Beware of the Shadows
January 6, 2012 § 1 Comment
Sometimes I get too comfortable and forget that running by myself is not the safest choice – especially in the dark. That’s not going to stop me from doing it, but occasional reminders that there are creepers and weirdos out there are definitely enough to make me be alert and aware of my surroundings. And so should you.
I moved my run from last night to this morning, which meant getting up and out the door by 4:30am. This isn’t unusual for me since I was running mostly at this time during the summer. This morning was dark, cold (in the low 40s) and did I mention the early part? As I did my typical warm-up walk to the corner (less than .25 miles from my house), I passed the large park in my neighborhood. The lights in the park aren’t on that early, but I saw a person walking on the park’s path. I thought it was a little odd, but kept walking and tried to keep my eye on them from time to time. Then, I saw another shadow trying to climb up the baseball cage in the field. That was even odder. Who in their right mind would be out “playing” in the unlit park at 4:30 in the morning? That’s when I saw the shadows meet up and there were three of them. Next thing I knew they were hollering at me and yelling something about my butt (which, I know they couldn’t really see because 1) it was really dark and 2) it’s practically non-existent). That’s when I started to panic a little. They were fairly far away from me, but close enough to make me uncomfortable. At that moment, I knew I had to decide if I was going to turn around and go back home or start my run and put as much distance as possible between me and the shadows. I decided on the latter because I figured if they were watching me, I live so close to the park I didn’t want them to follow me home. So off I went.
As I headed down one of the main streets of the housing development, I kept looking behind me and down every side street I passed. What if they had bikes and were trying to find out where I took off running to? I was wearing my reflective running vest, which is supposed to keep me safe when I run in the dark, but it had now turned me into a glowing beacon. I might as well have had a blinking neon sign above me that said “I’m right here.”
The panic drove me to run faster than I was planning, but it helped get me further away as quickly as possible. By the time I hit the 2 mile mark, I turned around to head back. Darn. What if they’re still in the park? I have to go by there to get home. Could I out run them if they were still there? I started to panic a little more. The last two miles felt like they went by so much quicker than the first two because with each step I was closer to home, which also meant that I could be getting closer to “them”. I started thinking about how to defend myself if I needed to. I know some good punches and I can throw a mean elbow, but if there are three of them, I’m not sure how that would work out for me. The only thing for me to do at that point was to wait to see what happened when I entered my neighborhood.
As I rounded the corner near the park, I could see the lights had been turned on. I’m not sure what time they normally turn on, but I wanted to hope that someone who lives near the park heard the yelling and called security or something and the shadows were long gone. Still a bit panicked, I booked it home (no cool down today!) and locked the door behind me. Whew. I made it safe and sound. That was a little scary.
So, (very) long story short: Be Aware. Be Alert. Be Safe.
What I Need to Do
Other than being aware of my surroundings, I need to get back into the habit of leaving a note with where I am running, what time I left and when I’ll be back. I used to do it for every run, now I tend to only do it for my really long runs. I think I’ll also look into a mini keychain alarm or something that’s easy to activate while running. Mace sticks are great, but the one I have you have to fiddle with the safety and then try to aim it correctly when you spray – I don’t think it would be very helpful to spray myself in the face!
Photo courtesy of stuant63 on flickr