The conjunction of Running, Caring and Patriarchy

Today’s run called for 10 miles, moderately paced. Honestly, I don’t know exactly what “moderate” means, aside from “not easy”…whatever EASY means…so I decided to run just a little bit harder than I have this past week, not stressing myself, but not overdoing it either. Everything seemed “moderate” for the beginning of the run, but that was about to change in an instant.

My quads were sore from the surge in mileage last week, the strong run on Saturday and my first morning run today, but I was feeling smooth as I descended a small hill out of a neighborhood and into an intersection that linked a number of local businesses. At this point in my run, approximately 7 1/2 miles, I made the 90 degree turn towards a long gradual incline that took no more deviations from the straight line that led to my doorstep. Despite the focus and repetition I had lulled myself into I was suddenly struck by an abnormality, a tone of voice that registered problematic on the social etiquette barometer. I looked over to a gas station parking lot just in time to catch sight of a decently-sized, which is a nice way of saying plump-gutted buffoon, man forcefully close a car door into a white-haired woman that looked to be his superior, bouncing her into the vehicle’s door casing. I stopped instinctually and hit the pause button on my watch the same. Making a snap assumption of their relationship I could only deduce he was her son, angry and enraged.

I watched as she quickly ducked into the driver’s seat and slammed the door while the large man spread his hands out to his sides like a posturing bird of prey and yelled at her through the closed window. I stood watching in the street in case his anger escalated.

She began to drive away and, most likely due to losing dominance in that moment, he slammed his hands onto the back of her car with grizzly-like force. I yelled out, “Yo! Hey!”, trying to catch his attention, to snap him out of his seemingly isolated bubble of rage, but my yells were drowned out by the surrounding traffic. Oblivious to my presence, the car continued to drive out of the parking lot and in a moment of self-awareness, the large man quickly and cautiously looked around to see if anyone was about to catch him make another forceful attempt at the woman. He ran at the car as she was halfway out of the lot and before he could hit the car again I yelled out, “YO! YOOO!”, but he still managed to shove the car with such force that it rocked back and forth as the woman was finally able to accelerate out of harms way and just as she did, he heard my yells of recognition and caught sight of me – skinny, sweaty, mostly naked, my chest heaving with fatigue and adrenaline all the same. Then he exhibited a behavior I have seen played out many times, directed at me, and I knew what was about to come. First, after becoming aware that he had an audience, his self-awareness, guilty-conscience and shame took over for but a brief second and he submissively diverted his eyes and began walking back to his previous business, but the unleashed anger that still sat dormant in his oversized frame made desperate pleas to his equally oversized ego and his behavior suddenly changed. He just as quickly turned back in my direction, began posturing with the same dominance he displayed for the woman and threatened me repeatedly. We briefly exchanged words of varying tone.

“I’m watching you man.”
“Yeah?! Well keep watching motherfucker! I’ll kick your fuckin dick in you *mumble mumble mumble*” (I had difficulty making out his unrehearsed insults, garbled in anger)
“Whatever dude. Whatever.”
“You wanna get involved you fuck….I’ll beat your fuckin ass too!”

Then satisfied with his domination of verbal volley’s, he finally stopped moving in my direction and turned away. My intentions of keeping him from bringing physical harm on the woman satisfied, I saw no more need to continue on and merely started my watch and turned up the street to complete my run. All in a day’s work.

I continued on with my run, trying to regain the “moderate” pace I had achieved previously, and was surprised to find how well composed I felt considering I had just been moved on by a man who is by all definitions the end result of the Standard American Diet. My legs remained strong and the adrenaline rush that usually comes with a seemingly unavoidable physical fight never took over. I continued on calmly, but didn’t dismiss the idea that the man wasn’t exactly through with me, so to play it safe I popped up on the sidewalk and ran out of the path of any cars speeding up behind.

The further I got from the incident, the more calm and confidence I built and I decided to step off the ankle-twisting, lifting concrete sidewalk and back into the street, but ventured to the other side to run against traffic in case I had misjudged the situation. I figured he was less liable to run me down if cars were coming from the other direction. But I continued on without concern and began to get lost in my thoughts like I usually do on these runs. I guess I got too lost.

For all of a sudden I looked up to see a man standing directly in front of me, about 20 yards ahead, his arms spread slightly out to his side and a mischievous and smug smirk hanging from his chubby face. His car was parked on the other side of the street.

Caught in the repetition of my movement I continued right for him, but felt myself slowing up in anticipation of a fight. I was close enough to see the grey hairs peppering his head and more detail in his face than I cared to know. The verbal jousting began again. I spread my arms out to say “What did you expect would happen? Anyone around would just turn the other way?” He spread his further and repeated his case, “You wanna get involved? Huh? You wanna get involved, now I’m gonna beat YOUR ass!” I continued running right towards him, my brain firing off a number of limited fight or flight options in milliseconds and responded, “Hey, what did you….” and before I made anymore comment I had made the decision in my head to enact the flight response, knowing a fight was quite probably in his favor, but a flight was undeniably in mine.

I began veering to the right to run around him, picking up speed only enough that he wouldn’t guess my move, and slowly he started to make his move towards me, then before he could get out one more response I had turned it on and ran further to the right and made it past him in a split second. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him make an absurdly comical attempt to give chase and I really laid it on, something considerably beyond “moderately paced”, and before he could take another gasping breath I was up the road from him and getting further. Knowing that victory was mine, I turned and yelled at him, “You’ll NEVER fuckin catch me! Don’t even try it!”

Of course, I knew he’d try it. His car was still parked on the side of the road.

I heard his car door slam and the distinct sound of an engine over-revving under the impetus of a gas pedal slammed to the floor. I knew I was as good as dead running down the wide open street, unfortunately devoid of traffic at this point, but fortunately I saw a church yard that rose quickly off the sidewalk, too quickly for a car to drive up. I ran up onto the yard surveying my next move as the driver pulled alongside me and started verbally taunting me, “Where you gonna go now? Where you gonna go now bitch? Gonna run home to your mommy?”

The funny thing, as serious as his intentions were (I truly believe that if he couldn’t pound me with his fists his other preferred option was to run me down with his car), is I still felt calm and in control as I knew he could never catch me on foot and his car’s inability to turn 180s at speed was his achilles heel. He would never be able to get at me if I kept moving back and forth. With that strategy obviously in play I made an immediate 180 as he continued to verbally berate me, his only option of dominance left as his physical aggression sat unfulfilled.

I took off down the sidewalk hoping he would realize his futile predicament, but to my dismay he was as determined as he was enraged and as I ran down the sidewalk he gunned his engine in my direction yet again. I heard his yells getting more and more audible the closer he got, “Run home to your parents nigga! Run you little bitch!” (side note…this plump fellow was white), but then the insults got too close for comfort and the roar of the engine as well, leading me to believe that if he was truly crazy enough, he was in range to jump the curb and plow me down on the sidewalk. I looked around for more options for my next move.

Just ahead I saw a man walking back from his mailbox and into his yard. I called out “Hey!” trying to get his attention and alerting him that something uncommon was happening at this moment. But still hearing the roar of the engine getting closer and closer I had to make a move before reaching his yard. I saw a small line of trees that acted as a natural barrier in the yard next to me and I made an instant diversion through the trees just as the car came up behind me at an angle that suggested his intentions were to run me down. I jumped some decorative plants and made it to the homeowner who stood frozen at the sudden and possibly comical scene of a near naked, sweaty and skinny runner approaching him with a heart-rate reaching into dangerous territory. The driver stopped in front of the house and threw a couple more insults that I couldn’t make out before speeding off down the street, probably knowing I now had access to a phone.

The homeowner looked at me with unveiled shock, “WHAT the HELL was that?”

I finally remembered to stop my watch and responded, between breaths, “Oh, yeah,” *breathe* “I just saw him” *breathe* “assault a woman at the gas station” *breathe* “and made it known that I was watching” *breathe* “so he came after me and I think tried to run me down” *breathe* “sorry about that”

“Goodness. Well I’m glad you’re ok.”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks for being out here. I appreciate it. Sorry about all that.” I spat out like broken english.

I walked to the sidewalk and saw the car far down the street, through with our little game of cat and mouse and I assume off to find release elsewhere. I thanked the homeowner again.

“Thanks again. He’s gone now. Sorry ’bout all that!”

He wished me well and before I knew it I had hit the resume button on my watch and was back to regaining my “moderate” pace. With nothing left to do but get back to work, I got back into my zone and knocked out the last 2 miles with a noticeably increased speed…you know…just in case. I had a couple twinges of adrenaline as cars sped past, but ultimately made it home unscathed and maybe exerted a little over my coach’s orders when I came to my yard at 1:01 for 10 miles, but 10 miles with however much further I ran going back and forth with Chubb Rock. I assume coach will understand.

Marathon training. Fighting patriarchy. All in a day’s work.

17 responses to “The conjunction of Running, Caring and Patriarchy

  1. daf, reading uk

    jeez. reminds me of when some random bloke tried to punch me whilst i was doing some hill training, as i “wasn’t wearing a hat and i was a pussy” . the adrenaline kicked in same as you described; i think you played it cooler than me, however. nice work for getting involved, tho’, despite copping the flak.

    • Yeah, see, it was pretty obvious to me that I was putting myself in harms way…but it’s extra annoying when you’ve done nothing at all and someone has their own issue they want to work out…on you. Makes you wanna invent running shorts with weapon sized pockets! Hope your incident turned out allright.

  2. It’s true – the patriarchy hurts men just as much as it hurts women. I’m glad this turned out all right and that you’re fine. I am saddened, but not surprised, that this dangerous jerk had to pit his car against your body – just goes to show how inferior his body is!

    • I wouldn’t go as far as saying patriarchy hurts men equally…but I know what you mean and any amount is too much.

      Regardless, I think I remained calm knowing the stature of this guy ensured that he would never catch me…even if he could have pummeled me viciously. I may not have won any machismo awards, but I’m still alive (or with all bones intact) and that counts for more than anything else! But yes, his only recourse was his car and even that proved futile.

  3. ugh, sometimes, people.

    one time i broke up a fight when some 16 year old kids were pushing around a kid on the way home. luckily, me being taller than them, and them being somewhat socially goodhearted, meant that they just turned around.

    make me wonder if i should run with pepper spray or something just in case.

    but yes, people are very good and very bad.

    • Greg, It’s always nice to have the upper hand in a situation like that. And yeah, being able to carry some protection would be nice, but our shorts are too short!! 🙂

  4. I wonder how many others saw the scene you witnessed but did not get involved because they were fearful of this exact scenario?

    I definitely wonder sometimes how safe I am on my runs and if someone would help me if they witnessed me being victimized. Plenty of research out there demonstrates diffusion of responsibility is all too true.

    Thanks for being the exception!

    • You know, AJ, I actually thought about that after the fact. There were plenty of people around the area, but I think most were in their cars. Regardless, I’ve learned through dealing with a handful of these experiences that even if nothing really tragic comes (like a full on physical assault) it’s still incredibly important to let the abuser know that you are watching and have the potential to intervene. The last thing they want is to be stopped or have the cops called or whatever, so the more they recognize that people WILL step in (however that may be) the more reluctant they are to act out. A lot of abusive behavior stems from a sense of entitlement, so if you take away the entitlement that they own the area or the person they are trying to victimize, they are left with little recourse….except, well, turning their anger on you. This has happened to me a few times when I’ve intervened in situations like this, but the anger always dissipates when I leave the scene…this was new where the guy hunted me down after the fact. Still, I can only hope he’ll feel
      “watched” the next time he might consider doing something like this.

  5. god,..terrorfying!!ive been in a couple of verbal attacks out running too, maybe its something to do with the endorphines and adrenalin but i just jumped in, seriously not caring about the consequences to myself.Both times were related to my dog though, a sort of ‘maternal’ instinct thing kicked in.One time a guys dog-just a big puppy,wanted to play with my dog and its pulling on its chain annoyed the owner so he used the excess at the end of the chain to gather it up and beat his dog with it!!so of course i jumped right into that one’
    The 2nd time a guys pitball not on a lead attacked my dog,..who was on the lead,..then he got his dog off mine and laid a full force full bodied kick into my dogs stomach,..whilst she was lying on the ground!!So i totally lost it swearing in his face whilst three of his friends..all drunk psychos,.were physically straining to hold the guy away from me swearing and spitting at him, i truly truly think that if that guys friends hadnt of been there i would be dead.I was incensed with rage and he was literally psychotic,and huge and seriously trying to kill me.
    In these circumstances fitness and speed are truly an asset.I just need to remember to use them more rather than sticking around to fight these things out.

  6. This reminds me that in my last race I was running through a camp ground around midnight and there was a fat redneck who decided he needed to throw beer bottles at a few of the racers. He was also shouting about “skinny pussies” or something like that. Very unintelligible. I was real conflicted about whether or not I should stop and let the situation escalate or whether to keep running. I was thinking that even after racing for 16hrs there would have been no way for this guy to catch any of us, which was a good feeling and made the situation more comical than anything. However, being a full ninja, I do have the responsibility to punish people like that. But my team was competing, and I wasn’t going to let this dude affect my placement.

    You made the right decision to run and you made the right decision to let that dude know you were watching. Good job. You get nothing, unless you believe in karma.


  7. I’m a little late to reply, Scott, but I’m glad you stood up to that boob and I’m glad you came out unscathed. I had a run-in on the Monon the other day I’ll relay to you the next time we run. I won’t be there this Tuesday (Matt and I restarted my build up, so I’m mostly doing basework) but I hope to see you guys soon.


  8. Wildness, wish I could say that this surprises me but people aren’t scared of trying to run you down in there car by any means. Glad you could still taunt him and leave unscaved.

  9. Epic! Great re-telling, Scott.

  10. Hi, I’m not generally a reader of your blog, but my brother sited you on his. He is vegan and used you as an additional example in providing proof to a known fact – vegan fitness/strength training is possible. Your entry was very exciting to read and heroic nonetheless. We need more people like you!! Truly inspirational and I wish you all the best in your training and in reaching your ultimate goals.

  11. THAT WAS AWESOME!!!! You had my heart pumping in my chest like I was the protag!!! Sorry that happened to you:)))

  12. Where did you go?! Come back!

  13. Its amazing how much stuff like that happens, especially in the city where i live, I cant get through the week without a scene similar to this, ha. Great work though, whats the quote “All that evil needs to succeed is for a good man to do nothing?”

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