What happened when two-time Olympian Kara Goucher faced a mountain lion mid-run—and what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.
Seems like the transition to trail running may not be going as smoothly as expected for Kara Goucher.
The two-time Olympian—who is training for the Leadville Trail Marathon in Colorado on June 15 (her debut in the race category!)—shared a terrifying recap of her off-road workout on Monday.
“Had a run-in with a mountain lion on my run this morning,” Goucher posted on Twitter. “I’m totally fine, we actually surprised each other, but I’ll probably never stop shaking or run alone again.”
Goucher continued: “We startled each other and it ran (pounded) away. But I needed to run past where we saw each other (literally could have reached out and touched it) and I was too scared. So I called Adam to come get me and I just was on high alert waiting for him to come!”
Twitter exploded with reactions to her update:
Some made playful jokes about these not-so-small wild cats.
Just a big kitty. pic.twitter.com/CBzWylzc0f
— hansonsrun (@hansonsrun) May 6, 2019
While others gave earnest reminders of the cat’s size and power. (Mountain lions can weigh up to 200 pounds and can reach up to 50 mph in a sprint!)
Their heads are enormous! Had a run into too several years ago.
— Blake Russell (@BlakeRun) May 6, 2019
Many shared their own fear of facing a similar run-in. [Editor’s Note: Kerri, Here’s a smaller can of bear spray for you!]
Aside from running into sketchy people, this is my biggest fear when running trails. Someone recommended a small can of bear spray but I've only seen the huge ones. If anyone knows where to get a smaller can, please share!
— kdelli (@KerriDellisanti) May 6, 2019
A few pointed out the genuinely-terrifying stalking abilities of mountain lions.
Freaky. A ranger told me a few years ago that for every mountain lion you see, a hundred have seen you. #chills
— ultrarunnerpodcast (@UltraRunnerPod) May 6, 2019
A friend of mine took a picture of a family member in RMNP and didn't think much of it. Later, while looking at the picture, they saw a mtn lion lurking in the shadows behind him!
— Lize Brittin (@Lizefb) May 6, 2019
And others made solid points about being aware and prepared anytime you head for the trails.
Boulder’s tough. Wildlife is ever present (more so than we realize). Not seen a lion (have they seen me?), but bears, deer (descending on a bike), and rattlers on the trails. If I get that sinking feeling on a trail run, I pick up a hand-sized rock and keep runnin’!
— Orion Coaching (@ORION_coaching) May 6, 2019
Mountain lions have already been making headlines in 2019. In February, a runner was forced to kill a mountain lion after being attacked on a trail near Fort Collins, Colorado.
According to experts, the potential for being killed or injured by a mountain lion is still incredibly low in the big scheme of things. “There is a far greater risk, for example, of being killed in an automobile accident with a deer than of being attacked by a mountain lion,” the National Park Service (NPS) states on its website.
But if the idea of coming within an arm’s length of a wild cat like Goucher has you wondering “What would I do?” here are some practical safety tips to keep in mind:
Do stay calm. If you spot a mountain lion, stay calm while backing away slowly. Immediately turning around and running away may stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. Then move away slowly.
Do not charge. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
Do stick with a group. Experts note that this is often the best advice for reducing your risk of an attack, as wild animals like mountain lions typically single out lone prey.
Do not crouch or bend over. Experts speculate that mountain lions don’t recognize standing humans as prey. On the other hand, a person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal. If you’re in mountain lion habitat, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.
Do appear intimidating. During the initial stages of a mountain lion encounter, the idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it. Attempt to appear larger by raising your arms and opening your jacket if you are wearing one. If looking bigger doesn’t scare it off, throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach in its direction (no need to unnecessarily injure the animal).
Do fight back! If mountain lion continues to move in your direction, start throwing things at it. (At the end of the day, remember: Your safety is more important than the mountain lion’s.) And since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.
Editor’s note: At Women’s Running, we are committed to helping readers feel safe and empowered on each and every run. This coverage is made possible by sponsorship from Sabre.