Running safety/ a personal close call story

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. 😢

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for that guy who decided to open his garage at the exact moment that I really needed another human around….

8 thoughts on “Running safety/ a personal close call story”

  1. Ugh, this story shook me, too. It made me think of all the times I ran alone in the dark. I did this a lot when marathon training. I remember mentioning where I was running to one of my running coaches and he told me I absolutely had to stop running in that area because it was too far off the beaten path and unsafe. So I stopped after that. Now I would only run in the early morning hours or evening hours with my neighbor. It’s just not worth the risk and you just never know what might happen. But your story gave me chills/goosebumps. So glad that guardian angel came along!

    On a separately issue, a coworker of mine was hit in a cross-walk by a drunk driver in August in Charlotte. It was dusk so another time that probably isn’t optimal for running. She is lucky to be alive. I don’t know her very well, but my colleague does and he showed me pictures she sent from the hospital. Oof it was bad. She got thrown quite far by this car.


  2. Elizas story has been on my mind, too. I followed the news over the weekend and I was so hoping that she would be found alive. I still don’t know what really happened… was the guy kidnapping her for ransom? Did he assault her in any other way? Did she fight back and that’s why he killed her? It’s all so senseless.

    Those stories are the reason why I don’t run in the dark (morning or night) and when I do run in the morning (when it starts to get light out), I carry pepper spray and a personal alarm. I also use Livetrack on my Garmin. It’s sad that women have to always act with foresight when it comes to being out in the world.
    Our neighborhood is pretty safe but I’ve heard of chasings, assaults and break-ins, so I am always hyper-aware of my surroundings, esp. in the morning.

    Your incident is truly terrifying. I am so glad there was a guardian angel. Even if the guy didn’t mean any harm, he probably also didn’t realize how much he scared you (there needs to be more talk about this and men need to be aware on how they can make women feel safe in their presence.)

    I never had a close call like yours, but I’ve been catcalled and whistled and starred at when I was out for a run and it’s very uncomfortable.


  3. I really don’t worry about my physical safety in our small town. I actually think the true crime obsession (of which I am most definitely a part) has made all of us concerned that we’re going to be victims, even though it’s safer now than it ever has been. I can see why you would have been spooked by that car, but I’m guessing it was just someone trying to find an address in the dark or something innocuous like that.
    I don’t know. I’m much more worried about a biological/nuclear/political attack than a personal attack when I’m running. When I lived in a city, though, things were far different and even walking home from the bus stop was sometimes an effort in self-preservation. It all depends on when and where you are, I guess.


  4. you can imagine how I took the news when I saw it. heart breaking. Unfortunately it happens more often than not in remote areas. When I was running in the US, i was in a running path that often there were other runners, so I didn’t feel unsafe at the time but I also never went out at 5am. Here in Manila, I do go out as early at 5am before sunrise on our running path. Fortunately there are always runners there and a patrol live there so i felt safe. But I wouldn’t risk my life and sanity to run… safety always come first.
    Sometimes it’s a judgement call we need to make that day, hopefully we learn to be more cautious when in doubt.


  5. Very sorry to know about Eliza. Heartbreaking 😟

    I am so grateful for the guardian angel who appeared out of nowhere during your close call. I am also happy you decided to take it seriously and change your workout plans. Safety first indeed.


  6. I had situation once where I was followed by someone, clearly intoxicated, when I was walking home after dark (but it wasn’t “late”). He kept getting closer and closer and when I adjusted my route, he would adjust his too. Eventually there was no doubt in my mind he was following me.

    I was SO scared and made the decision to walk very confidently down a short driveway and then crouched behind a vehicle. HE FOLLOWED ME and miraculously, at that moment, the homeowner happened to notice movement in the driveway and turned on the outside light. She saw me crouching behind the vehicle with a man standing a few feet away. She was very perplexed, but opened up the door and let me in so I could explain what was happening.

    I honestly don’t remember the rest of the details of how I got home, when he ended up leaving the driveway, or even my conversation with the homeowner. But it was absolutely terrifying. The biggest irony in it all was the fact I had been on a phone call with my parents earlier that evening – I was in my final year of university, but it was the summer so there weren’t many students around on campus – and my Dad said: “Make sure you get home before it’s dark out.” And that very night I didn’t heed his advice and this happened!

    Since getting married, my husband is SO cautious about me being out alone in the dark so I’ve really adjusted any exercise routines to fit within daylight hours. I thought about it a lot less when I was single/didn’t have kids. Now I’m VERY conscious if I’m out alone after dark. And this is in a small/safe town!

    I’m so glad you were okay and agree – it’s always safest to be home before dark!


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