On one of my most recent long runs, I tried a new trail where I was able to run for 18 miles in one direction. Amazing! But since everything was new to me, I felt even more alert and observant of my surroundings, and I noticed a pattern: the pedestrians on the trail were all wearing black.
It occurred to me that I was judging these people and feeling particularly nervous about them well before we even made eye contact—if they even managed to do that. Several of the pedestrians wearing black turned out to be men and women who could be my grandparents. Another person was wearing a black hoody over his head and looked so scary from afar, but turned out to be a 10-year-old boy who seemed more scared of me.
So as I ran, I began composing this letter to the non-running pedestrians I encountered. If you have any tips that you’d like to to add, share them in the comments below.
Yeah, I see you on the trail up ahead. I’m pretty sure that I see you will before you see me. Unless you are actually paying attention and just pretending not to see me as we pass. Because I attempt to make eye contact. I even smile at the top of your forehead as you pass staring at the ground like a guilty, clueless bank robber in your all-black ensemble.
I am confident that you are likely not out to “get me” and probably don’t even realize that you are being rude and creepy. I tend to think that most people in this world are kind. But I am a female running alone for very long distances. Being aware of my surroundings is one of my best defenses. So maybe you could try to be less of a creep. We are after all sharing the trail, getting outdoors, and live in the same community.
When I see your black blurry blob up ahead, I can sometimes tell that there are two of you. Sometimes, I can tell that you have a dog or that you’re on a bike. But frankly my spidey senses do not ease until you are within 30 yards and your black blob takes the form of something recognizable with a face. Again, I’m not running scared of you, but I am running alert.
So let me share two simple tips to keep you from being a creepy pedestrian:
Don’t wear black.
I love black as much as the next person—it goes with everything! But if you’re on the trail maybe, I don’t know, try a different color. Black communicates that you are possibly a person up to no good and contimplating stuffing me in the back of a windowless murder-van after your hike.
Pink on the other hand says: Look at me! I am happy, vibrant, and wild; I am not afraid of being visible; I might even support breast cancer awareness, yay! If pink isn’t your color, that’s cool. Try using this chart to see what the colors we wear communicate.
Make eye contact.
It’s a wild thought, I know! But we are sharing a trail and general space, even the same air. We obviously have something in common: the love of the outdoors. The least you could do is make eye contact with me. It will do a lot in the realm of making you seem less suspicious. And if you want to get really wild and crazy, you could smile or say hello. But I don’t want to push my luck.
Thank you for your consideration in this matter. I look forward to seeing you on the trail, maybe even saying hello and petting your adorable dog. Just don’t be creepy, and I won’t pepper spray your ass.