IS NIGHT RUNNING IN THE CITY SAFE?

39% OF WOMEN FEEL UNSAFE IN THE CAPITAL’S GREEN SPACES.

I READ THIS STAT IN A REPORT BY SPORT ENGLAND RECENTLY AND MY KNEE JERK REACTION WAS THAT IT WAS LUDICROUS. SURELY 4 IN 10 WOMEN DON’T FEEL UNSAFE IN LONDON’S OPEN SPACES? AND THEN I REMEMBERED A FLEETING THOUGHT I HAD ONLY THE DAY BEFORE THAT QUICKLY TURNED MY THINKING FULL CIRCLE.

It was Thursday evening and I’d been busy working behind my laptop most of the day. I was getting restless and needed to get outside and exert some energy to clear my mind and wind down. I toyed with the idea of a short run through my local park before, without consciously realising, deciding it was a bad idea.

Why? Well, it’s not very well lit for a start and being a lone runner could leave me quite vulnerable. And that was that. I thought no more about it and instead did some stretches in the lounge.

Before reading this stat I’d have put my reluctance to run in the park down to a way of convincing myself not to bother going outside on a cold, dark night to exercise. And I certainly wouldn’t have vocalised it. But when I reflect on my thoughts a little more that really wasn’t the case – I was ready and raring to go but something was holding me back. Fear.

I was scared to run in the park after dark. And I was being a wimp. I’m a big believer in pushing your comfort zone but, to my mind, this doesn’t fall into the same category. Knowing now this feeling is pretty common is both reassuring and depressing in equal measure. Nearly half of us city dwellers are too scared to exercise in urban spaces, mostly after dark.

And the sad reality is that if I did head into London park on my own at night  for a run – and say something DID happen – would I be blamed, even partially, for putting myself at unnecessary risk? For running in a poorly lit park on my own at night? Probably.

Whilst it’s my responsibility to take care of my personal safety, that can’t mean accepting that I don’t run in the city after the sun sets. It all just seems a little unfair. Yes, it’s my choice not to run through the park but I that decision is a result of feeling like I have no real choice.

One positive that comes of this is the amazing new running clubs popping up over the city, including the likes of London Midnight Runners that organise group runs all over the city after dark. As much as I love the social aspect of exercise and fully support initiatives like this, there are moments after a long, stressful day that I want to be pace the streets alone to gather my thoughts and clear my mind. It’s moments like these that I want to be able to run freely in the vast green space of my local park, away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the quiet solitude of nature.

So what’s the answer? Maybe I should grow a pair and get out there. Maybe we should be campaigning for better lighting in parks but I don’t think either of these are the real answer.   I really don’t know what we can do, but I’m pleased it’s the first day of Spring and nights are getting longer because I’ll feel more comfortable heading back there soon, until then I’ll stick to the main roads and my living room.