Imagine this: it is late morning and you are out for a nice long run in your hometown. This is the town you grew up in and you have always felt safe. There are a lot of people and houses around so you don’t think twice about going for a run by yourself. But, now you are being followed and stalked by a truck with 3-4 men and you start to feel nervous and scared. What should you do?
Well, here is what happened to me this week while I was out for long run in my suburban hometown. First, please understand that I wasn’t running in the country with very few houses and people. On the route that I was running there are a lot of cars, houses and people outside at all times. It is a place that I have ran the roads MANY times before without any issues or bad experiences.
Until this particular day.
I was visiting my family and staying at my sisters house. It was a beautiful morning and I
NEEDED wanted to go for a run. After telling my sister the route I was going to take, I left around 10:20 am and set out on my usual 4 mile course that has me traveling past my old High School, my grandmothers old house and a few friends homes. It is one of my favorite routes to run; almost like a trip down memory lane. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, someone I know will be outside and I get to stop and chat with them along the way. But, since it was Monday morning they must have all been working. So it was just me, some good music and my thoughts.
It was a really beautiful morning – not too hot and just the right amount of breeze to help keep me cool. I was just about back to my sisters house, on the last 1/2 mile, when a crew cab pick up truck (from a painting company) and 3-4 guys drove by me and waved. So, I waved back. Innocent enough right?
Well, as I came around the next corner, I noticed that they had pulled into a little hidden drive on the same side of the road as I should have been running. BUT, since it is a blind turn/corner, I always run on the opposite side so cars can see me. As I came around the corner I noticed they were backing out of this blind drive and I started to get more nervous. As they passed me a second time, they waved again. Then, they turned down the street that I needed to take to get back to my sisters house.
I decided to keep running straight past my turn and wait for a few minutes for them to hopefully lose interest and be on their way. But, when I finally turned around to take the street (they went down) to get to my sisters house, I could see that they had stopped in front of a house halfway down the street and the driver got out of the truck and went to the front door. I think they were pretending to have business at this house because there wasn’t a single car in the driveway. I immediately thought that this was a ploy to wait for me to run by the truck.
I decided to slow down and walk and as I did, I noticed another girl running past their truck toward me. When she passed me, I ran next to her to warn her of this situation so she could stay alert. She was VERY thankful.
As I started to run again toward my sisters house, away from their truck on another side road, I called my sister to make sure to keep our kids inside when I ran past so they would not yell out to me and give away my “home” location. As I was talking to her, I could hear them drive up another side road behind me. They turned the opposite direction and drove away. I was hoping that it was the last I would see of them.
As I approached my sisters house, I told a neighbor of what had happened. He was a little shocked and concerned and made sure that I made it home safe. When I was in front of her house, I looked around to see if I could see (or hear) them and I couldn’t, so…. I made my way up the side of the yard and into the back door of the house. I could finally let out a long, deep breath that I was holding in for what seemed like 20 minutes.
Below is a video I made about 5 minutes after returning home. As you may be able to tell, I was pretty shaken up and not thinking too clearly.
So, what 5 safety tips do I recommend when you are out exercising solo?
- Carry a cell phone - I always run with my cell phone. Like many other runners, I use it for my music and interval timer. But, I also use it to call someone so they would know what is happening and the person following me could see that I was informing someone else of their presence. Also, use your cell phone to take pictures of the person or the vehicle and call 911.
- Run in populated areas and during busier times of the day - it goes without saying that running during hours of daylight and in areas where there are people around is safest
- Tell someone the route you plan to run - so they know where you are and how long it should take you to return
- Don’t use headphones in both ears - even though I use headphones for my music, I (always) use ONLY the left one so my right ear toward traffic is free and I can hear cars and people approaching.
- Carry pepper spray - make sure it is easily accessible and you know how to use it when you need it
Do you have any tips or recommendations on how to stay safe while running or exercising alone?