Sounds like an episode of Scooby Doo. But it happened to me this morning.
I don’t work out at night. I live in a “good area” of my city, but the city itself is not the safest I’ve ever lived in so I don’t go out alone at night. So even though I hate getting up early I like to get my workouts over with asap so 1. they are over with; 2. the more time that passes each day the less likely I am to workout at all; 3. I like the energy boost I get from starting my day with a workout; and 4. there are usually several other people walking along the track when I’m there.
So this morning I set out a bit earlier than normal. Walked around the neighborhood for about 30 minutes, then headed to the track. My usual routine. When I got to the track there were 2 runners a hundred yards or so ahead of me there was a guy maybe 20 feet behind me. I thought about letting him pass but he was walking pretty slowly so I just started running right away thinking I’d leave him in the dust. Actually hoping I’d leave him in the dust considering that during my last run I passed a guy walking a dog who left me in his dust later down the track, so I needed to vindicate myself.
The running was not half bad today, although I didn’t track anything with regard to time or pace this time. I figured with all the shinsplint issues and frustration, I’d just go back to basics and track only total time using the Nexercise app.
On the first run my legs felt like cement and my right knee was giving me grief. I thought, oh boy, maybe I won’t be running today, but then it started to feel better so I kept going. I ran pretty far for the first two runs then ran a 3rd time (uphill) to the rest area where I sometimes stop to stretch out my shins.
While I was stretching I noticed that the guy was still behind me and not all that far away. This surprised me somewhat as I had run three times by then but he had been walking so slowly when I first saw him a half mile back. I and thought to myself that maybe he was training too. But a quick assessment of his apparel told me otherwise. Knit hat, coat, jeans, and regular non-athletic shoes. Slouchy posture with hands in coat pockets. No, not out for a fitness walk.
Am I being followed? Yeah, yeah, I know I’m on a track and technically, if there is someone else on the track, I’m always being followed. But something didn’t feel right at all. Like in order to have been that close behind me, he must have increased his pace as well to still be that close behind. Not that I’m a fast runner, but I had run quite a distance by then.
I would have liked to stretch and walk some more, but felt creeped out and wanted to get into a more open, populated area. I ran a fourth time and made it almost to the end of the brick paver section. I was starting to feel some pain by this point so I slowed to a walk.
I wasn’t too concerned at this point because the uphill section I was now on is on a major road and the area is always highly populated during this time of day as the courthouse, police station, and some county offices are all clustered together right there and there are usually cops coming and going.
When I got just past the buildings, and into a more secluded part of the track, I was still in a fair amount of discomfort and hadn’t planned on running anymore. But I wanted to make sure I stayed pretty far ahead of the guy going into that area so I ran to the corner. At that point I stopped at a fence to stretch and kept my back to the road so I could keep an eye on the track. He was not only about 50 feet behind me again but he had stopped as well. I wanted to let him pass me but he wouldn’t move. For like a few minutes.
And now I’m really freaked out.
I got moving again. I thought OMG I am so tired and not a good runner at all. There’s no way I could outrun this guy if I had to. What would I do if he approached me? Ugh. I don’t even like to think of these things but I think it’s high time I did. In retrospect I kind of wish I had cut through the parking lot around him and backtracked to the courthouse. I actually considered calling the police to say that this weird-ish guy seemed to be following me and it didn’t seem quite right. Or, now that I think of it, just made a phone call to anyone and waited him out. But I talked myself out of it and just moved more quickly toward the next more open area.
Thankfully right when I got to that more open area, a walker from the opposite direction came around the bend, followed closely by the 2 runners I mentioned earlier so I felt better knowing there were 3 people within screaming distance. And only about 100 feet from the crosswalk where I usually leave the track and head home. As I waited for traffic to clear I looked back and he was gone. He could have still been in that foliage-dense area, he could have cut thru that area to the main road, who knows. But I no longer saw him and that both relieved me and freaked me out at the same time.
This happened hours ago and I swear my heart is still beating a little fast. Everything could have been totally normal, innocent, whatever and it was all in my head. But maybe not. It’s weird to think about. I was so freaked out that by the time I got home I completely forgot to ice my shins.
Have you ever had a creepy encounter whilst working out alone? What do you do to keep yourself as safe as possible? What would you have done in this scenario?