I cannot get Eliza Fletcher off my mind.
It’s just absolutely horrific. I can’t stand to even read or hear about it anymore.
Fear for my safety while running is actually one reason that I stopped running, years ago. Given that back then I had to be to work at 7 am, and didn’t get home until 8:30 p.m., there were days I’ll admit that I went out running alone at 4:30-5 am or at 9 pm, in the dark. When training for a race, it became nearly impossible to always schedule my runs on my days off of work.
But I had an experience/ close call (?) one morning that completely spooked me.
It was maybe 5 am, pre-dawn, still mostly dark. I was running in my neighborhood, just a few blocks from home, no one out and about at the time. All of a sudden, a car drove past me. I didn’t think too much- I mean, it’s a neighborhood. Then I turned the corner, and I saw the car up ahead, doing a U turn and driving back toward me. My stomach lurched, but I tried to not overreact. The car approached me again, driving slowly past me (I couldn’t get a look at the driver), and then as soon as it passed me, did ANOTHER U-turn and started to approach me again. My hands are shaking just thinking about this, because it was terrifying- I had no idea what I was going to do if this car stopped. In a split second, I was trying to evaluate if I should break off and start running into someone’s backyard, or what….
At that moment, as the car pulled up beside me, my guardian angel appeared. (I am not exaggerating- I think about this often, and I am convinced that this guy was my guardian angel!) On this dead quiet street, all of a sudden the garage opened at the house right across the street, and a man dressed in construction garb walked outside, flipping his house lights on and unlocking his car. In that instant, the car quickly drove off and never came back.
To this day, I have no real idea what, if anything, was about to happen. I tried to convince myself that maybe it was an Uber/ taxi driver trying to find a house for an early pickup, hence the back and forth. (not…. likely?) Then I thought maybe it was just someone either “checking me out” or messing with me, trying to scare me. (at 5 am? If so, IT WORKED.) Or, it could have been… so much worse.
Thank God, I’ll never know. But since that day, I have NEVER gone running or walking alone in the early morning hour dark again. My heart was beating so fast I thought I was going to have a stroke. I sprinted home, looking in every direction like a wild animal to make sure “that car” was nowhere to be found. (It wasn’t.)
After that, I found that our local gym had a running club that met early some days. I ended up meeting a couple girls and paired up to run with the group some days instead if I needed to do an early run. But with my crazy schedule, it was just not always convenient… I eventually got tired of trying to fit (safer/ daylight) runs in around my hospital schedule and shifted more into gym workouts/ strength training!
I also had concerns when marathon training, because I sometimes liked to utilize city bike paths on my routes. Well, that always had me on edge, too, being alone in remote areas on a trail like that. You just hear too many stories, and it’s sad. I think often of another female runner who was murdered in 2012 in rural Montana, around the time I was into training and running, before my own incident occurred.
It disgusts me that people cannot go out running whenever and wherever they want to.
I know I’ve connected with a lot of runners via this blog…. please BE CAREFUL OUT THERE. And Eliza, my heart breaks for you and your family. 😢
I am grateful for that guy who decided to open his garage at the exact moment that I really needed another human around….