Running is not inherently dangerous. You put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. It’s not like getting tackled by a 300 pound lineman every time you participate. Runners have their fair share of injuries, and proper training can certainly help avoid such injuries.
But things happen.
I often run at our local park which has a 1.3 mile paved walking loop around the fields. But that gets pretty boring on any run over 3 or 4 miles. So I more often than not hit the roads close to home, as most runners do.
A few months ago, I came face to face with a coyote on my road. He stopped and looked at me and then thank goodness went on his way. A few weeks ago on a pre-dawn run, I was run off the road by a distracted driver. I was wearing white, plus a headlamp, plus a reflective vest, clearly visible to anyone coming towards me. But the driver wasn’t paying attention and nearly ran me over.
This past Saturday, while running at the park, my dog and I were harassed by another dog. He came running out of the bushes, without a collar, without a leash, no owner in sight, and ran towards us barking and showing his teeth. My poor dog and I were pretty scared. He was a big dog – at least 3 times the size of my labradoodle Fendi. He jumped up at us, continuously barking. Luckily another runner came over and lured the dog away. I called 911 and the police arrived within minutes to try and catch him. He was now harassing another walker with her two dogs.
Calling 911 was not an extreme thing to do. The dog was aggressive. I didn’t know if he had rabies. He could have very easily hurt us. We left when the police got there, and when we drove off, they were still trying to catch him.
I’m sure most runners have tales of encountering some kind of danger, whether it be the animal or vehicular type. Or human.
On my long marathon training runs, I often run on remote country roads. My favorite road is eerily called Shades of Death Road. I’ve never felt unsafe or threatened by other people. I always run safely – with my phone and aware of my surroundings, with my husband knowing my route. Sometimes he even tracks me or drives along side for a while encouraging me on a 19 miler – with the kids in the car cheering me on.
The odds of something bad happening on a run are extremely small, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t run smart and with common sense – let someone know the route and approximate time of return. Be aware of surroundings. Take a phone. Wear the right clothing. Run with ID – I got a runners ID bracelet from Christmas – it’s great. And pepper spray may be a good thing to have too. I have a little tiny cannister of it, about the size of a lipstick. These things may help, or they may not.
The case of Sherry Arnold in Montana has really shaken the running community. A well loved teacher and mother of three, she went for an early morning jog 10 days ago and was never seen again. A single running shoe was found along her route. She has been declared dead, though they have not yet recovered her body. Two men have been arrested for her murder. It is a tragic story.
My little incidents pale in comparison to Sherry’s story. My heart breaks for her family.
Things happen in life. Good things and bad things. Fear should never stop us from doing the things we love. I love my roads and the confidence that running gives me. I will never succumb to fear that would keep me from the road.
Run smart. Run safe.