An anatomy of the darkness

woman walking in the dark

I’m training for a half marathon at the moment, which isn’t one of my brightest ideas nor is my lack of motivation getting me anywhere near ready.

I fear I will become the next You Tube sensation when I end up crawling on my hands and knees from the 15-kilometre mark – until a handsome stranger scoops me up and carries me valiantly across the finish line, of course.

What’s more likely is that I’ll be stretchered to the waiting medics and I’ll end up on a saline drip whilst simultaneously feeling like a dickhead.

Learning, or trying to learn, how to run 21 kilometres necessitates an hour or more of running-time several times a week.

Early mornings are out for me because I can’t be arsed getting out of bed early now that I work from home and these days I just have more choices.

So, it’s late afternoons that I sometimes manage to don my running gear and head off along the river to clock up the required meterage.

Recently, and rather oddly, I decided to keep running farther than the training program required because I was having one of those elusive moments in time when I actually felt reasonably fit.

Eight kilometres became 10, then 11, then 12, and then I realised that I had outrun the sunlight and I was still a good half an hour from home.

But my jubilation quickly turn to fear because running in the dark alone is something I avoid at all costs.

Now that’s not because I live in a dodgy part of town, but my river running route is mainly devoid of streetlights yet has an abundance of shady trees.

And that meant I had the fear because I am a woman.

From an early age, we’re taught not to walk or run home alone late at night because it’s not safe.

What our well-meaning parents don’t teach us is that this concern about our safety is not because there are monsters hiding on every corner.

It’s because we have a vagina.

And seemingly having a vagina is enough of a temptation for us to be secreted inside as soon as the sun goes down – unless we’re amidst friends with vaginas or penises and then the chances of us being attacked under the moonlight are greatly reduced.

It’s almost like we’re the opposite of vampires because we can safely wander around alone in the daylight but when night falls and the midnight hour looms, well, we need to be fearful of strangers lurking in dim corners pondering dark deeds.

It pains me that in the 21st Century, while it might sound alarmist to some, that this safety net is still fairly valid advice – especially late at night when silence has replaced the noisy cityscape of just a few hours before.

And its borne out in the statistics of women being mugged, raped or murdered because they “dared” to walk home alone in the dark. Some, like Jill Meagher, were only walking a few hundred metres but never made it to the safety of her home and her husband.

Two women have been raped in my neighbourhood in recent years and the perpetrators have never been found. One victim was walking to a bus stop at night when she was attacked by two men as she passed an alley way.

I actually ran past a spot this morning where a beautiful French student was raped and murdered as she walked home from university in the rain three years ago. Her naked and battered body was left where she died. Her dignity and life stolen from her by the criminal brutality of a stranger in the dark.

Those horrific crimes, and having been a woman for 40-plus years, means that I regularly Uber home from the entertainment precinct that is less than one kilometre away from my house.

I don’t want to run the risk of becoming yet another statistic who’s “guilty” of taking on the darkness and losing – and it really fucks me off.

That route during the day is picturesque and peaceful, but after the sun goes down and darkness has well and truly set in, it takes on a threatening demeanour that forces me to pay a driver, who is also a stranger, to get me “safely” home.

And it’s not as if I live my life in fear – rather I try to be as fearless as possible – but a dislike of darkened, silent streets is probably a healthy scepticism to have, even though I wish so very much that it wasn’t.

Clearly the answer to this is that people should stop attacking people just because they’re walking home alone late at night, have a vagina, and there are stars, instead of the sun, in the sky.

If only it was that simple.

I can only hope that my nieces will live in such a community in the future, but I fear that change won’t come about soon enough for them either.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll just have to continue living my single lady life for half of every day.

Or perhaps shift somewhere where there’s more daylight so I can even up the ledger to fit in more “female time” for running.

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