Yesterday I had my first real-life encounter with a creepy man while out running on trails.
Before that happened, I had run nearly 6 miles by myself without seeing a single person. I had even decided on what this post would be about since I prefer to tie life into the running instead of just blogging to blog. I remember being excited about that topic and felt it was timely.
Yesterday afternoon I couldn’t remember what I had decided. Today I still cannot remember what I was going to write about. What happened on mile 6 till I got back to my car at exactly 8 miles has replaced whatever came before.
There was a guy, taller and skinnier than me in black pants with a regular cotton dark green and black striped shirt, walking across the bridge. As I ran by him I greeted him with my customary, “Good morning.” I greet everyone this way, especially men, because it forces me to make eye contact and really see their face and take in their height, features, etc. Life has taught me this is necessary. I continued passed him without much of a thought, turned left to head to the pipeline and back to my car. When I got to the stairs that lead down, I noticed a couple approaching the spot and wondered if they, too, were going to be exploring the pipeline.
As I climbed down the ladder to the pipeline I looked up because I was curious about the couple and because I really like to know what and who is around me at all times. Again, life has taught me this is necessary.
That dude I passed who was walking and not dressed as a runner? Was just starting down the steps as I was climbing down the ladder. Which means as soon as I ran by him, he started running after me. Quietly. Every single alarm bell I have started screaming so I got down that ladder fast and started running, thinking the whole time how it would be great to have that keychain my friend K gave me a while ago for this very reason but it was back at my car in the tire well.
I ran on the pipeline without looking back. I thought of stopping to do the selfie trick, but what if the guy was right behind me and that gave him the opportunity to catch up? I thought of the times I was taught by ex-boyfriends on the proper way to punch a guy and wondered if I could really do it hard enough to break the guy’s nose or cheek or jaw because that might be the only way to get him to let go of me long enough to continue running away. I thought of how I really needed to run faster and get to the end of that damn pipeline because if he caught up to me, he could easily toss me over the side into the rapids where surviving could be difficult.
I finally got to the end and the path curves left allowing someone to easily turn their head to see behind them. There he was, not close enough to touch me but still too close to be considered safe.
And that scared the fucking hell out of me because that proved he wasn’t just someone out for a random walk and thought maybe I knew the best routes. He was actually truly following me. I have no idea why and I didn’t intend to find out.
The next bit of trail is filled with roots and rocks and, thanks to me knowing it well and being an experienced trail runner, I was able to zoom over it all whereas he got hung up. That was exactly what I had hoped for. I thought about calling someone, but again that would mean I’d need to either slow down or stop running. (Never did I think of calling 911, I wonder why?) I broke into the open and headed straight down the middle of Brown’s Island. I choose the middle for several reasons: I’m way out in the open so those around me can easily see what is happening; it will help further declare his intentions because if he follows me that way, he means harm; there was a guy throwing a football to his dog at the other end.
I ran straight for that guy and his dog without stopping. I do remember briefly looking back to see if the guy was still there, hoping he got stuck on the roots or something, but there he was walking onto the island. I kept running toward that guy and his dog. When I got to them, I had the opportunity to play with the dog and act like I was supposed to meet up with them which afforded me another chance to check on the whereabouts of the creeper and there he was, running straight down the middle in my direction. I threw the ball for the dog, pet him and told him he was a good dog and then ran to my car which was only a half mile away at this point. On the way, I stepped in a crack on the road and turned my left ankle, shouted, “Fuck, are you kidding me?!” to no one in particular and kept going.
Once I got to my car I grabbed my keys and that key ring. I looked back and that creeper was no where to be seen. I got into my car and drove past the island and didn’t see the guy anywhere, it’s like he was never really there.
This wasn’t my first time experiencing a creeper and being scared for my life. It never gets easier to deal with either.
Guys. Men. This is why women cannot and do not trust you until you prove you can be trusted. Based on looks and first impressions, how do we know who the good guys are? Even after a few dates a guy could prove to be a rapist. You never know.
Men. Guys. It’s our lives at stake. The very presence of breath can disappear in a whisper.
I will not let this incident deter me from future solo trail runs, but it will take me a while to feel safe out there again. I think I’ll start carrying that keychain and maybe find that fog horn.
Also, I will use this and all my other experiences to allow me to sympathize and stand strong with my black, brown, yellow, orange, green, gay brothers and sisters because this might be like what racism and bigotry feels to them. And it sucks for anyone to have to be afraid for their lives just because of one minor detail, right?