Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why You Might Want to Carry Pepper Spray on Your Next Run + This Week's Training Plan

I'm going to start this post with a little cautionary tale:

Last week, I ran a sweet little six miler after work. It was dark outside but I wore reflective gear and my new headlamp. It was just me, the lakefront and the waves crashing up against the shore during these miles and it was so peaceful. After my run, I walked for a bit across the street from my apartment building and stopped to stretch by a park bench under a street light.

This turned out to be a big mistake. One moment I was stretching my quads and the next, I looked up and there was a man directly in front of me. I instantly felt uncomfortable so turned around and started walking away. He yelled at me to come back and that he had to ask me a question. Umm, no thanks. I kept walking. He yelled at me again and said the same thing. 

At this point, I was creeped out and began jogging away. He then started chasing me. I ran out into the street but couldn't cross because of all the cars coming and he caught up with me, got right in my face and kept trying to engage. Finally, the cars stopped for a moment and I was able to run away. Since I didn't want him to see where I live, I ran around the block before running up the steps to my apartment and deadbolting the door. 

I spent the rest of the evening wondering if maybe I overreacted. But when I shared the incident with a few friends, each reminded me that a normal person wouldn't have chased another person and would have backed off when it was clear the other person wasn't interested in talking. 

Fortunately, the incident happened in a pretty populated area and I felt I would have been able to call for help if the situation had escalated. But what if this had happened in a less populated area? For the most part, I am a cautious runner. I stick to lit paths. I wear reflective gear. I never run with music. But, I don't run with any type of protection, such as pepper spray. I think the time has come to buy a bottle and I urge all of you to consider carrying some type of protection during your runs. Even close to home, you just never know what might happen and it's better to be safe than sorry. 

 Creepers beware!

So, that's that. The incident has been on my mind this week as I run my miles but hasn't kept me from running on my favorite paths. Here's this week's training plan:

Monday: 4 miles @easy pace (AM); 6 miles @easy pace + 60 minutes strength training (PM)
Tuesday: 8 miles speedwork, including 4x800m and 8x400m; 30 minutes strength training
Wednesday: 6 miles @easy pace + 60 minutes strength training
Thursday: 4 miles @easy pace
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 10 miles @easy pace
Sunday: Rest Day/Cross Training

Total: 38 miles + 2.5 hours strength training

This sums it up!

Depending on how things feel later this week, I might make Thursday a cross training day instead. Jumping from last week's 29 miles to 38 miles this week seems a tad ambitious and perhaps a recipe for an injury of the too much, too soon variety. I'll take it a day at a time. 

My questions for you:

  1. Have you ever been in a situation while running (or exercising outside) that made you feel uncomfortable/unsafe? What happened and what did you do to get out of the situation?
  2. Do you carry protection when you run or exercise outside? If so, what do you use?
  3. For the non-runners (and runners!), what was the best moment of your weekend?

My favorite was strolling around Cedarburg with a hot autumn chai tea from Fiddleheads!

- ST


  1. Oh my gosh!! I have never had an encounter like that (running anyway) but this is definitely a cautionary tale. I don't think you overreacted at all - that is not normal behavior. Glad you are safe though!!!!

    1. Thanks - I hope other runners don't experience this type of situation. Not fun! Stay safe :)

  2. Gah! Sounds like we both had eventful runs last week. Glad you were safe!

    1. Thanks Danielle! I saw your post about the distracted/rude driver. How terrible. It's a reminder that no matter how many precautions we take, we can't control the other people around us.

  3. back when i was in my mid-20's and lived in riverwest i had something happen to me that sucked. it was about 7am and i was walking down holton towards brady/water because i liked to walk to MATC as i was going to school there. i enjoyed the walk so i rarely took the bus. the street was full of people and cars so i guess i wasn't very cautious because really... what can happen at 7am on a super busy street? bad idea. there was a guy walking towards me and we did the obligatory nod and smile and as he was passing me he goosed me. yes... you read that right he grabbed my left breast. i was stunned at first and wasn't sure it had happened. then i turned around and started screaming at him and i called him several awful names as i attempted to hold the tears back. i followed him for 2 blocks freaking out and then i turned around and started back the way i came and burst into tears. i felt so violated and dirty. needless to say it ruined my day. i am hyper aware of my surroundings and have been ever since but i also give off the "i hate you don't talk to me" vibe when i'm alone. now that i live out in the sticks tho'... i'm not as cautious because in my neighborhood everyone knows everyone else and it would be odd for a stranger to just be lurking about out by me. its a pretty small community and i'm fortunate that i don't have to worry about that stuff on the regular.

    1. OMG - that is terrible!! I'm so sorry that happened to you. I agree, it's not a time or place you'd expect something like that to happen - which makes it even worse in my opinion. I'm glad you are running in a safe place these days :)

  4. Once or twice I've also had the weirdo encounter while running while someone across the street yelled "hey, I wanna talk to you" or cat-called or something obnoxious, but luckily I was far enough away to begin with that I could haul a$$ back home. Oftentimes I forget, but I do own pepper spray that'll carry when it's dark, although I'm afraid that I'll forget how to use it if I'm in a panic.
    #3 - the best moment of my weekend was running the sunny Madison Marathon!

    1. That's totally one of my fears too - that I might have pepper spray on me but for whatever reason not be able to get it out fast enough or remember how to use it!

      Congrats on another marathon! I'm hopping over to your blog next to read your recap :)

  5. Sun, don't worry about overreacting. I have read, and I do believe that in instances like this you should follow your gut instinct. If you feel that you are in a dangerous situation then you probably are!

    I have not had any encounters while running. I usually run in my neighborhood in the suburbs and only during the day. But I have done more trail running this year and I have worried about that since it is more secluded.

    My husband suggested pepper spray and I did buy some (actually it is exactly what you have pictured) but I have yet to even take it out of the packaging. I want to make sure I know how to use it so it doesn't become a weapon against myself (spraying into the wind, etc). I guess if it is obvious that you are carrying pepper spray then that is a deterrent in itself.

    The best part of my weekend was hiking in the woods with my family!

    1. Thanks Cathy! Be careful on those trails - I haven't run on any yet, but that is also a concern of mine. You are probably right that just having it be obvious that you are carrying pepper spray might be a deterrent.

      Hiking in the woods last weekend sounds lovely - what perfect weather for a little outdoor time with the family :)

  6. I picked up handheld pepper spray for when I run in the morning (it is completely dark for my full run). Also, just recently, I started running with my dog. He's a golden retriever, so not too ferocious but it's still something :) I am dreading the day when it's too cold (or too hot for that matter) to take him with me.

    I've never felt threatened by anyone, I live in the burbs, so there aren't very many people out at that time. I do see some cars act weird sometimes (like driving slow, etc.) that kind of creeps me out..

    1. Dogs are the best protection :)

      I know what you mean about weird cars - they creep me out, too! I just saw one last night pulled over on the side of a road by the lakefront. Made me uneasy.