Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fear in South Bend

It was 48F (9C)in the pre-dawn Tuesday morning when I headed out from the South Bend Marriott for an 8 miler along the St. Joseph River. It’s hard to believe it snowed 14 inches when I was here 6 weeks ago. The run was uneventful (which is good I guess). 2 miles south to the end of the river trail, 6 miles north to Sacred Heart University and 2 miles back to the hotel. My HR stayed around 138 for the entire run and but my pace was all over the place (9:31, 9:18, 8:56, 9:29, 9:23, 9:18, 9:09, 8:21). In addition, as is often the case with great public works, there was virtually no one using the trail. I passed one other runner over the entire run and he looked surprised to see me.

What happened later that afternoon explained reason the hotel gym was packed and the trails were deserted. After a day at my office in South Bend, I got back to the hotel at 7:00 PM and raced up to my room to grab my camera (might as well document the trip). When I got back to the elevator for my ride to lobby there was a fellow dressed in running gear waiting on my floor. I asked him if he was going out for a run and when he responded affirmative, I recommended the river trail. He told me that he was actually going to the hotel gym to use the treadmill. I ribbed him a little for running inside when the weather outside was absoulutely beautiful. What he said next really took me aback. “Is it safe”, he asked.

Is it safe? What could that mean … then it hit me … was this 6' tall lily white dude (kinda of looked like me, but bigger) really worried about the fine people of South Bend, Indiana? I’ve heard the same crap from the locals concering "down town". Like the locals I can only imagine that he was mindlessly worried about the black folks who are, for some reason, are allowed to move freely around town without police escorts. Just where was this guy from? Is it safe? Sure buddy … the black folks are hiding behind the tress along the trail waiting to beat your silly white ass to a bloody pulp and make off with your ASICS’. Is it safe? Hell yes it’s safe, it’s flipping South Bend Indiana for god’s sake. Not exactly the murder capital of North America. Is it safe? Remarkable.

I ran into two guys in a local bar later that night who were in town for a Hummer seminar (the AMG Hummer is built in South Bend). One was from Philidelphia and the other from Queens; both found the story extremely funny, and interestingly, neither of these guys felt threatened walking around town. I guess they didn't get the memo either.


MON: Travel Day
TUE: 8.5 miles; Aerobic w/10x100m strides; 9:08 avg pace

A few pictures from the road:

Arizonan running wild in South Bend

East Bank Trail along the St. Joseph River (looking south)

Man-made White Water Rafting Run. Who knew this was in South Bend?

Unsavory elements lurking about the river. This couple were the only people to exchange any pleasantry during my photo excursion.


stephruns said...

That's what most people ask me when they come to NYC!!!!!!!! Is it safe??????? Where have you been the past 1o years. We are drowning in safety these days!!!!!! Besides a little thrill is always great.

DawnB said...

Do you know that I've never worried about going out for a run where ever I am. And I'm a woman!!! and black at that!!! just too funny

Journey to a Centum said...

The only scary thing I see in those pictures it that guy standing in front of the one way sign!

I'd like to try the whitewater section of the river someday. That's pretty cool that the city would build a course. I wonder if they can control the flow? I'm off to google to find out!

Thanks for the update on your trip! A few years back I was traveling to Chicago with an Industrial Designer who was very conservative and didn't get out much. I like to grab the train and ride from the airport to downtown. As we rode in this guy I'm with blurts out loudly that he had never seen such poverty and decrepit housing. Who could possibly live in these places. I looked at the dumba-s and then looked around to the locals that were looking back at him. He kept his mouth shut for the most part after that.

Phil said...

It's amazing how many of our countrymen lead such sheltered lives. They get all their info from TV news are too afraid to step out and experience the world because it might not be safe.

J~Mom said...

That is just unbelievable.

Thanks for the pics. Thanks also for the tip about I-10 closing. It didn't even cross my mind. I think we know a back way but I will double check with DH before we leave.

Dusty said...

I kept thinking you were going to say that there were some cougars out loose or something, it couldn't be that... that place is backasswards!! I heard some comments when I was in Arkansas and it got under my skin. Would make me want to run around all by myself even more.

Maybe they should hit the "white folk" - might knock some sense into them.

Hey - thanks for your post - I'm thinking about it - tossed in my 5k results in the comments.

Thomas said...

This attitude is so alien to me, I can't even begin to comprehend it.

I run at 5 am in the morning in the complete darkness, sometimes miles away from the nearest dwelling, and I feel completely safe at that. I wouldn't even worry if Niamh did that.

To run anywhere, and to worry "is it safe" is not something that has ever crossed my mind.

Deene said...

Sad those who are content with being ignorant.

Sempre Libera said...

Oh man, that question is at the top of my list of pet peeves - especially as a woman. As long as you're not doing anything outright stupid, life is way too short to be afraid of the bogeyman!!

Nice pictures - it looks like a lovely run!

miss petite america said...

it leaves the roads open to the brave! :)

i really only get scared when i see signs like "beware of mountain lions"

Lana said...

Ha...I know some people like that guy. They remain sheltered in their comfort zone and never experience anything worthwhile. What a shame.

Hey - I ordered "Advanced Marathoning". Do you still recommend it? I think I'm doing Chicago in Oct.

olga said...

As long as there are no cougars...:)

Anne said...

Allow me to offer a different perspective. Last year I was visiting San Jose and discovered a river trail close to my hotel. Leaving at the crack of dawn, a doorman cautioned that it wasn't safe for me to run on the trail, especially alone. So I went a different route but ended up on the desolate trail after about a half hour. Guess what? I soon saw a very creepy guy watching my every move and I later learned runners had been attacked in that same spot. In this case, though, there wasn't a racial undertone. And I had the street smarts to immediately turn and run the other way instead of giving the guy the benefit of the doubt.

StumbleGuy said...

I made the "is it safe" call earlier this year around Wembley. When I arrived I stepped out of my car into the broken glass of the car next door, which had much of it's electronic innards missing, I called it unsafe and hit the gym instead.

This said, people need to make reasonable assessments about this stuff, but I feel we are all increasingly unable to do this because of the way the media presents us views and images of communities outside our own normal experience. We become insular which then increases the separateness and breeds distrust. It's happening everywhere. Perhaps a little bravery on all of our parts will start the fight back!

Yours was a thought-provoking post!


Phil said...

Yes ... good points all; however, in this situation we were talking about an area that I walk around at night without fear and I'm not all that tough.

Feminist Runner said...

You're probably more likely to get attacked by a wild dog in South Bend than a person. Not the most unsavoriest place on earth, if I remember from my days in the Midwest.

I hate that question -- I've had very few incidences where I've felt unsafe and they've all been, shockingly, where I live. You're more likely to get attacked where you feel safe.