Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Runners: 16 Tips to Save Your Life

It's been four years.

January 7, 2012 - I got a call that my cousin, Sherry's, shoe was found along side of a road in Sidney, Montana where she had taken an early morning run. There was no sign of Sherry.


It would be two weeks before we found out what had happened through a confession by one of the killers. Sherry had been grabbed by two men, high on crack cocaine, who were on the side of the road in their Ford Explorer. They strangled her and later went to Walmart to buy tools to bury her. Her body was found two months later in a shallow grave near the North Dakota/Montana border.

When I went to Sherry's funeral, I visited  the sport where she was
abducted and ran there. It was right along this dirt path.

Sherry and I are the same age. Like me, she had two teenage children, a boy and a girl. Like me, she was married. Like me, she had one sibling and was very close to her parents who lived in the same town. I actually did not know Sherry all that well. We had spent time together a couple years prior to her death when my family visited her in Montana and at later at a wedding. We also saw each other when I was ten when we visited her family's ranch in Montana. We shared the same uncle and we shared the same sense of humor (farting, anyone?). We also shared a love for running and often messaged about that.

Summer of 2008. Sherry is in the red shirt on the right.

For a minute after Sherry died, I thought maybe I shouldn't run alone anymore. Nope. Not gonna happen. I do, however, have two steadfast rules:

  • No running in the dark by myself
  • No running in remote locations or trails by myself

I don't deviate from these rules.

When something horrible happens, it is human nature to think and rationalize why the same thing couldn't happen to us. If someone is running at midnight in a really bad part of town and they get attacked, one might think, "Well...duh...they shouldn't have been running there at that time." Yet, there are many instances, like in Sherry's case, where it was simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sherry grew up in Sidney. These were her streets. Until a few years ago, Sidney had been a quiet and remote town with little crime. However, as more and more oil was discovered in the area, more and more people were brought in to work in the oil fields. People in Sidney will tell you that this is when problems began. Crime grew. People started locking their doors.

The two guys who attacked Sherry had driven up to Montana from Colorado the previous day. They were high on crack. They came to Sidney to work in the oil fields. That morning, they parked along the side of the road, looking to do something "bad" to a woman. Sherry ran by them and told them "Hi." They grabbed her and pulled her into their car.

This could be any of us.

I agree that the threat of bad things happening cannot paralyze us. We cannot stay locked inside of our homes, because that is absolutely NO way to live. But, we can take precautions that just might save our lives:
People say it’s not fair that women have to be more careful and are easier and more frequent targets than men. Fair or not fair, it’s a fact. Let’s deal with it the best we can while continuing to make efforts to take back our streets.



Any other tips to share on how to stay safe out there?

SUAR


61 comments:

  1. A friend recently told me about the Road id App that she's been using for a while. It tracks your location/route, sharing it with the peraon/people you choose AND notifies them if you stop moving.

    I run routinely on roads and trails by myself, I refuse to be cowed by fear. But I take every reasonable precaution as you noted here.

    Be safe..but GO!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes I use this app too...when I remember. This has reminded me.

      Delete
    2. Yes I use this app too...when I remember. This has reminded me.

      Delete
    3. Thank you so much for posting this.

      I actually went to the comments specifically to post about this app. I love it. You can have it alert 3-5 people as you are leaving for your run and you have to set the specific amount of time you'll be gone. It allows those specific people to track you as you're running. As DebraLou mentioned, it also notifies them if you stop moving (and I believe, although I haven't tested it, your phone itself will emit a warning noise if you stop moving). At the end of the run, it sends a message to your 3-5 people that you have finished your run and are home safely.

      Delete
  2. A friend recently told me about the Road id App that she's been using for a while. It tracks your location/route, sharing it with the peraon/people you choose AND notifies them if you stop moving.

    I run routinely on roads and trails by myself, I refuse to be cowed by fear. But I take every reasonable precaution as you noted here.

    Be safe..but GO!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I like these tips a lot! I am sure that such service as proofreading-services.org is the best way out when people need to get a qualitative essay editing! Thanks a lot for sharing the information

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  4. Ditto on the Road ID app. It sends people who you choose a text saying you've started your run, shows your movements on a map, will text them if you stop moving for a determined period of time and will also text them when you have completed your run.

    I remember when your cousin went missing and I am still so sorry.

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  5. This isn't a new tip, but 99% of the time, I run with at least my husband. 100% of the time in the dark or an unfamiliar place I'm with him. He's much bigger than me, pretty sure he's a good deterrent at 5'11" and 195 lbs. There's something to be said for the fact that we rely on each other for running motivation.

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  6. I took a self defense class for runners call RunSafer. It was very good and they took told us to ditch the pony tail if you are runny alone.

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  7. You are the reason I run with pepper spray. I have a small canister that I wear on my hand made for runners. I never thought about it until I started reading your blog and read about your family's tragedy. It made me realize that I have a lot of bad habits when I run that could make me susceptible. Thank you so much for bringing awareness! I am do sorry for what happened to your cousin.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this. I'm so sorry to hear, but your advocacy matters! I'll keep this in mind on my next run.

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  9. Thank you for keeping Sherry's memory alive and reminding us to stay on our toes. I run with my dog (who HATES strangers) and I like to think that helps keep me safe but I also think, every run, "If I had to, could I run faster to get away from someone right now?" I also use the app Glympse to let my husband know where I am and I always tell him when to expect me back. It really sucks that we have to think of these things, though.

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  10. I'm sorry. Thank you for the tips. This post really hit home and I am so grateful you let yourself be vulnerable writing this to help others be safer.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm so sorry for you family loss. I remember hearing the story on social media and all the runs in her memory.

    I run the same streets in my neighborhood and try to be aware of others. I need to get that app. Thank you for sharing these tips.

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  12. You may never know how your posts regarding Sherry affect all of us, and how they may save one of us someday, but thank you!

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  13. I understand your caution, and it's warranted. I would, however, like to mention an inconsistency I see in your preventative measures.
    Trails are FAR safer than roads, including (and maybe especially) if you're running alone.
    Look where Sherry was abducted. All the stories I hear took place in an easily accessible area. Bad guys are lazy. Assaults happen in populated areas where the jerk is using his car as cover or is a few feet from it. And then there's the fact that despite the emotional response we have to events like that, by far the biggest threat to runners is cars, by orders of magnitude. Obviously, not many cars on trails.
    If you run through your memory or a Google search of bad things that happen to runners, you'll find that almost none happen on remote trails (easily accessible trails in cities are more attractive to evil-doers, but still safer because no cars..).
    Not recommending against caution. But it's a mistake to assume trails are more dangerous, and also keeping yourself from some pretty wonderful experiences.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I understand your caution, and it's warranted. I would, however, like to mention an inconsistency I see in your preventative measures.
    Trails are FAR safer than roads, including (and maybe especially) if you're running alone.
    Look where Sherry was abducted. All the stories I hear took place in an easily accessible area. Bad guys are lazy. Assaults happen in populated areas where the jerk is using his car as cover or is a few feet from it. And then there's the fact that despite the emotional response we have to events like that, by far the biggest threat to runners is cars, by orders of magnitude. Obviously, not many cars on trails.
    If you run through your memory or a Google search of bad things that happen to runners, you'll find that almost none happen on remote trails (easily accessible trails in cities are more attractive to evil-doers, but still safer because no cars..).
    Not recommending against caution. But it's a mistake to assume trails are more dangerous, and also keeping yourself from some pretty wonderful experiences.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see your point. I should clarify that an additional and major reason I don't run alone on trails is fear of getting hurt (and being alone - this happens quite a bit in CO) and wild animals. Everyone just has to do what is most comfortable for them.

      Delete
    2. While I also see your point, I think the main take away is mainly just that you have to run where and how you feel the most safe with the most important guideline of being alert, i.e. not wearing headphones. The runner attack that I think about the most is the Central Park jogger, and he was not close to any car when he attacked her -- it was the closest thing you could get to a trail in NYC. Another blogger I read also mentioned a long time ago that she does not run Utah trails alone, especially in the dark, because they were having several problems on those trails. So, I think the main takeaway is just that you have to take precautions and run where and how you feel safest, while remaining alert to your surroundings.

      Delete
  15. I remember when all that happened. I am so sorry and you know all us runners felt that loss. After Sherry passed away, my run club and I have become more cautions and careful with each other. We have a nice network of people to always run with now. Sorry again for you loss. :(

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for the reminder not to be complacent. It's so important to remember this kind of thing can happen anywhere. I run alone 100% of the time and while I hate the traffic and pollution of main roads and the boredom of the gym, there is something to be said for both in terms of security. Stories like this make me so sad, people work so hard and sacrifice so much for their personal, unglamorous, and sometimes invisible-to-anyone-else progress and triumphs in this sport and to be cowed into fear or have a life in the community taken is one of the saddest testaments to human kind. I'm so sorry for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  17. First of all, love, thoughts and prayers to you and your family on the anniversary of Sherry's senseless, untimely and unnecessary passing.

    Your tips are great..but can I add to UNLOCK your phone!!! I have a pass code set on mine, which I remove while out running so if found, can be accessed easily. Also...set a contact as ICE (in case of emergency).

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for sharing this. I live in the DC suburbs and while we have a great network of trails around here, I stick to the sidewalks in nearby neighborhoods, where there is plenty of traffic going by at all times. (Unfortunately I have to breathe in the vehicle fumes.) The only time I run alone on the trails are on weekends when they are packed with cyclists, other runners, walkers, and families. I see too many stories on the news of women being attacked while running alone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to live in DC and ran in Rock Creek Park alone a lot. Probably not too safe...

      Delete
    2. I used to live in DC and ran in Rock Creek Park alone a lot. Probably not too safe...

      Delete
  19. Always a good reminder. I do run by myself, and a lot of times, it's in the dark. On the trails. But I've been harassed both on the street and on the trails. There are creeps everywhere. I hate it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sherry's passing was horrible and heart wrenching...I live in a town and do all my long runs on country roads, just like the one pictured. 100 % of my runs are done alone + my dog. I love your tips and think that varying your route, and don't be predictable is really, really important.

    Thank you for writing this <3

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  21. I think of Sherry every time I run in my favourite place - Peace Park. Thanks for the reminders. We shouldn't have to worry about our safety but it's the smart thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I've heard the "no ponytail" rule several times, but I've never heard what you're supposed to do with your hair instead. What does everyone else do?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just wind mine into a bun with a ponytail holder

      Delete
  23. I live in a city where there are some nice, safe areas smack up against some very unsafe areas (the violent crime rate is literally different on the other side of the street in some areas), which makes it hard to pick safe routes. Besides the obvious ideas of running during daylight hours, letting people know where/when, and running in groups, I've been thinking of getting one of these when I get back into running outdoors (laid up with recovery from injuries/surgery--boo):
    http://www.tigerlady.com/
    I'm pretty aware of my surroundings, so my biggest fear is surprise attacks when someone suddenly gets close to me. This might help even the odds a bit. Of course, you have to carry something in your hands while running, but it might be worth the peace of mind. Plus, if anything does happen, the "claws" collect DNA. Depressing to have to think of, but necessary.

    ReplyDelete
  24. So sorry for your loss and so grateful for you sharing that experience to help protect us all. I have a 14 year old daughter, who has recently started running with a friend. They run around our town, no place isolated or remote... But in the next few years that will change. It never occurred to me, to have her remove her passcode before running. Such a smart, time saving idea in an emergency situation. I am definitely getting her that Road ID App!! Thank you, everyone for sharing!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I am so sorry. I remember when this happened and I still think about it sometimes.

    My safety tip: I refuse to put a 26.2 or any sticker indicating I run on my car. It would just make a lunatic who was "looking to do something bad" know that I run and they would just need to follow my car and eventually catch me on a run.

    (I know that's not how Sherry was targeted and that anything can happen, so given that, advertising my running or any other activities seems extra unwise.)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Great tips am agree with you 1st point is important Always tell someone where you are going ...
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    ReplyDelete
  27. Hard to believe it's been 4 years, seems like yesterday. I don't follow all those rules, and really can't if I want to keep running unfortunately. Switching up routes/times can help but there's always risk. I often think of Sherry out on my runs as well as a friend who was sexually assaulted on a run this summer, in the city. It's unfortunate we have to fear these things.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I think of Sherry often! I live in the town just south of Sidney (Glendive), and we were all so heartbroken after what happened. The oil boom brought in a lot of bad people, and it changed our communities in so many ways. I now carry a taser and keep to busier areas because if it happened to her, it could happen to anyone. Thinking of your family.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
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