Running scared

Richmond Bridge

I am lucky enough to live not far from Richmond, Surrey. My favourite run is along the River Thames, over Richmond Bridge and then either left to Richmond Lock or right to Teddington Lock. The left choice gives me a 4.5 mile training run, the right a 6 miler. It is an idyllic place to live. Richmond Park is just up the hill, Bushy Park and Hampton Court are within running distance. What more could I ask for?

Well, despite living in a pretty safe part of London, as soon as it gets dark, I am just that little bit more afraid to run. Granted, I am a lone woman running, so that kind of goes against me. The problem is, winter days here are so short that you have to run in the dark if you run any time after 5.00pm, so generally I don’t have a lot of choice.

The odd thing is, it is not the usual things that make me scared. I noticed this when I went out for a very late run last night to try and shake the headache I had before I went to bed. It was a gorgeous night – bitterly cold, with a slight fog and a bright moon. Although I did my best to stick to lit paths, part of the run took me through Richmond itself. And for some reason, they were out in force…

Groups of ‘youths’ are what I am talking about. Loud, insulting and frightening groups of youths. Unfortunately, Richmond doesn’t escape this phenomenon. Even a decent, well to do area like this has it’s requisite groups of youths. What scares me about them is they are totally unpredictable. I do my best not to look at them or to cross the road, because I am worried that if I accidentally catch the eye of one, they might decide I am fair game for their next idiotic sport. Jeers are OK – I can just run faster until I don’t hear them. But I have been caught in the middle of a sudden fight that went off like a firecracker whilst I happened to be running past. And I have seen them torment other people who are just trying to make their way home from work.

I know, I know – I am probably getting old, but when I was in my teens, I would never have considered hanging out on the streets at 10.30 at night just looking for a passer by to torment. Sure, I had friends. Sure, we did some pretty bad things. But that just wouldn’t have even occurred to me. What surprises me so much is that this borough has some of the best (and most expensive) schools in the south east. What are they being taught there? Obviously not to have a bit of respect for someone minding their own business and just trying to get on with their evening!

I think the saddest thing is I absolutely adore running on winter nights (actually, I adore summer nights too, but that’s another story) but I don’t feel safe doing so. So whilst the scary ‘yoofs’ are claiming the night and not at all appreciating the beauty of it, I am cooped up in my flat where it is safe. There’s something not right there.

Perhaps I should just get a dog. I am seriously considering it. I have my heart set on either a Rhodesian Ridgeback or a Doberman (or a cross between the two). I bet if I was out enjoying the night air with my Doberman, the youths might think twice about using me as their next game!

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