#YesAllWomen Are Told to Be Fearful

A few years ago, I took a free women’s self-defense class at a local martial arts studio. The instructor’s first advice to us was, “Never go anywhere alone.”

Don’t go for a run alone. Don’t go to the grocery store alone. Don’t even walk to or from your car in broad daylight alone.

He actually told us that! He actually told a room full of women never to go anywhere alone! And he MEANT it!

Awaiting our lecture. Click through for more photos that really misrepresent the overarching message of this class.

Awaiting our lecture. Click through for more photos that really misrepresent the overarching message of this class.

When I read through some of the #YesAllWomen tweets, this was one personal-experience incident that came to mind for me. Sure, I’ve been catcalled more times than I can count. I’ve been followed while running twice. I’ve been made to feel unsafe by men, strangers and non-strangers alike, and that’s bullshit.

But what this instructor told us was a different kind of bullshit. His message was, “You should feel unsafe, always. You should have a less-rich experience of life, just because someone could be lurking out there, waiting to hurt you. It’s better to hide away in your home where it’s safe* than to venture out into the big, scary world all by yourself.”

(*My most alarming experience of this nature happened inside the place I was living at the time, so apparently I shouldn’t have even been there alone.)

I expected this class to be empowering. I expected to be told, “Here are some practical ways to kick someone’s ass if you ever need to defend yourself.” Instead, I was told, “Step one: Live in fear. If that doesn’t work, well, here are some defensive moves. But they aren’t nearly as effective as living in fear.”

That’s not fair.

Yes, bad things can and do happen to women at the hands of men. But teaching women to be constantly fearful is not the answer.

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Six years ago today, I drove to Allentown with my mom to check out some places to live during my three-month internship at Bicycling.

It was pouring rain, just like it is now. We got horribly lost trying to find the house I was seeing first. (Thanks, Mapquest!) We finally found it, I decided to live there, and because we had already planned to stay overnight–at the glamorous Wingate, right by the I-78/Hamilton Boulevard interchange–we needed to entertain ourselves.

So we drove to King of Prussia and went to the mall. Obviously.

Here are the things I knew about Allentown before that first visit:

  • We passed it en route to my aunt’s when she used to live in the Philly suburbs.
  • Dorney Park was there.
  • Billy Joel wrote a song about it. (Which I only learned a few days before I visited, and which I only later learned was more about Bethlehem than Allentown.)

Here are the things I learned about Allentown during that first visit:

  • King of Prussia isn’t that close to Allentown.
  • Pay attention or you might turn from Cedar Crest onto Hamilton Boulevard going the wrong way.
  • The Wingate is a pretty decent hotel.

Seriously, we did not do much exploring. I was only going to be there for a few months, after all, and then I would move to a more exciting, urban place like Philadelphia where I could just continue having the same friends and doing the same things I did in college.

In fact, during my first full weekend in my new home, I left a party my housemates were having to drive to Philly to hang out with college friends.


Me at that party. I am really making an effort to meet people and have fun, right? Right?

Literally on my way out the door at said party, I met Paul. (And by “met,” I mean, my friend Matt introduced us as I was heading to my car with my overnight bag, and I was like, “Hi. Bye.”)

And I’m living here in Allentown, six years later, just a few blocks from that first house, very happy with my life, planning my wedding to Paul.

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. “Be a total turd, leave the party early, and you’ll still end up with the person you’re supposed to be with”?

That’s probably not it. It’s probably more like, if you’re living in a new place, give it a freakin’ chance.

I totally didn’t do that for my first six months in the Lehigh Valley, even after I’d gotten a full-time job. I was constantly visiting college friends in Philly, high-school friends in Binghamton, or, later, my college boyfriend (an ill-advised reunion born of a mutual unwillingness to give our respective new places a freakin’ chance) in Richmond.

It’s hard being in a new place and living a new life. I remember feeling completely out of my mind with Wishing I Were Still in College some nights. “Why don’t people want to do stuff during the week?” I thought. (Because, work. I’m one of those people myself, now.) I remember thinking how much happier I’d be if I lived in Philly. In fact, I had an interview for a job in Philly the same week I got my job in Allentown. (A job that sounded totally sucky, in retrospect. I’m glad I decided to stay here!)

But the painful transition phase probably wouldn’t have lasted so long if I’d spent less time wishing I was elsewhere.

In conclusion…Allentown is cool!

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Race Recap: St. Luke’s Half Marathon 2014

Until I have photos from the race to share, here is a picture of my cat sprawled out in a sunbeam. (Edited to add: I have photos now, but I’m still going to leave this here. Everybody loves Nermal.)


So, I ran a PR! My first PR in the Big, Frequently-Run Distances (5K, 10K, half, marathon) since this race last year. A 1:36:33, 2:05 faster than my previous best.

Stoked at the finish line. Moments before I'd been making a pukey face but then I noticed the photographer.

Stoked at the finish line. Moments before I’d been making a pukey face but then I noticed the photographer.

In my buildup (January 1-race day), I ran about 150 miles more than I did to prepare for this race last year. YOWZA. Coaches make you WORK.

We had perfect weather (45 degrees, overcast) except for the wind (intense enough that I tried drafting for the first time). It was 60 and sunny last year. How much of this PR is thanks to the weather? I will never know.

I tucked in for the first 6 miles or so with a coach and his coachee who were aiming for a 1:37. (See below.) I don’t know that they appreciated my company, but…whatever.
Splits:  7:28, 7:28, 7:21, 7:23, ~7:06, ~7:06 (I missed a mile marker.)


Then, they started to slow, so I went around them. This is about when I tried to take a Peanut Butter Gu and realized how important it is for me to have my handheld water bottle for washing-it-down purposes. Couldn’t choke down the whole thing. #FuelingProblems. This would have spelled the death of me in a full marathon. Can anyone recommend savory, caffeine-free gels that aren’t as thick as Gu?
Splits: 7:26, 7:20

Post-Gu, we hit the section in the race that majorly slowed me down last year — a couple crushed-gravel hills, a pass through a kind of treacherous covered bridge (uneven boards + very low lighting + sunglasses = wipeout risk), and then a climb up the race’s largest (paved) hill. Somehow, I kept pace for the first of these two miles. I was pleased with that.
Splits: 7:18, 7:52

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 10.11.50 AM

Then, just a 5K to go. This is where my coach told me to “ROLL OUT,” so of course I had Ludacris in my head, which was not a bad thing. I did my best, but we were suddenly going into the wind, and this section ain’t flat, either. I tried to tuck in behind people, I may have been hunching over to do so, and that may have been what gave me some pretty gnarly side stitches. Whatever — I finished strong.
Splits: 7:22, 7:27, 7:59 (for last 1.1 — that’s 7:15 pace)

Looks like I still haven't fixed my wonky form.

Looks like I still haven’t fixed my wonky form.

Does anyone know why there are two mats at the finish sometimes? Which one is the actual finish? Also, I need to not do this with my watch.

Does anyone know why there are two mats at the finish sometimes? Which one is the actual finish? Also, I need to not do this with my watch.

So, I am happy with this, and excited to see what kind of marathon I can run this fall.

Me and my friend Lauren -- who also ran super-well! -- after the race.

Me and my friend Lauren — who also ran super-well! — after the race.

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Forgive Me, For I Have Sinned

In light of this developing story by my friend Cait, about some people who either made or bought fake bibs for Monday’s Boston Marathon, I have a confession to make.

In 2010, I bandited about three miles of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon. I have been deeply ashamed about it ever since, especially when I declare how awful banditing is and how bandits deserve to face consequences.

(For those who don’t know: Banditing is the act of running a race without paying for it. For a more in-depth look at it, by repentant former bandit Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me‘s Peter Sagal, click here.)

Here is how it went down: I was in Philly Saturday night visiting a couple friends. I knew I had to run 18 miles Sunday morning, but I didn’t want to commit to the race, because I knew that would require me being up and about by a certain time.

(We ended up staying out until the bars closed at 2, then getting some pizza, so being at the crowded start line a few hours later in Full Hangover Mode would not have been ideal.)

I still woke up pretty early — 8 a.m. I think — and decided to head out despite not feeling so hot. (I was so young and spry, then!) I noticed the race going on and thought, “Hmm. I could probably hop in and run on the course, and no one would say anything.”

So I did, and no one did say anything.

However, I immediately felt wracked with guilt. My eyes darted to and fro, fearful that someone would come charging out of the crowd of spectators to drag bib-less me off the course.

I had visions of myself as Kathrine Switzer.

I had visions of myself as Kathrine Switzer. (Except she paid for the race!)

“But I brought my own fuel and water,” I tried to reason. “I’m not using the course porta-potties. I’m not using the resources the runners paid for.”

But on some level, I knew I was. The runners paid for the course to be closed to traffic, and for the right to take up space on said roads. I didn’t. I was stealing. I was wrong.

So, at Kelly Drive, I hopped off the road and onto the riverside path that is always open to the public without traffic. And that’s where I did the rest of my long run. I haven’t set foot near a race I haven’t paid for — unless it’s to spectate or to volunteer — since.

I’d like to make this my official public apology for the three miles of half-marathon that I stole. I don’t know what my penance should be (three Hail Marys and one mile-23 water-stop volunteer assignment?), but I can promise that it’ll never happen again.

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A Life Update!

Wedding Stuff

As a lady, I am required to blog about this, right? We set a date (May 30, 2015). We booked the church, and the reception hall. We booked the DJ, and the photographer. We secured our bridal party. We figured out the honeymoon. So now, I am putting my feet up and not doing much of anything for a while.

(Unless there’s something I should be doing even though the wedding is over a year away. Tell me if there is.)

Here is the venue. Exposed brick!

Here is the venue. Exposed brick! It is bigger than this photo makes it seem.

Also, we decided to have wedding pie instead of wedding cake. Obviously this decision needed to be made right now. Everyone should go to Bingham’s in northeastern Pennsylvania and try the Fruits of the Forest pie ASAP. They don’t deliver, so we will need to pick up the pies ourselves, somehow, and get them to the venue, somehow, but PIE, guys. THE BEST PIE IN THE WORLD. Worth it.

ALL THE BERRIES + Apples + Rhubarb

ALL THE BERRIES + Apples + Rhubarb

Saint Douglas Day

The annual celebration of Bruce Springsteen was a blast, as always. The Boss did not show up, despite our multiple attempts to contact him. Sad, but our party lives to see another year!

And our wonderful friends got us this amazing cardboard cutout, and terrifying cake with a photo of us with our faces switched printed upon it.


Top: Good use of Photoshop. Bottom: Horrifying use of Photoshop.


St. Patrick's Day in D.C.

St. Patrick’s Day in D.C.

Last weekend in Philly. IT'S A LIBERTY BELL-FIE. GET IT? GET IT?

Last weekend in Philly. IT’S A LIBERTY BELL-FIE. GET IT? GET IT?


I am doing quite a bit of it. Goal race comin’.

Posted in Not About Running | 4 Comments