In our last post, we told you we were going to feature stories from some of the women who have had terrifying experiences within our own community. While this may be one of the longer posts that is published, we ask you to be an advocate and ally by taking the time to hear these women by reading their compelling stories.
“I think the most frustrating thing about being a woman – in general – is constantly having to adapt. We can never just “be”. In order to be a female runner, you ‘need’ extra equipment specifically designed for your safety – not just to be seen in darkness, but to protect and or defend yourself when and if that time comes. Most men walk out of their house and just go without a second thought to rape whistles, loud sound machines, pepper spray, light up vests, sharp jabbing stocks or even guns. As a new runner – I had only started my journey in December of 2019 – because what better time of year to start running than Winter in South Dakota. I had signed up for a series of increasingly longer races in the hopes of completing 3 half marathons in 2020. That was the goal and I was slowly but surely, cold mile after mile preparing for it. I had my shoes and various layers of clothing (some for running, some were just convenient). I hadn’t bothered with anything more advanced than that – because I wasn’t there yet.
It was colder than I suspected that morning. I added an extra layer not knowing if I might shed it later. Monday, March 30th at 4:50am I left my house for a 5-6 mile run. I hadn’t decided how far I was going because I wanted to get back in time for a Zoom gym class at 6am. The world had stopped because of COVID-19. I had a lot of pent-up stress from work, clients and one piece of bad news after another. Life was weird and I was escaping. I put my headphones in and turned it to a newly found podcast, it was perfect for laughing and mindless entertainment. As I rounded the corner at about 1.5 miles into my run, I saw someone ahead of me, made sure he knew I was passing on his right and never thought about it again. I round the next corner, and the next, I am going in a giant square today – it’s a route I’m familiar with, but I’m running it backwards – which I’ve never done before, it feels so good. I feel great, I hit the four mile mark and feel AMAZING my feet are light, my breathing is steady and I honestly consider going for four more miles and skipping my gym class this morning.
I see a hand come across my vision and cover my mouth – I immediately started screaming, kicking and trying to squirm and move and get away. I don’t know if he picked me up for just in the shuffle he shoved me in the direction of some trees nearby. We were on a main street, in a neighborhood, someone had to hear me – there were so many runners out this time of day – I screamed, no words, just screaming to keep sound coming out. I fought and he began hitting me in the head – I don’t know if it was just his hand, if he had a rock or another instrument – I had stars coming in and out of my vision, all I could see were tree branches. I could feel him on top of me, just trying to get me to be quiet. Eventually he flipped me over and shoved my face into the dirt, he reached for my leggings, and then he got up and ran away. It was at this moment, I had lost control of my bowels and bladder. A phrase I would repeat many times over the next several weeks was, “In the words of Bob Ross, “Happy Accidents”.” I got up, crying, shaking, covered in pine needles, dirt, grass and mud, watched him run away as my head swam. I ran towards two people I saw across the street. I ran up to them, I’m sure incoherent in anything I was saying. They assisted me in calling the cops and my husband. I was less than a mile from home, so my husband arrived quickly – and shortly thereafter the cops arrived.
Cops, detectives, mug shot line-ups, photo evidence, ER visit, texts, calls, the rest of the day is a blur of questions, answers, more probing questions, walking them through my morning, trying to both re-live and forget everything that had happened. I really just wanted it to go away. Compared to others – it wasn’t even that bad. I hadn’t been raped. I should feel lucky – that’s what you tell yourself. But every person walking down the road, slightly out of place at 5:15 am – is a suspect, every person that has a similar build might be him. You know what the intention was, you know it could have been much worse – expect for “Happy Accidents”.
I was very open about my experience on social media – because I’m your neighbor, I’m your friend, your colleague, a client – you know me. I’m not some nameless, faceless person on the news. I wanted people to know that this happened to someone they knew because they might take more precautions because of my experience.
I let my body heal – some, and that following Sunday, I went out with a small group of women and we did the Chilly Cheeks 10 mile run in our neighborhood. One of the women was there that morning and I was equally thankful and terrified that I would be judged – for what? I don’t even know now. I ran two more times in the month of April before I ran the Skedaddle half marathon – it was an ugly run with less than 18 miles of training in. I wasn’t in a great place mentally or physically to do it. But I finished – it was truly an accomplishment that I’m proud of, just not the way I wanted to do it.
12 weeks of trauma therapy, 24+ visits to a chiropractor and I’m still trying to work out what happened that morning. How did I miss it? How did I miss him coming up on me? How did I miss him following me for over 2 miles? Why me? I’m not a typical runner, I’m not small, I’m tall-ish with a few extra pounds to lose and relative strong build, so why me? He has not been caught. He has never been caught. Yet, they have his DNA – because it was all over my clothing. They’re just waiting for him to mess up. I have running partners for now, winter might prove to be a solo endeavor. I’ve only gone running on my own twice at this point. Once while on vacation where I felt like I needed to – and if I told you I cried that whole first mile, that would be an understatement. I sobbed, letting go of pent up EVERYTHING. The next time was back here, in the afternoon, just a quick 3 mile run – no tears, but plenty of anxiety to go around. My next “milestone” (for lack of a better term) is going to be finishing my run from that morning. I have only gone past that area twice – with other people driving. We. My husband and I, avoid the area completely. I’m not sure what is going to happen on that run, but I am looking forward to it – with a partner. I would love to live in a world where I could just go outside and run, like I was doing, before someone ruined it for me. Unfortunately, I’ll likely never live in that paradise world, but it’s good to dream.
I’m still lacing up and about to start increasing mileage and continue trying to be better than I was yesterday. I think the moral of the story if there is one, if you really want to fight like a girl, you need to get back up after the man knocks you down, like we’ve been doing, like we’ll keep doing until we don’t have to anymore.
So here I am, fighting every day – anxiety year, the want to just quit and find a new escape. But I don’t want anyone narrating my story for me. No one gets that satisfaction except for me. So I’ll get up tomorrow morning, go for a run, it might be alone, it might be with a running partner. I decide.”
“It was supposed to be a quiet, cool morning run with a little drizzle, but it turned out to be the most horrific, terrifying run that I had ever experienced. It happened between 69th & Cliff Ave to Minnesota Ave before 6am. It was a red Dodge Durango with Washington State license plate, but I couldn’t see the numbers.
They drove over the median and tried to block from the street to my side of the sidewalk. They turned around and towards me. After the incident, the police officer told me that I should have called 911 but at that time I was so scared and ran as fast as I could. I hid between cars and trees so I couldn’t make the calls.
To all runners, walkers and bicycle riders, please make sure you have a phone with you, or keep your mace with you. You never know what's coming up. Thank you to my friends who gave me strength with cheers today. Thank God for giving me strength…
I love running. Running is my passion along with meditation and sharing/helping others. My running journey has continued to keep moving forward with smiles.”