Today’s forecast is for increasing clouds and some possible snow showers as the day goes on. Off and on I’ve seen some of the white stuff floating in the air—in between bursts of sunshine. So, when I planned my run, I figured I better go sooner than later.

First I had to pick up my new inhaler from the pharmacy. It was already filled, but I had forgotten I needed to order Jackson’s new inhalers now that that track season is here. That meant I had to wait a bit before I could stop by the pharmacy.

Since I was already going to be out, I thought I ought to run somewhere beside in my own neighborhood. I still had to go to Costco to get salsa for the taco bar that will be feeding the kids between tomorrow’s musical performances. Why not go over to the Platte River trail?

I know it’s a work day for many, but the trail was quieter than usual for a midday Friday. Even the golfers at the course seemed to have stayed away, for the most part. Other than a couple bike-riders, the trail pretty much belonged to me—well, me and several Canada geese.

We’re so spoiled with decent winter weather here in Colorado that I think it’s easy to be a fair weather outdoor runner. Get a few clouds in the sky and temperatures in the high 30s or low 40s—mild weather compared to much of the country—and the people pounding the pavement really seem to disappear. Maybe they prefer a treadmill indoors if the weather isn’t somewhat warm, but I hate the enclosed feeling of indoor running.

I was running along, amazed at how quiet it could be just before noon on a weekday on the path. The stillness was almost enough to fool me into thinking I wasn’t really running close to some industrial businesses—including a few odoriferous landfills! The ducks floated on the calm river waters, the geese waddled across the path, and the main sound came from my feet tapping the trail. Very peaceful.

As I ran back toward where my car was parked, I realized how nice it was that the section of the trail I was on wasn’t developed. Just past the golf course, stands of trees, as well as various brush, grew along the banks of the river. If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have realized how close I was to the big new retail development where I had parked.

That’s when it hit me—as a woman runner, I can’t just assume that being alone in the great outdoors is a safe thing, even at high noon. I’ve heard reports of attacks on runners during the day in places like Boulder and southeast Denver. So I kept my eye on the man riding his bike, who was wearing no helmet or workout gear, until he rode off the path. Then I noted the one with the backpack wondering through the trees. Nature lover? Someone who lives along the river? Who can tell?

I continued toward my self-imposed finish line, trying to recover the sense of peace I’d felt. But it was gone—even if I was probably just dealing with my own overactive imagination.

It’s amazing how quickly I went from feeling at ease with being alone to feeling lonely. Somehow I have to find a way to mix the joy of solitude with just enough vigilance to keep me safe. My head may be up in the clouds when I run, but I’ve got to keep my feet set firmly on the path.