Many of my girlfriends think I’m crazy for running trails alone, especially in the dark. Problem is, my choices are run alone in the dark, treadmill (and we know how much fun that is), or don’t run. I have never had any problems out on the trails, not once have I been afraid or believed that I was in danger.
On the road is another matter. Humans are the number one predator out there, and they prey on their own kind. Even if you didn’t count the predatory humans, there are cars and dogs who have escaped their yard. Dogs on the trail, even off leash, have never bothered me. They don’t bark or snap. They lick my fingers hello and trot of tail wagging.
I always let family and friends know where I am going and what time I expect to be back. If they don’t hear from me by a certain time, they know to call search and rescue. I take my phone and police issue pepper spray.
I have had only one experience where I believed I was in danger. At times, I run on the rail trail near my home. Most of the time I go south on the rail trail because there are more trees, and I know that the Harmon’s grocery store it is eight miles. I can use the bathroom and then turn around. One morning I decided to go north.
It was three thirty in the morning and pitch black. The stars were out and I was just trucking along the trail, looking around this way and that because I’d never been this direction. There were warehouses and factories along one side of the trail. And trees and farm fields on the other. I turned my head to the right and was startled to see two people sitting on a wooden bench. They were about two feet from me. I didn’t notice them before because I was looking toward the fields. They were dressed in black hoodies and black sweatpants. My mouth fell open, and I stared at them while my legs continued to run. They stared back at me.
I was very unnerved by this encounter. I continued running, heart racing, and thought maybe they work at the warehouse and are on break. Okay, why did they have all black on and their hoods pulled up? I don’t know. Maybe they were sweethearts out for a little early morning walk and snuggle on the bench? At three thirty in the morning, seriously? I continued in this vein until I hit my turnaround point.
After I had passed them, I made a mental note to remember where they were, so that I could watch for them on my return trip. I kept running. It was a nice night out. I was in shorts and a t-shirt. It was late spring. I started getting to the section where they were. I slowed down. I was looking and looking for them. I knew the place where they were was close. I couldn’t see them. I slowed to a walk and then I saw them.
One was thin and about my height, and the other was larger and taller than I was. They still had their hoods up. I was about 200 meters from them. The smaller one got up from the bench and walked to the opposite side of the trail and down into the bushes. The larger one stood up and faced me. Their shoulders and hips told me they were men. I turned around and ran in the opposite direction pulling out my pepper spray. My heart was pounding in my chest, but I kept going. Once I was at the intersection of the trail and a road, I rounded the corner and ran toward Main Street where there were streetlights.
I turned to look back after getting onto the road and didn’t see anyone behind me. I held my pace until I reached Main and turned south again. I finished my run in a completely different location of the city. I have not run north on the trail since then and probably never will.
Maybe I’m paranoid, or maybe they were planning something unthinkable. Thankfully, I will never know. Safety cannot be overlooked. It could cost you your life.
Runnersworld sent out an article on some safety apps, which prompted this blog, and I think they are invaluable not only as a runner, but as a parent. Think about your children out on dates, or out with friends, youngsters who walk home alone from school or after school activities.
The first one is called Kitestring. You can activate it when you think you could be in an unsafe situation, like going out for a nighttime run. The app checks up on you after a period of time, and if you don’t respond or postpone the check-in, it sends a customized emergency message to the contacts you chose beforehand. Kitestring is a web-based program so you don’t need a smartphone it can go on any device with internet. You can find it at http://www.kitestring.io
The second one is from RoadID. This one allows friends and family to check in on your route. If you stop moving for five minutes and don’t respond to an alert within sixty seconds, it sends out a message to your contact. RoadID is run through iOS and can be found in the app store.
These two programs are triggered by inactivity, which is useful if you cannot get your phone out or if you are unconscious.
The third one is bsafe. You have to access your phone to use this one. One push of a button turns your phone into a siren, alerts authorities, records video, and informs your contacts of your GPS location. This one is iOS and Android and can be found in the app store
The final one is ReactMobile. It is similar to bsafe. It alerts 911 or sends your GPS location to your emergency contacts with the touch of a button. Your loved ones can also track you in real time. This one is also iOS and Android and can be found in the app store.
All four of these Apps are free, so there is no reason not to get one and use it.