For our anniversary on Monday, Brian and I went on a trail run at our local mountain bike trail. I suppose that’s the kind of thing we outdoor activity nuts find romantic. Because our paces are so different (in other words, I run slow as molasses), we usually start at the same time then I’ll wrap up the same distance some long time after he does. He waits for me back at the car because he’s nice like that.
Basically, that elaborate back history is what leads into the real story. On Monday, I was just getting into the fifth kilometer of my run as I saw what appeared to be a couple standing on the side of the trail. It was a man and a woman and they were talking very close together. As I approached, she turned to leave, and he chased after her. At first I thought they were just playing, that is, until I saw him grab her around the neck from behind and throw her to the ground. This was not a game.
I was within about five feet of them when I saw him raise his hand, fist clenched, over his head. She was on her back with her hands up over her face.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I said, stopping. “Is everything OK here?”
“No!” She sobbed.
“Come on, let’s get up,” I responded. “Let’s just get up and walk away.”
Now, this might sound all heroic and wonderful now, but this was the moment where my adrenaline took a minor dip and I realized, in my head, how incredibly stupid I was in this moment. I looked over at the guy - her boyfriend, husband, or whoever he was. He was huge and he was pissed. But so was I.
As I reached over to my arm band to pause my workout on my phone he said:
“What the F*%$ are you gonna do, call the f^&#ing cops?!”
“I will if I have to,” I responded.
The girl was standing by this time and we started walking back to her car. He followed about 20 feet behind us. He didn’t come any closer, and honestly I really don’t know what I would have done if he did. No one was on the trail at this point and I knew Brian was back at the car in a different lot on the other side of the park.
As we approached her car, the girl whispered “Thank you.” She was clearly embarrassed by the whole situation. I simply told her that I hoped she would have done the same for me if the situation was reversed and that I hoped that no matter what had happened, that she would find her way to a better situation and happiness. She got into her car and drove away. He glared at me as he got into his car and took off, presumably after her.
I ran the last half kilometer or so back to our car, trembling as I exited the path. Brian immediately asked what was wrong - he said I was white as a ghost. I told him the story - it almost felt like an odd, out of body experience.
Even now, I am full of thoughts and emotions about that run. I’m feeling stupid - that situation could have been so very much worse. I purposely interjected myself into a violent situation, one where clearly the guy was used to being powerful and wasn’t afraid of physical violence. Yet I feel powerful - he was easily well over six feet. Heck, even she was probably at least five foot ten. But even with my five-foot-two frame, he didn’t stand up to me. Size does not equal power. I also feel proud - proud that I do not accept domestic violence, even when it puts me in danger. I feel hopeful - hopeful that maybe that was her breaking point and that maybe she didn’t stop her car and drove to safety and a better situation. Hopeful that she can find happiness. Most of all I feel thankful - thankful that I was able to run back to an amazing man. Someone who, though he arguably gets angry with me sometimes, would never in this lifetime lay a hand on me. A man who was proud of me for standing up for another woman.
I do not feel like a hero, I truly hope that anyone in this situation would have done the exact same thing. But I will continue to feel proud of my decision to stand up and hopeful that, whoever she is and wherever she is, she has found safety and happiness.