It’s official. While running barefoot tonight, a guy wrecked his car while craning his neck to stare. Now, as runners, we’ve all had our share of honks, cat calls, whistles, and the occasional, “Run Forrest, run!” However, I admit that since I’ve been venturing out more in my bare feet, people REALLY STARE. Sometimes, I entertain myself by watching people drive by in cars and coming up with their thought bubbles. Here are a few of my favorites:
“What the…” I can usually see people mouth this at stoplights.
“Is she? No. Wait, yes she is!”
“That b**** is cray cray!”
“She’s gonna catch the Herp.” I often insert other random diseases here.
“What if there’s glass?” Insert other objects here too.
And my favorite, “That girl is a huge badass!” I’m not sure anyone has actually ever said that, but we can dream. Either way, it’s all in good fun, watching the folks drive by and wondering what they’re thinking. That is, until tonight.
I went out for a run tonight around 8:00, uncertain of how far I was going to go. I decided to go barefoot, but brought my VFF’s just in case my tootsies got sore. It was a beautiful evening, but pretty chilly at about 45 degrees. I always run on well-lit, main roads if going out after dark and light myself up with neon reflectors and as many blinking lights I can fit on my body.
I arrived at a smaller intersection just as a car was getting ready to turn left onto the street that I was about to cross. I pushed the walk signal and waited for him to make his turn. This is when I noticed that he was proceeding slowly, leaned over his seat so he could see me as he turned. Then, it all happened very fast as I realized that he was swinging way too wide, and I jumped back from the street so he didn’t sideswipe me with the right side of his old blue Suzuki. I stood there with my jaw hanging open as he rammed into the curb, sending sparks flying and some unknown piece of purply blue plastic flew through the air. Shortly after, his car popped up onto the curb, putting the tiny thing at a terribly awkward angle. The Suzuki came to a brief stop, then the engine revved and it lurched back onto the street and tried to speed off. I stood there stunned for a moment, then realized the walk signal was on and I continued on, shaking my head.
I was still thinking about how weird that was a few minutes later, but was beginning to shake it off and I even began to enjoy myself a little bit. That’s when I noticed a car slowing down next to me on the busy road that I was running on, which was very odd. I looked, and it was the same blue Suzuki, looking notably more beat up than the first time I saw it. He rolled down the window and yelled something at me. Luckily, I have no idea what he said because there was noise from other cars, but I’m sure it was nothing good. Yikes! He must have circled back around and found me again. Afterall, I was still on the same main road. I had a sinking feeling, but I was happy that I was in a well-lit area and there were plenty of other cars around.
A few minutes down the road, I came upon an auto body shop that has a sizeable parking lot. It’s usually empty this time of night except for the fleet of trucks for the shop. But there it was, the blue Suzuki. Fortunately, I was really on my toes tonight (literally and figuratively hehe) because I saw what was about to happen and I was able to respond quickly. He sat idling in the parking lot, obviously waiting for me to approach the driveway. He peeled out into the driveway, effectively blocking my path to cross and began to roll down his window. Fear pricked my spine, shooting out signals to my skin, standing my hair on end. Adrenaline coursed through my body, and my eyes shot open wider in preparation for the events that were about to unfold. I jumped back away from the car and back-peddled to increase the distance between us. I quickly sized him up: white guy, glasses, heavy, facial hair. Judging by the way that he was spilling out of his tiny car, I decided I could definitely out-run him. No problem. Judging by the way his car looked after wrecking into the curb, I decided I might be able to out-run that hunk a junk too.
“You want to speak to me??” He barked out of his window, menacingly. He had an accent that I couldn’t place, and I began to wonder what on earth he wanted. Was he mad because it was somehow “my fault” that he wrecked his car? Was he hitting on me? Did he just feel like harassing a random person tonight?
“No!” I yelled back emphatically, trying to gather all the confidence in my body.
A stare down ensued for what felt like an hour, and I was still ready to bolt at the slightest move. “Good!” he finally snapped back and then squealed off in his car. What just happened? I was so freaked out that I forgot to get his plate number. I’m usually so good about that stuff! I hauled off towards another main road that I knew was less than 1/4 mile away. Meanwhile, I watched every car go by, watching for him to come back. I turned off down the other main road and made a giant loop to get home, hoping he wouldn’t know which way I turned.
Success, I never saw him again. I have no idea what he wanted or why he was after me. Come to think of it, I have no idea why he was staring so much that he wrecked his car in the first place. As runners, (or walkers or cyclists, etc.) we always have to watch out for motorists, but we should not have to be subjected to harassment. I haven’t experienced anything like what happened tonight in a long time, but I’ve certainly been harassed before.
While running barefoot certainly gets more attention than usual, running as a female has always been interesting. I’m convinced that anyone running with a ponytail or running tights is more at risk for these types of dangerous encounters. I can remember back in middle/high school calling the police on a stalker that would harass me nearly every time I went out for a run. How did he always know when I was out there?? He was banned from the neighborhood, but then he got a new car and started doing the same thing until I called the police again.
So the moral of the story is, please be safe when out running. Watch for motorists doing strange things, wear reflectors at night, run in daylight if possible and run in well-lit areas at night. If listening to music, keep one headphone out and keep the music on low so you can hear cars and people approaching. Mike got me some pepper spray to carry, I really wish I’d thought to carry that tonight. Please be aware and run happy! Most importantly, don’t let weirdos discourage you from getting out there and doing your thing, because we will prevail!