Sunday, January 22, 2017

On the Need for Equality

Just in case you've been living in a bubble or happen to be reading from the future, there's been a lot of women's activism in the world lately. Thousands of womens have been gathering in municipalities in various countries under the umbrella of equality. I, being of the middle aged, middle class, white male variety, don't fully understand what they hope to accomplish. That doesn't mean I don't understand the need.

Training teaches me so much about the workings of the world. As it happened, I was out for a run. Weird, I know. Especially since I suck so much at the discipline. Don't get me wrong, I have to work exceptionally hard to suck this bad. One can only imagine what lack of speed I could achieve without the work. Since I have these delusions of actually accomplishing something in triathlon, something that the word "qualify" could apply, I choose to do the work.

This morning, the need for equality glared at me while I was out working. The plan was for a 5-mile base run, which means slow. (As if I could accomplish anything with the adjective of 'fast' attached to it.) I live out in the country which the planners decided that they would align the roads in grids. I believe that they were drinking when they planned my specific area of the county since the grid is obvious but the scale is messed up. East to West- Road 1 to Road 2 is 0.6 of a mile. Road 2 to Road 3 is exactly 1 mile. North to South- Road 1 to Road 2 is 1 mile. Road 2 to Road 3 is 1.5 mile. (or is it miles, plural? My English writing background never understood how to reconcile plurality for numbers between 1 and 2.)

The conditions were quite nice for this time of year. The temps were sitting in the low 40s with ridiculously high humidities. As a result, the world was wet and foggy. Visibilities were less than a quarter of a mile. I know this because I have the route memorized down to the interval with landmarks readily available. I couldn't see the next landmark, which was a mailbox. As I trudged on, a faint oblong object began to take form. It was another runner, an oddity around these parts. Normally, I'm the only idiot out on the roads. Perhaps the lack of frigid temps encouraged others to embrace their own personal idiocy. Once I realized that the other object was a runner, my pace picked up without my approval (lousy male-competitive gene strikes again).

My route takes a left hand turn at the first road, the 0.6 interval. It was clear that I was gaining on said fellow runner (odd for me). At the 0.75 mile mark (which is a driveway with an evergreen at the nook), there was a commotion coming from one of the neighborhood houses. It sounded as if a woman was pretty upset with something and her volume made it clear that she wanted others to know about it. I noticed her discomfort. So did the other runner, who was roughly 100 yards ahead at this point with the gap narrowing. I glanced at the commotion. So did the other runner. Then the other runner glanced at me.

At this distance, I could finally make out distinguishing features that I couldn't see before. For 1, the other runner was horribly under pronating and flinging their heels way outside their natural plane of momentum. There was a lot of wasted energy in that technique. For 2, the other runner was a female. She glanced back and made eye-contact, a clear indication that she knew I was there. For 3, she didn't speed up. Apparently she didn't possess the male competitive gene.

Shortly before the 1 mile marker (which is a telephone pole), I made the pass. She had moved all the way over to the side of the shoulder. She was dangerously close to falling off the road. Being that there wasn't much traffic on this Sunday morning, I moved to the middle of the lane. Aside: Holy crap! The conditions on the middle of the lane are exquisite. No debris. Flat sans road camber. I might start running out there just for the comfort. /End aside.

As I made the pass, I do the same thing that I do for each and every runner I see out on the roads (n=6 since the start of the year). I smile and say, "Good morning" in a happy, cheery voice. The voice intonation is not forced. Despite my lack of prowess as a runner, I truly enjoy the experience and am happy to share it with others who are brave enough to try it. My road mate, on the other hand, was clearly uncomfortable. There was a look on her face that was in the nervous/ afraid end of the emotional spectrum. I stayed out in the middle of the road for what I think is longer than necessary for the passing zone. There was still scant traffic and I was still enjoying the mid-road conditions. Eventually, when I was well past my running colleague, I merged back onto the shoulder.

I'm still haunted by the look on that woman's face. Given that I'm not that good looking, I'm used to getting weird looks from the ladies. Despite my lack of appeal, I'm not normally perceived as a threat. In fact, quite the opposite. I'm in bottom end of the intimidation factor, based on popular opinion. I suspect that I am less concerning than 99% of the populace, just below old ladies with walkers and babies being pushed in strollers.

I can only surmise that her response was a learned behavior. I'm pretty sure that a vast majority of women in our society have experienced some sort of unsavory behavior displayed by unscrupulous individuals, likely males. Aside 2: I have a hard time believing that women running have experienced any negatives from running men. I suspect (and I mean hope and pray) that runners take care of their own, regardless of gender or skill. Then again, I'm rather naive to such things. /End aside 2.

By the 1.5 mile mark (which is a driveway), I was far enough ahead that I couldn't see my running mate. It's clear that she slowed down. In her defense, that stretch is uphill. It's possible that she was struggling to maintain pace. It's also possible that I'm more intimidating than I thought, perhaps because there have been members of my gender that haven't treated this awesome runner of a woman with the respect that she deserves.

I suppose what I don't understand is the need for inequality in the first place. My brain lives in a world dominated by the take home message of Bill and Ted. Then, there wouldn't be a need for any marching.

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