A scary incident that took place during my long run last weekend prompted me to write this post. In short, a car lurked along the road I was on for a while before pulling behind a giant bush, where the driver likely thought he’d be hidden, to wait for me to pass. Luckily, I noticed where the car had turned. I approached with caution and, once I saw it there, I was able to flee quickly to where the car couldn’t follow.
I have no idea what this person’s intentions were. In fact, I can’t even be sure he was waiting there for me. (I recently learned that a male friend, on a walk in that neighborhood, noticed a few men sitting in parked cars and then was followed into the woods by an older guy. Older guy seemed to think my friend was there for some kind of…meetup. He wasn’t.)
The point is: If this person had been looking to scare me, attack me, or abduct me, it’s a damn good thing I was paying attention and noticed him before any of that could take place.
That day, after reporting this incident to the police, I purchased an armband (so I can carry my phone) and some handheld pepper spray for runners. (Well, “joggers,” actually, according to the packaging. And we all know joggers are more likely to need pepper spray than runners.)
These protective measures make me feel marginally better, sure. But I maintain that the best defense any runner can have is, as Mad-Eye Moody would say, “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!”
Don’t run with your head down and your earbuds in—not even if the music is at a “safe” level, not even if you only use one of the two. The fiddling you need to do when you’re running with an iPod—”I don’t like this song! Let me scroll around and pick something else!”—will take your focus off the area around you, long enough to miss the first pass or two of a looping car, or the rustle of a bush where someone lurks.
Plus, headphones make you appear to be an easy target. If a potential attacker needs to choose between the alert woman carrying her phone and the one bobbing her head to “Call Me Maybe,” which one will he pick? I’ve run for 10 years without any incidents before this one, and I suspect my open ears have deterred some crazies.
I’ll run with an iPod, on the treadmill or in a marathon (if I’m feeling really, really awful). But that’s it.
I may run with pepper spray, but I don’t want to use it. I may run with ID, but I don’t want to have to be identified by it. I may tell Paul where I’m going and when I’ll be back, but I don’t want him to have to communicate that to a search party.
Prevention is the best safety measure, and the best way to prevent scary incidents on the run is CONSTANT VIGILANCE.