Thursday, January 16, 2014

Running Tragedies - Remembering Sherry and Meg. How Can You Stay Safe?

Last Tuesday, January 7, 2014, was the two year anniversary of the death of my cousin, Sherry. Sherry lived in Sidney, Montana and had gone out for an early morning run when she was killed by two men. I won’t get into their story because it’s pathetic and not deserving of attention here. What is deserving is honoring and remembering Sherry.

Photo: Two years ago today my cousin Sherry was murdered while running. May we never forget and may 2014 bring Sherry and her family the justice and peace they deserve. Love always to you, Sherry.<br /><br />And to all of my fellow runners, be safe out there.

Sherry’s story was heard around the world and truly resonated with people. As a teacher, mother, wife, runner, friend, and daughter, Sherry’s tragedy became personal for many people.  Many of us thought, “That could have been me.” Some of us changed our approach to running safety. Every mother out there shivered at the thought of leaving their children behind in such a horrific manner.

sherryhorse

Hundreds of thousands of people participated world wide in a beautiful Virtual Run for Sherry on February 11, 2012. I got emails from Thailand, Egypt, South Africa – every corner of the earth essentially. It was a day of brightness, hope and love.

And, then, sadly enough another running tragedy emerged this week. A story very different from Sherry’s yet with the same ultimate end result. Meg Menzies, a 34 year old mother of three children. was out for a morning run on January 13 in Richmond, Virginia, when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Meg, an avid runner, was training for the Boston Marathon in April. Again, I feel this could have been you or me.

In Meg’s memory, the Richmond Road Runner’s Club is sponsoring a virtual run for her.  Their encouragement of  people to run that day is heartfelt:

“This Saturday, January 18, 2014, no matter what your distance, no matter where you live, run for Meg. Take in the fresh air, be aware of your surroundings, keep your headphones on low, feel the heaviness in your lungs, the soreness in your legs, and be grateful for it--for all of it. The sweat, the pain, the wind, the cold…everything. Be grateful for that moment.”

A Facebook page called Meg’s Miles has been set up HERE. Please visit to get more information about this run and get out there if you can. Our hearts go out to Meg, her family, her friends and her community.

When these tragedies happen we get scared. We hurt. And then we hopefully remember that everything in life, every step we take, is about accepting risk. Many said that Meg died doing what she loved. We can’t let risk and fear stop us for doing what we love. We press on, regardless, with heavy hearts, but with courage.

Obviously, in no way did Sherry or Meg do anything wrong or have any fault in what occurred. Yet, these instances give us a chance to remember that we need to keep ourselves as safe as possible –to never truly let down our guard while we are running. I am re-posting parts of an article I wrote two years ago about this subject (which clearly applies to Sherry’s situation more than Meg’s):

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Do you run alone? Why or why not? I do run alone. But never in the dark, on trails or in isolated places. Running alone is therapeutic for me. I’m not giving it up.

Any other safety tips to add?

SUAR

37 comments:

  1. I run alone, most times before dawn as that is the only time I can run. Normally it is with my dog though, except for long runs that are too long for him on roads. I do run trails, either at night or day and my dog is with me no matter the distance. I carry pepper spray and a knife, and my phone. I always try to change up my routes,or time of run and I always watch strangers very carefully.

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  2. Love this. As always. And I run alone. It is my "me" time.

    The only thing I'd add is when running on the road (like I'm doing this time of year): run against traffic and wear bright clothing. That is the best you can do to hope drivers will see you. Stay alert. Be prepared to jump into a snow bank.

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    1. Yes, absolutely. You have to know what is coming. In Meg's case it does appear she was running against traffic.

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  3. I heard about that girl and I felt so sorry for her family! It is such a sad sad thing. I only usually run when it is light out outside - not that it can stop anything from happening but I am more aware. If it is dark I tend to run on the treadmill because it makes me feel safer. There are many women I know that get out and run every morning before sun up but I guess I'm just always a little fearful!

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  4. Beth - thanks so much for including Meg's Miles in your blog this week. I didn't know her but know several folks who did. One of the hard parts is that this could be any one of us. Broad daylight, wide shoulder, driver who veered out of the lane. This driver was under the influence; many others are simply on the phone, texting, adjusting the radio, the ipod mix, etc.
    Everyone - get out there Saturday morning and dedicate your workout to Meg.

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  5. One thing I can recommend is a great free app that I use from Road ID. It notifies someone of your choosing, such as a spouse in my case, that you're going for a run and it will show that person where you are at all times. It also has an alarm setting that will sound an alarm if you remain stationery after a few minutes.

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    1. Thanks for mentioning the app - I just checked it out, and it seems that recently people are having a hard time with it - have you had any issues recently? Sounds like such a great idea.

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    2. Mary, I have not had any problems with this. Works every time for me.

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  6. Most of my runs are solo. I glow at night (front, back and sides), carry pepper spray and ID, and am sure someone knows my planned route/duration. Life360 is a great phone app (being free only makes it greater) that allows my family members to track me in real time. It also has a panic button feature that I can easily activate that will alarm and call/text/email all linked family members. These stories feel like a kick to the gut. Even with the best of precautions, awful things still happen. I'll be running Saturday for Meg. Be safe.

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  7. I also use an iPhone app similar - "Find My Friends." My husband is a cyclist, I'm a runner - we both can follow each other while we are out.

    I run alone most of the time and try to follow the tips listed. I have friends who worry for me, but my house was broken into while I was in it a few years ago, so where are we truly safe? I can't live in fear, just be aware and carry my cell phone.

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  8. Thank you for this post. It's always good to remember (how can we forget, but we do) that we are so vulnerable to dangers and dangerous people out there. I'm about to go for an early morning run so I know I'm reading this at the right time. Very good tips, will definitely be keeping them in mind.

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  9. I am so sorry that you lost your cousin. I could not imagine the feeling. I do run alone but never in isolated areas and never without my phone. If I find new areas to run, I make sure that it is a safer area. I dont feel comfortable running on trails, because they can be isolated and I always have this weird feeling. I will try to participate in the virtual run this weekend.

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  10. I'm so sorry for your family loss, Robbie. My partner is often out running, alone, in the woods, on isolated roads and I worry a lot about him. I always run with live tracking app Endomondo and feel very safe in this matter. I've actually just joined to so called challenge #MEGMILES and tomorrow 18th, will be all participants running for greater awerness and safty and for Meg Smiles. Greetings from Austria.

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  11. I usually run alone but try to be smart about it. I usually tell my husband (who works from home) when I should be back so he can sound the alarm if I don't come back when I'm supposed to. So tragic and definitely could have been any one of us runners.

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  12. I do run alone and I have to in the dusk/dark until daylight savings. However, I run around a major university here in Houston where EVERYONE runs. So, I'm never alone. I have a flashlight on my phone, a rape whistle, and mace for runners (has a little velcro handle) mainly because I go in to an area where I park that's unsafe at night. I wear one earphone in for music and it's turned down low so I can hear things around me.

    Recent events at another park in Houston where two men attacked ladies in a bathroom (beaten, robbed, and raped) made me rethink about showing my phone as much. They were caught and specifically attacked women with phones, because they had something they could steal. I'm not NOT going to run without my phone, because I need it in case of emergencies or use it as a flashlight.

    Last night, I did see an area behind the brush where someone can easily grab a person and bring them back there. It went along for a mile. So, I kept an eye on it.

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  13. While it's not available just yet, the Bia multi-sport GPS watch designed for women has an SOS button. From their web-site (www.bia-sport.com):

    SOS Safety alert sends your location to loved ones and emergency services at the press of a button.

    A review posted by DC Rainmaker (www.dcrainmaker.com) determined that the SOS Alert was very accurate. Check out the review for more information on how it works.

    I am in no way affiliated with Bia, but I am anxiously awaiting my pre-ordered watch. :)

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    1. Yes, I think the BIA is a great safety option.

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  14. Love this! Thanks for sharing and spreading the word and awareness.

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  15. Great post as always. I too, run alone and I won't give it up. I need that time to myself and while running with other people is fun too, I cant give up my 'alone tme'. I have learned to trust my instincts though and I also do not wear headphones when I'm running alone. It's always best to be able to hear whats around you be it cars or other people....

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  16. I am always saddened whenever I hear about another runner, or cyclist getting injured or killed while training. I like your list, especially number 7. In today's world of posting all your runs, times, distances online it is easy for someone to know when and where you will be and take advantage of that.

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  17. I often run alone, well not totally, I usually have my dog with me :) but i do not run after dusk and try to stay on trails as opposed to the sidewalks in my Aurora hood. I did loose a dear friend over a year ago who was hit by a car on a training run. It was tragic and the one thing it taught me is to be a lot more conscience of my surroundings. I am almost positive he tried to make a light instead of waiting for it to change. One moment and you can be gone. A lesson learned.

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  18. "Reconsider the ponytail." This had honestly never occurred to me. I have long hair--to the middle of my back--and the ponytail has been my go-to for running. No more. Buns, here I come!

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  19. I do run alone and in the dark a couple times a week. The things I do to try to make this safer are always running with my dog, wearing a headlight and reflective stuff, carrying my phone, wearing only one earphone and keeping my music volume low, and planning my route carefully. My dog is very alert, so I watch where he's looking and what his ears are doing, but so far he's only alerted me to other runners, dog-walkers, and people walking to work or going out to get the paper in their bathrobes. I like to run in areas where there are people out and about even at 6 am, so I run through the university campus and past the local hospital and high school and also in my own neighborhood, where I know someone on every block.

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  20. Thank you so much for sharing this. I run alone, early in the morning on rural roads. I often take my dog, but in the winter I often don't take him due to the amount of salt on the road. I usually don't carry a cell phone, but I do make sure I am well seen. This is a good reminder. I will be running for Meg tomorrow and have shared the event with my running club.

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  21. This is terrible. I'm so sorry.
    I always run alone, early in the morning, very often it's still dark. After reading that, I'am going to carry a security alarm with me.

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  22. I almost always run alone, but never in the dark. If I do go in the early a.m., I take my dog and stick to well-traveled, populated roads. This is so sad. I ran for Sherry two years ago and will run for Meg tomorrow.

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  23. I rarely run alone, specially after work. I don´t feel safe when it´s dark! I normally run with 2 other girls from my running group.

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  24. I am a new reader to your blog and am so sorry to hear the story of your cousin.

    All of your advice on how to stay safe is so true. I run the majority of my runs alone and in the early morning dark, so I always take precautions to keep myself safe. Some additional advice that I have is to have a RoadID on your shoe or wrist with all your important information and to give parked cars/vans a wide birth (just in case)!

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  25. Beth, your list is a good one, bet we can all take away at least one item to make ourselves safer out there.

    But please ladies (and gents) do not think just having your phone makes you safe, it is merely an aid if you are able to safely use it. If nabbed, that would not likely be the case . Same with pepper spray, if not out in your hand ready to use, it's potential usefulness drops drastically. Things just happen too quickly and most people do not have a practiced response.

    Will be thinking of Sherry and Meg on my next run. Be safe out there!

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  26. I run alone - like you said, it is therapeutic. The only time I run with music is at the gym. I wish I had a dog to run with, but my dad is allergic.
    I will be running for Meg tomorrow!

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  27. The Road ID iPhone app has a special feature that will alert your emergency contact if you stop moving for 60 seconds.

    I run alone, and even in the dark, but if I'm doing a combo of both I don't wear headphones and I always make sure someone knows where I am and when to expect me back.

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  28. Great post! I will be running in honor of #megsmiles tomorrow. Good tips for running alone too! Expect the unexpected and always be aware of your surroundings. Never give up what you love. Keep running.

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  29. Probably 90% are done by my self because the times i go aren't when others are available. I also run in the dark - alone (but wouldn't go on trail by myself at night). I don't wear headphones no matter how long i'm running or cycling so i'm aware of my surroundings. I vary my routes too and never run the same one in the same week.

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  30. I pretty much always run alone, because my family thinks running is stupid. Well, not my folks - they are marathoners - but my husband and two sons. My folks live in Boulder and I'm in Westminster, so I don't run with them often.

    So profoundly sorry to hear about the tragic loss of your cousin. I love my cousins dearly, and I can't imagine how horrible it would be to lose any of them. Wishing you continued strength.

    THANK YOU so much for sharing the information about Meg's Miles. I joined the event via your blog post, and ran 6.2 for her this morning. Since then, I've been glued to the computer, seeing all the posts come in on the FB event page, and the Meg's Miles FB page. It is really, really amazing, inspiring, and emotional. There's a guy with stage 4 cancer that ran for her. A girl who was run over 5 years ago and now has to use crutches that "crutched" for her. A young widow. Amazing people.

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  31. I run alone always....usually in the day time and not on the trails. I think there's only so much you can do to stay safe though. Unfortunately. Ran for Meg, Sherry, my boyfriend George and all the other runners taken far too soon...RIP.

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  32. Thank you for your post. Because of your post, this last weekend when I did a trail run, my husband came (and simply read in the car) along with me. I carried my phone and he used the app, find friends, and was able to see where I was along the route. And when I just couldn't bear to run in the mud one more minute, I walked up to the highway and called.

    Normally I would have gone by myself and not taken my phone….

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