Equality? #wwwp5k

img_4616“Gender inequality doesn’t exist anymore.” My husband declares with the emphasis of someone seeing his inherent privilege fade away. He goes on to outline the female project manager giving him fits, the multitude of females at high levels in his company and his aggravating female client. For an engineer who started his career seeing cubicles filled with monthly images of scantily clad women wielding power-tools, this twenty year rise of women from calendar to manager has been rapid and probably unexpected.

I can’t really argue too much with him. I manage a team of engineers, half women and half men. With our matching engineering degrees we make the same amount of money.  (Well, we leap frog. When I get a raise, I make more. Then he gets one and he makes more.) We have similar responsibilities, similar jobs, similar flexibility to balance parenthood and employment.

We both coached our daughter’s soccer team. He does the dishes and laundry. I shop and cook. He fixes the broken fence; I sew buttons on when they fall off. I handle plumbing issues and he handles electricity.

We raise our daughter to love math and science. We raise our daughter to sing and love books. We raise our daughter to be a strong person and gender roles aren’t a topic we ever think to discuss. In her world the best mathematician in her class is a girl. The best speller is a girl and the person with the best handwriting is a girl.

But I’m a runner. I love running when I travel for work. Last week I left my hotel room with my phone in hand and my room key in my pocket. I don’t wear headphones when I run, because I know it’s not safe. I hate holding my phone when I run, but I’m somewhere strange and no one knows I’m leaving and no one is expecting me back. On the off chance something bad happens I can call. On the off chance something really bad happens the last known location of my cell phone might be traceable.

I’ve taken a self defense class. I know what to do if I’m attacked. I know where to gouge how to shout and how to best strike someone to knock them out. I know that if someone attacks me with a knife I’m supposed to grab the blade. My stomach clenches every time I think that: grab the blade. Can you imagine? Have you ever imagined? If you are woman, you might have. If a man, probably not.

I never go for a run and don’t think of my safety. I vary my route. I’m aware of my surroundings.

In Austin I jogged out to my favorite run along Town Lake. Somehow I got turned around and found myself out on this amazing path I’ve never seen before. Maybe I usually run on the opposite shore or maybe I go the other direction?  Regardless, this new route was filled with people so I felt safe and headed out to enjoy an adventure.

Then I came to a fork. One side continued next to the river and the other diverted off into a wooded sanctuary. One side was safe and the other was unknown. I stopped and waited. Every single runner, walker, cyclist stayed on the main path. No one turned. No one sought out the shady refuge from the 92 degree heat. Minutes passed, and my desire to keep running waned. I turned around and headed back the way I came. As I neared my hotel I wondered what was down that path. Was I just being silly? Then I remembered the woman who was attacked the week before walking in my neighborhood. Better to be safe than sorry.

The genders are equal in lots of ways. But my little girl and I will have many conversations in her life about how to keep herself safe. How to make sure she has a friend watching out for her at a party. What the consequences could be if she drinks too much. How to be aware and not look like a victim. Why she shouldn’t wear “that dress”. If she’s a runner I’ll teach her what I’ve learned, and hopefully she won’t take the wooded path either, even if it calls to her soul. Safety first.

My husband and I are equal in many ways, but I have long hair and breasts and physical attributes that mark me as a potential victim.  I am smaller than my husband and I have soft places that bad men want to hurt and probe. My daughter has smaller softer places. I am weaker and could be overpowered by most men, if they wanted to. I have to teach my daughter things I would never teach a son. Just like black families have to teach their kids how to act if a cop pulls them over, which is something that I would never think to teach my white daughter.

“Have you ever worried about you safety?” I ask my husband when I get home from Austin. “Do you worry about being in a park after dark, or walking to you car at the airport?”

“No. Why?” he asks.

The conversation has to start somewhere. With a kneel at the anthem. With a conversation between two almost equals who love each other. Inequality exists.

My musings from my 5k around Austin, Texas and part of the WordPress WWWP5K.

Austin Run – #wwwp5k

I didn’t head out for a run in Austin to develop an equality epiphany.  My original goal was to share one of my favorite running cities with the #wwwp5k crowd.  I started with a simple thought, “Hey!  Wordpress is doing a bloggy run thingy?  I blog (occasionally) and run (even more occasionally) so I accept your challenge WordPress!” Everything about the blogging while photographing while running challenge made my multitasking soul tingle.

Even better, I found myself in Austin away from my family which meant my normal wife and parent duties could be replaced by a photo blogging run.  Austin is one of my favorite running cities, and I have epic running memories there.  I did my only marathon in Austin. I had an amazing trail run wipe-out in Austin, and hours afterwards gave a speech in front of hundreds of people.  Unbeknownst to me I didn’t bandage my wounds well, so during my presentation blood began dripping down my leg from under the gauze.  (Let me tell you, people really pay attention when you are up on a stage, leg oozing blood, and you are wearing a skirt and heels.)  Austin is a running happy place for me, and Town Lake?  It’s a special idyllic natural haven in the heart of downtown.

Now, I had a run in mind for this blog challenge.  A run I’ve done many times out toward Zilker Park.  It is about 4 miles, so met the requirements of the #wwwp5k.  Yet somehow my plans went awry and I found myself a lost and the miles stretched out as I explored a new path.  Other runners, have you ever had that happen?  Somehow my 5k stretched into an 11.8k run/walk.  (Map and mileage courtesy of Map My Run.)


Now, before you get all impressed with my running ability – “Well I’ll just run…let’s say…over twice as far as I planned” – you should know a couple of things.  1. I live in Colorado and was running in Austin.  Sea level is totally my friend.  2. I didn’t run all 7.3 miles.  I ran out the whole way and then ran/walked on the way back, so I ran a 5k and then went extra at a variety of paces.

Let me show you this amazing running city!  First off, proof that I was in Texas. Even the pedestrian bridge that runs across Town Lake features Lone Stars.  Yee haw!


It was here, just over a mile in, that my route went awry.  I think I turned left off the bridge when I normally turn right.  Or maybe I don’t usually cross this bridge?  Anywhoo I was not on my planned route, but not lost.  As soon as I passed under a bridge, heard high pitch squeaks from above, and saw this warning sign I knew: Congress Street.


Only in Austin.  You see, lots and lots of bats live under this bridge.  Their nightly flight is an Austin tourist must.  It is also something I try to avoid on my early evening runs, because while I think bats are super cool, the idea of running through gobs of them is a little creepy.  (Yes, a bunch of bats is called a gob.  Look it up.)

Past the bats I start seeing the things that make me really love running on Town Lake.  The water, the water birds, the lush greenery and look!  Rowers!  I don’t see many rowers in Colorado.  One specific lady caught my eye.  It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the woman in the back of the nearest boat is rowing in a hijab.  It was 92 degrees out, I was sweating buckets in my tank top and running shorts, and this amazing lady is out there rowing.  I wanted to jump into the lake, swim over and applaud her ability to exercise in that heat with a head scarf.  Seeing her got me thinking about equality, and how much of the world is up and arms about what women choose to wear on their heads, or at the beach, or while participating in the Olympics.  It seems like we are always wearing too much or not enough to cover or show off our bodies.

My brain was working when suddenly, my dirt path changed and I was running on this really cool winding concrete bridge thing.


I’m assuming this gorgeous path is new, otherwise I’ve been missing an awesome run for years.  I got into my groove and passed some pretty standard running icons:

Ah mile markers.  I only saw this one, which really gave me no idea how far I’d gone, since you need two for context, but I kept going.  Then I saw an outdoor workout area that no one was using, or has ever used.  (Really, does anyone ever use these things that are on all running paths all over the United States?  Anyone?)  Just past the vacant outdoor gym I came to a shaded path that looked like a welcome reprieve from the heat of the day.  It jutted out into Town Lake and no one was on it.  This was the location of my equality epiphany.


I jogged in place a bit, then just stopped and waited to see if anyone went on or came off the trail, but no one did.  As much as I wanted to explore, the solitude just didn’t seem safe.  I ran out a bit farther, then decided that it was hot and I was tired, so I started walking home.  I was vacillating between feeling like a wimp for skipping the shady trail and feeling proud for being safe.  As I was berating myself I was distracted by this odd sign.

No fishing on this concrete sidewalk please.  The hooks get stuck in people when  you cast and really, we’ve just heard the sidewalk fish just aren’t biting.  Also if you do manage to catch one they taste really gravely.  No fishing in this area.  It’s best for everyone.

I might have decided, during the walking part of my run, to check out the Pokemon Go scene.  Nothing like contradicting your “don’t go down the scary path” safety decision like pulling out your phone and playing a game while walking.  I don’t usually do this.  I feel that Pokemon Go is a fun thing to do with my kiddo but not something I interrupt my workout time with.  But I was walking, and Austin has much different Pokemon than Denver does.  Really.  I’m not making excuses to justify interrupting my run with playing a game on my smartphone.  Well, let me tell you something readers.  Those Pokemon developers have a really annoying sense of humor, because this is the creature that popped up on my “run”:

Oh yeah, Pokemon Go developer?  You are going to mock me while I’m out exercising?  You are going to throw a Slowpoke at me?  I mean, I know I stopped running to walk a bit but do I deserve this?  I did not, but since I was wasting battery life, and having a charged phone – and not being distracted by Pokemon Go – is key to being safe, I stopped my game.  I acknowledge that my aforementioned multi-talking soul took it too far here.

With the sun setting I picked up the pace to ensure I missed the gob o’ bats.  (Did you look it up yet?) and then stopped to photograph the paddle boats heading out to watch the evening bat surge.

With that I headed back to 6th street and down to my hotel, managing to catch this last selfie as I went.

Austin, how I love your running scene.  Whether I’m heading out to Zilker Park, my planned run, or exploring this newly discovered “Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail” and boardwalk, I’m never disappointed.  Readers, I hope you all enjoyed the run, and check out Town Lake the next time you are in Austin.  Watch out for virtual Slowpokes and literal bats!  Oh, and be safe out there, wherever your feet take you.

Second part of my musings of my 5k around Austin, Texas and part of the WordPress WWWP5K.

Running Obituary

This weekend I had my last traditional Sunday run.  Every weekend for fifteen years (give or take a year) I have met a friend and we’ve run 4-22 miles together.  We’ve run in snow, rain, heat, and darkness.  We’ve trained for marathons.  We’ve run through miscarriages, depression, pregnancy, divorce, and marriage.  My friend and I have never lived more than five miles apart.  Friday she moves 19 miles away.

The routine has changed over the years, but it’s always involved meeting at her house before 8:00 and running.  I remember finishing runs with eyelashes covered in frost, blood running down my leg, or tears in my eyes.  I remember running wondering if she would ever shut up, and I’m sure she remembers runs wondering the same about me and my current gripe, aggravation, or crisis.  The running therapy was sometimes one sided, but that was how the weekend runs went: sometimes one of us needed to talk and sometimes one of us needed to listen.  We both spent time as the therapist and the patient.

Before kids we saw each other socially, but since our families arrived our friendship has dwindled to a dinner or two a year and a run every weekend.  The lack of variety has not diminished the value of the time together, in fact, I think it’s grown more important.  When you have kids making time for yourself and your friendships gets difficult, but while other activities have gone by the wayside the Sunday run was constant.

I exaggerate a bit.  Life did interrupt our runs from time to time.  Vacations, surgeries, and weather would cancel the runs, but that was the exception, not the rule.  For me the exercise and the chatting meant my week started with a clear head and was worth making an effort.  We talked about our kids, our parents, our husbands, our friends, our jobs, and our health.  Our insecurities around parenting, our bodies, our relationships, and our careers were common topics.  For an hour every week we didn’t have to start and stop a discussion to parent, wife, or work.  Together we focused on ourselves while pounding the pavement.

We both hate treadmills and dislike gyms.  Neither of us runs with headphones and her dog always keeps us company.  There was never a negotiation about any of those details, so it was easy.  When we first started running she was so much faster than me that I’d have to run half a lap around the park with her and then turn to walk the opposite direction to recover.  When she caught back up I’d turn around and run again.  I worried about keeping up with her, but then we got to the same pace and it was easy.  At one point we could run a 7 minute mile, but now we’ve slowed to a comfortable 9-10 mile per hour pace for our Sunday  morning runs.  She runs every morning and her inflexibility is the reason this tradition has continued on.  I know because we’ve had other friends come and go from the run but she has been the constant and I’ve gone along for the run.  It just happens every weekend.

We can keep running – and I’m sure we will meet up from time to time to run the trails by her new house or the parks by my house – but it will require planning and schedules.  It will become difficult, and that’s what makes me sad.  All of my friendships right now require negotiation and calendars and texts and cancellations and rescheduling.  The run was easy, and easy is in short supply in my friendships.

For our last run Sunday I imagined some epic last meeting.  We’d take selfies (that I could post on my blog).  I’d bring a present.  We’d reminisce about all the runs over the years.  None of that happened.  Another friend joined us and we ran a lap.  We talked about our kids and the move.  Then our friend went off to church and we ran one last lap together just chatting, bitching, and running: same as always.  Tears were blinked away, not about our last run, but about her son.  No selfie was taken, and our goodbye was a quick hug, since I hadn’t showered in three days and she had to mow the lawn.  It wasn’t until I got in my car that I let myself mourn the end of the Sunday morning run.  Then I wiped my eyes and went to pick up bagels for my family, just like I’ve done every other week.

Next week she moves, and the week after that I’m on vacation and then…who knows.  I’ll have to plan something, but maybe this hour a week with a friend is worth it even if it’s hard.  For now I’m sad that it won’t be easy anymore.