Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Time for a Drastic Change?

Oh dear!!! Another woman was sexually attacked near my house Friday morning, the same day I went out for a long run. That makes 3 within about a mile of my house the past year or so, always early in the mornings when it was still dark out (5-6am). And the same guy may be involved in 3 other similar attacks in the general area, making it a total of 6. No mention of a weapon used this time but other times, yes.

On Friday, I ran right past where the latest incident occured about 2 hours later, when it was plenty light out. In fact, I often have to run past that spot and the very same wall where one of the previous attacks had occured. Both are on my way to/from the local bike path. I've been told by someone who used to work for Orlando PD that this guy is probably relying on the cover of darkness to commit his crimes but likely lives nearby and knows the area well. He may become bolder if he sees an opportunity to get away with it.

Is it time to make a drastic change in my running? Maybe running alone, even when it's light out, is just plain dumb given what's going on?

Besides running on super high alert all the frickin' time, other options I can think of include running on a treadmill, running some place else hopefully safer (say, along busy roads where there's much more traffic and people around; no more quiet neighborhoods or bike paths), or running with other people. I've done all three in the past and can say for sure that the first two are much easier for me than changing my schedule and going to meet people for a run (esp. since my husband is often only home on weekends so I try to do things with him rather than run). However, none of these other options are ideal. I like to run outdoors, alone and where it's quiet.

What would you do? Or, if you're a guy, what would you recommend a woman do?


Susan said...

GOSH Shirley -- I am shaking in my Brooks now!

Chasen and I have had this exact same discussion recently, since I informed him that I intended to run the Worldwide Half Marathon essentially along the same path where I saw the drunk drop his/her pants on Sunday!

That opened the flood gates for all kinds of concern. In his male opinion, running in those "runner appropriate" areas leaves room for all kinds of sickos to be lurking - waiting. On the other hand, the "safe" from weirdos area, i.e. interstate access roads, are filled with speeding cars. Country roads are filled with speeding cars and vicious dogs.

Aye aye aye!

So the debate continues...

But for you, though, I think you should avoid THAT PARTICULAR AREA at all cost. Safety first.

When he asked me "would you one day let our child run where you do?" that really hit home. The answer is NO. But, no place is 100% -- except the boring treadmill.

nylisa said...

I agree with Susan. Safety first! I would probably change my routine a bit, so it wouldn't be very predictable. I think that's one thing that opens doors of opportunity for people like that. Stay safe!

Petraruns said...

Oh Shirley - that's awful! But there's little point belaboring how unfair this is (which it is - why should we have to take this creep into account?) but as you say - practical steps.. So yes - avoid that and run along high traffic routes IF you are running alone. And maybe some treadmill running - and yes I know how boring that is compared to running outside in the open air and relative quiet. But you can't take risks with your safety. At least until you figure out more of a strategy than I can offer .. Last - running with a dog? Is there someone's well-trained dog you can borrow? My Jack Russell (small dog) is a great runner but perhaps something bigger and slightly more off-putting?

MarathonChris said...

Wow, my husband mentioned that news regarding the attacks, and given that I live within about 5 miles of that area, he is concerned as well.

As you said, all the attacks are during those early morning, dark hours. I would recommend running when it is light and maybe change your route (avoid that area). Run through the UCF campus and Research Park (some traffic but mid day there are folks around). The Seminole Wekiva trail seemed well used when Maddy and I ran - I am not sure what it is like on a week day. You might try running through Winter Park as well - there are some nice, quiet areas there.

If we plan it enough in advance, I might be able to join you on a mid week run. I could just plan to take the morning off. My schedule has some flexibility in it.

lizzie lee said...

Dear Shirley, so sad to hear your story. I am going to give you my input. I have been robbed 3 times in my life, 2 of them with my kids when they were babies on my arms. I've learned to act always with extreme precaution. One friend of mine says that I am a paranoid. I could careless what she thinks.

This is what I do, or don't.

1) I do not run in the dark, period.
2) I do not run in isolated areas, even when there is light out.
3) I only run where there are either other runners, or as you say, busy roads, where there is traffic and people around. If I see a little portion of a selected route that is isolated, I change it.

And yes, I believe is time for you to make a drastic change. Safety and Security, your integrity and more than anything your life is more important than anything.

We will always be vulnerable, but we reduce the risks.

Keep Running!!!

ShirleyPerly said...

Thank you, everyone, for your input. Indeed, this is one of those battles that I would rather not fight, even though I have trained in the martial arts. I was taught that the best self defense is awareness and avoidance.

I like the dog idea a lot but most of my neighbors think I'll kill their dog if I take if for a run :-) and, unfortunately, we can't have one since we travel too much. For now, I'll run along more major routes or a treadmill. I'll also try to run with others during the week when I can.

Hopefully they'll catch this guy soon!!

Wendy said...

I'm late weighing in, but add me to the list of folks who would rather have you safe and sound!

Ideally the offender will be caught soon!

CewTwo said...

Ideally, change your habits or your route. Find out where the local early morning businesses are (starbucks/donut shops, etc.), find out where police and fire stations are. Design a route in a busy people area. Join a local running club that has runs in your time frame. Wear a super loud whistle on a lanyard around your neck. Practice your loud voice. Make it as strong as possible. Make sure to yell, "Back off!" using that loud voice!

Run with a cell phone that has an emergency number programmed so it can be called quickly.

During the day, check for areas that provide for a good running path with little cover for those with nefarious ideas.

Safety and security have to come first!

Contact the neighborhood police and get suggestions from them. Community relations departments can be very helpful. They will have suggestions or other ideas on how to protect yourself. Sometimes a patrol car can be scheduled to check your area while you are out at anytime of day.

I have made movies where I've mounted the video cam on the jeep. I play the movie on the big screen TV while running on the treadmill.

It has to be difficult to live in a beautiful place and yet be afraid. Take care and take care of yourself!

Maddy said...

Wow! That is really scary! I get creeped out running in the dark by myself- one of the reasons I love my treadmill!

I would suggest always carrying pepper spray.

Never run the same route at the same time multiple days in a row.

Run with a buddy.

Be aware!

ShirleyPerly said...

Thanks, Maddy & CewTwo! Yes, pepper spray is my constant running companion and the treadmill has gotten a fair amount of use during summers and will likely continue even as the weather improves. I will look to get a loud personal alarm to carry with me (pushing a button is easier than blowing or yelling, esp if someone's got his arm wrapped around my throat) and I'll start choosing my routes much more carefully. Thanks again!!

Brent Buckner said...

Glad you're taking care. Sad that you have clear and present reason to.

lizzie lee said...

be very careful, very careful, 2 near-attacks, that's scary...

You probably know this tool from USA Track & Field, but you can find and/or design your own route, depending on where you go....

I use it all the time, and is really helpful. Times permit, I also recommend you to scout the route by car, so you can identify the spots to avoid.


take care