I love and, honestly, if someone wants to crouch behind a bush and do me bodily harm, then so be it. I would rather take that small risk than sit at home with the 100% chance that I will miss out on the peace that being alone on a run in a beautiful place brings.
In Stanley Park, it was less than a mile before I was out of the trees and spotted the water. There was the main path, filled with bikers, runners and walkers. I enjoyed the views and the people watching. I made it the rest of the way just fine and Mike and son were waiting for me at the end. My favorite part of the run, though, was getting lost. It was fun having a little adventure and it gave me a story to tell. I'll have to remember to get lost more often.