Cynthia Steele, a triathlete and mom of three in Germantown, MD, recently had a scary encounter while on a run with her youngest child, whom she was pushing in a stroller. A teenage boy, riding a bike, reached out and grabbed her butt “very aggressively.” “I’d like to think I’m pretty safety-conscious, since I run all over the world when I travel, but out with my toddler at 8 p.m. on a Saturday evening near home? This caught me totally off-guard,” says Cynthia, 40, who blogged about the incident as well as shared safety tips to help others avoid a similar situation.
Staying safe: I’m still in shock that this teenager on a bike would grab or grope a woman pushing a toddler in a stroller, in the daylight, on a sidewalk. It’s really taught me a lesson about running more defensively in the sense that I will be more aware of my surroundings and of a person who may be stopped on the sidewalk and force me to run around or near him, and to not hesitate to contact the police if I’m ever in this situation again. I’ll admit that I was mostly angry and chased him down, rather than feeling like a victim or in fear of my safety. It was only when I stopped running and had a moment for my anger to clear that I realized how it was NOT okay on more levels than just me being angry, and I worry for what this person might do to someone on a more isolated path, or if he’d escalate past grabbing. Also, it’s really impacted me that you don’t need to wonder if something like this is “enough” to call the police – report it, put it on file even if it’s after the fact and they might not catch him. It could help them see a pattern if the same person is doing this to multiple women.
On a lighter note … a recent run that was pretty awesome: On Mother’s Day I snuck outside for a 5-mile run. I had been feeling pretty sluggish all day, but really wanted to go out by myself for a while and run to distress and have some alone time. It seems like this spring I’ve either been training for a race or doing a race, so it was nice to just be relaxed and not worry about my pace, my time, or getting to a finish line—I just ran how it felt comfortable to run and that was a treat! And at the end I cut back through a really short trail and it was nice to go off-road for a few minutes.
Half-marathon or marathon: Half-marathon—I find it’s the perfect distance for a real challenge to train for without taking away too much time from my family like marathon training.
What calms me after a long day (aside from a run): A glass of wine and a TV drama.
Sit-ups or plank? Plank!
Tea or coffee? Coffee! Although a few years ago my husband declared that we should be “tea people” and now we have a cup of tea most nights after the kids are in bed.
My Best Mile Ever: I would have to say the last mile of my first 5K. It was about 11 years ago and it was so exciting to have gone from a non-runner who made all the jokes about running (“Not unless someone’s chasing me!”) to finishing my first 5K race. There was nothing like it! I was immediately hooked.
Triathlon Mom.: I’ve always been really interested in watching triathlons and enjoyed seeing my friend do a half Ironman and an Ironman many years ago. I was watching her do the half Ironman and thought “I want to do this someday!” and decided signed up for a super-sprint that was a few months away. I found out the next morning that I was pregnant with my first baby. So I shelved the dream and decided it was realistic to do one by the time I turned 40. So last year, I was losing weight and getting in shape and signed up for an Iron Girl sprint triathlon that happened a few weeks after my 40th birthday. I loved the training and I loved doing the race!
Piece of running gear I can’t bear to part with: My running watch. I have an obsession with knowing how far I’m going and at what pace. I bought it last year as a Mother’s Day present to myself and can’t stand running without it. I’m looking at triathlon watches now since I feel the same way about swimming and biking – I need to know the details! A little obsessive, I guess, but it keeps me motivated.
Favorite way to cross-train: Swimming is definitely the best cross-training exercise for me. I also do Pilates and barre classes when I can, and of course bike.
What’s next on my race schedule: ZOOMA Annapolis on May 31. I’m really looking forward to it since it’s a night away with friends combined with a race!
My running in three words: Pushing my limits.