Wednesday, November 23, 2011
So, it's finally happened. I had my first kind of scary running experience. I do most of my weekday training alone running along the river trail that runs behind my work. I try not to go the same time on the same days so I'm not too predictable. This week I only had one run to do from work as I'm now off the rest of the week. Ironically enough last week I had said to one of my female co-workers that I just wanted to let her know my routine if ever I didn't come back from my run. I wanted her to know what direction I run and that I should never be gone more than 1.5 hours. That if I am to ask one of 3 other runners in our Accounting Department to head out there and look for me. We kind of laughed about it a little but she also took it very serious. One of the precautions I always take is I text my husband when I'm leaving work and when I get back. And I always tell him which direction I'm running (there are two). I run with music but it's really low and I make a very conscious effort to always be aware of my surroundings. When running alone I always run the same direction which is more populated and also near some neighborhoods. I tend to see some of the same folks out there on a pretty regular basis. I always look people in the eye and say hello when I pass.
Well yesterday was really no different. Tyler (one of my running buddies at work) was still in a meeting as I was getting ready to head out. He said he would try and run fast to catch up to me as soon as he was finished. Heading out alone was no big thing. It's what I normally do anyway. Tyler and I have only run together two other times. He's faster and I feel like I slow him down. So off I went .. and so it began.
Pretty early in my run I passed a guy riding his bike. I didn't think anything of it, he was headed in the opposite direction. I trotted on. As I was 3/4 of the way through a short tunnel that runs under the road at one point there was a loud noise that scared the crap out of me. It was the guy on the bike again. All he had done was ride over the drainage system which made a loud noise which of course echoed in the tunnel. While the noise scared me at the time it wasn't THAT abnormal for the guy to be headed back the direction he came. Perhaps he was just doing an out and back like I was. As he passed me this second time I noted in my head that he was wearing black basketball shorts, a black backpack, dark sweatshirt. He had a bottle of Off bug spray in the mesh pocket of his pack. He was riding a beach cruiser kind of bike.
As I came through the other side of the tunnel there is a park as soon as you come out. The same guy had stopped and fetched a water bottle out of his pack. As this is now the 3rd time I'm passing the same guy I'm starting to throw up some "stranger danger" guards. At this point I'm thinking it COULD be a coincidence but I don't have a good feeling about it and I will be watching for him over my shoulder now. After awhile sure enough bicycle boy passed me a 4th time. After he passes now he starts zig zagging in front of me. You know, like he was intentionally NOT going fast. I slow my pace down more because I really would prefer to keep him in my sights in front of me. I want plenty of distance between us. After about five minutes of this he pulls onto the side of the path again. This will now be the FIFTH time I've passed him. He hops off his bike and has now starting stretching his legs. At this point I'm really starting to get freaked out and thinking about what is my best option to get out of this unsafe feeling situation. I had a few options. I could turn around and run back, although there's no question he could catch up to me if he wanted to. I can run past him, because just on the other side of him is a big open park and I could lap the park to finish my mileage. Plus there's usually people at the park so I wouldn't be alone. Or I could run to the park and then hit the road after and take the road route back to work. It will be out of my way but I'll definitely be safe there. So I headed to the park and figured if Tyler hadn't caught up to me I would hit the road and run back. At this point I'm really not even sure that Tyler had headed out behind me. But I had my phone so if I stopped I could have called him. I then watch as the guy starts jogging next to his bicycle while holding it's seat. It was WEIRD. He had taken the dirt trail that ran in towards the river some, while I stayed on the paved walkway. I now entered the park and I keep turning to look over my shoulder when eventually I see bicycle boy head back towards the paved walkway. I know that I will not continue on now. This will be like the 6th time he has now passed me and it is no longer a coincidence. He's really stalking me and all my intuition tells me this isn't a safe situation. Right at that moment I see one lone runner break through the trail into the park. To my relief it was Tyler!! I have never been so happy to see him in my whole entire life! He cut across the park to catch up to me. I then tell him the story of the weirdo who now passes the two of us running together. At one point bicycle boy literally turns his whole head around to check if I'm still running with someone. It was SO obvious!
In all my runs along this same route I have never encountered someone that was so obvious with their following me, waiting for me, then turning around repeatedly. It truly was scary. In a way I'm glad that I was paying attention like I always do. And I'm glad I remained calm and had multiple options of getting out of the dangerous situation. Tyler is convinced he just wanted to hit on me or something. But I'm not so sure. Either way I stopped on my way home from work that night (last night) and bought me some pepper spray. I will run with this from now on, anytime I'm running alone or with a girlfriend.
I will feel safer. While I realize this won't save my life or anything, I do think that given the efforts I take to be aware of my surroundings and pay close attention to the people I pass will all work together to keep me as safe as possible when running alone. I know that from now on if my running buddy is possibly going out the same day I will make more of an effort to coordinate with him to run together rather than alone.
Another thought I had while I was running that day (and this was prior to crazy stalker dude), I really should take off my wedding rings when I run. The last thing I need is someone attacking me just to rob me or something. I figure the more I can reduce the temptation for someone to bother me the better off I'll be.
I'm a pretty strong and independent woman. It irks me to no end that JUST because I am female that I have to worry about this kind of thing. Men can head out whenever they want on their own for a run and really never have to worry about being attacked or raped. It's not fair that as a woman I have to worry about these kinds of things. In fact it really pisses me off.
Anyway, live and learn I suppose. It was a scary experience, there's no question about that. I definitely thing someone was watching over me that Tyler turned up when he did. His timing couldnt' have been more perfect. On the way back my heart rate took a sky rocket up and I actually had to stop running for a minute to bring it back down. I think it was the release of those extra hormones into my system from the scary encounter that did it. I had a similar experience when I was in the hospital after one of my babies was born and that's what the nurse had told me. However, it didn't help that I'd been reading that morning about the 2 guys that died after the Philly Marathon. I mean seriously 21 years old and you die from running 13.1 miles! I'm thinking what the hell??! It didn't help that I was also talking while running, so my breathing was irregular. A combination of bad stuff I tell you!
When I walked back into my office I found this on my desk ....
Umm .. thank YOU! Just what I needed. One of my employee's works part time at a fancy cupcake shop. Delicious! Oh and to top it off I got some major stares when I walked into the hunting store that night on my way home to buy my pepper spray .. lol. The ladies behind the counter looked at me like I was lost. Then there were two guys that literally laughed AT me. I know it was the fact that I was totally looking out of place in my short skirt (with leggings) and high heeled shoes. THEN as I was walking into the hunting store some kid approaches me and tells me he just got out of DETOX and needs some money for the train. REALLY? I was kind of wishing I had the pepper spray right then, as this guy made me uncomfortable too!
Holy CRAP what a day!!!!
Live and learn ... live and learn.
Does anyone have any good tips for running alone??