You know that moment when the hair stands up on the back of your neck and you just know something is wrong with the situation you’re in? It happened to me on a recent long run. I had no reason to believe I was running at an unsafe hour or location. But I had a simple flash of fear, a recognition of the possibility of being in danger. The moment passed and I ran on in safety, but I’ve taken the incident to heart as a sobering reminder that personal safety needs to be the top priority on every run.
The Signs of Danger, as I Observed Them
1. The van cruised the street near me at 10 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone.
2. The nondescript white van had no business markings on it, meaning that the driver had no “business” in the area.
3. The van had no side windows, except for the driver’s window.
4. The driver’s window was rolled down in spite of the fact that the outside temperature was in the 40s.
5. The driver was wearing a black hoodie with the hood up.
6. The van paused too long at the stop sign as I ran by on the other side of the street.
7. The van slowly continued down the street next to me.
8. The van lingered at the next intersection as if the driver was waiting to see which way I would go (I was planning on going straight and made no indication that I wanted to cross the street. There was no stop sign at that intersection. There was no reason for the driver to slow).
In that instant, my Spidey-sense was on high alert. I looked at the driver so that he knew that I saw him, I picked up my pace, and I made a sudden turn to the left, preparing myself to run to the nearest home and ring the doorbell if the man in the van followed me. At that point, the man appeared to make a decision and he turned away in the other direction.
I don’t care whether anyone thinks I was being overly dramatic or paranoid. My only concern is for my personal safety. That man was not looking for a street address. That man was not looking for a lost dog. That man was looking for trouble.
I was prepared to scream at him to go away. I was prepared to pound on doors and ring doorbells. I was prepared to call 9-1-1 on my cell phone. If I hadn’t been concerned for my immediate safety, I would have stopped and used to my phone to take a picture of the man and the vehicle. I would have had no qualms about calling the local police and asking them to drive by in search of the van. Instead though, I ensured my safety, and the whole “incident” was over in seconds.
It’s a sad reminder to us all. Keep your wits about you. Look alert. Trust your instincts. Be prepared to take evasive action. Don’t be afraid to do what it takes to stay safe.
The good news is that I finished my run safely on a busy street and a public track. And in spite of that unsettling incident, I put in 11.5 glorious miles at a 9:43 pace and it was the best run I’ve had in two months.