Last year I found the trail to be a great place to lay down some long run miles. It is flat and with relatively few road crossings, it was convenient to drive down to the trail head in downtown Durham and just run.
It turns out that I was living in state of ignorant training bliss. I either wasn't paying attention to the local news or it wasn't being widely reported that in 2011 there were 13 reported crimes on the northern portion of the ATT, mostly involving assaults and robberies on runners and walkers.
By the beginning of October of this year the amount of reported crimes on the ATT had equaled that of the entire year of 2011 and most occurring throughout the Summer months. Because of the number and the concentration of crimes in the past few months, safety on the trail is a major local news story. It seems as though every 2 weeks another crime is reported. Assaults, robberies, attempted sexual assaults. Most on runners running alone.
These crimes have truly struck at the heart of the community. Citizens are outraged. Rallies have been organized, and citizen bike patrols set up. Police are promising more man power, more frequent patrols, the possibility of emergency call boxes.
I have read numerous articles and blogs posts on safety precautions to take while running. We all know the drill - don't run alone, run during the day, be aware of your surroundings. But these crimes are all taking place in broad daylight. And I don't have the privilege of running with a running group. For better or worse I am a solo runner.
So I am left angry and disappointed that this local resource has been essentially taken away from me. I no longer feel safe running alone on the trail and have not done so in months. I have spent hours mapping out street level long runs in the hopes that by avoiding isolated areas like the ATT I am being a safer runner. Even with increased police presence I am not tempted to return. Recently a woman was nearly sexually assaulted while the police patrol was 1/4 mile away. They can not be everywhere at all times.
I pray that sometime soon I might be lucky enough to find a running partner. Or perhaps during my next training cycle I will join a training group through my local running store. But until that happens I most likely will not be returning to the ATT. And that is just sad.