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5 Lessons One Runner Learned About Staying Aware

After a startling incident on an afternoon run, one runner is sharing 5 important lessons to make you a more aware runner.

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A much more serene moment later on my run.

Last week I had a nerve-wracking incident occur on my run that served as a reminder to always be aware and alert.

When I started my run at 2:30 p.m., the biggest worry on my mind was the decision to begin at the hottest moment of the day. I live in a city, so I always think about safety precautions. I don’t run too early or late. I always carry my phone and ID. I try to stick to pedestrian walkways where I know there will always be a lot of people. I didn’t think I had much to worry about on my afternoon run besides a wave of tiredness and a lack of motivation for the day.

I coasted down the hill from my apartment and made my way to the first major intersection. I had the right of way but still made sure to watch the intersection as I crossed the street. All of a sudden, an SUV made a sharp left turn, speeding up as the driver headed straight at me. I jumped out of the road to avoid the truck. Then, because a car flying at me wasn’t startling enough, the occupants threw a glass bottle full of liquid at me before laughing and speeding off.  All of this occurred off of a well trafficked roadway in the middle of the city.

Even though I was shocked and scared, I was able to make note of the license plate, as well as the make and color of the car. My next two actions seemed like silly gut reactions at the time but ultimately made a huge difference in my day.

My first action: I took to Twitter to share what had happened. Immediately two runners asked if I was going to report the incident. I wavered, asking if they felt it warranted action. With a resounding “YES,” I made my way to find a police officer.

Once I had made up my mind to report the vehicle, I called my husband to tell him what had happened (and to maybe shed a few tears). When I mentioned that I was going to quit my run for the day, his response was “NO!” He told me no one has the right to make me feel too scared to run. If I quit today, it would only be harder tomorrow. We find so many reasons not to run, and fear shouldn’t have to be among them.

This scary and frustrating incident did teach me a few lessons.

1. Don’t be afraid to report any incident where you feel threatened on a run. At first, I felt it would be silly contact the police. Other runners assured me that I was right to report it. And I feel better that I did. Not only were the police completely understanding, I would feel terrible knowing I didn’t try to prevent another runner from getting hurt.
2. Know where a police station is. I realized that even though I had lived in the city for a while, I did not know where to find a police station. This was something I should have looked up immediately upon moving to a city.
3. Take whatever steps you need to feel safe while running. I’ve been made fun of for running with my phone (hey, I’m not taking mid-run selfies!), but I’m glad I carry it with me. My phone case holds my ID, transportation card, and credit card. Even if not always necessary, I feel safer having it on my run. Don’t ever feel silly for having your phone, Road ID, license, or any other identifying information on you.
4. Always stay aware. I never thought I would have to be on guard in the middle of the afternoon, but as runners, we should always be alert and aware of our surroundings, no matter what time we run.
5. Don’t be intimidatedkeep running. If runners are taking all necessary precautions, we have a right to feel safe and finish our run. It can be so easy to succumb to fear. I almost did. Despite my anxiety, I finished my run that day. And because it had been a tough day, I ended at the local ice cream shop, because I felt like I earned an ice cream sandwich.