Ever change your running route because of creepy people?

When I run, I may not always dash or sprint or even jog at a hearty pace. On a difficult day, I might fairly creep or even crawl along. Maybe that’s OK.

But the last thing I want during a run is for my skin to crawl because of creepy folks.

It’s fun and inspiring to get out and log a few miles with other runners. It’s also a lot safer. But sometimes there’s no way around it. A runner has to step out alone. That’s when a little heightened awareness and vigilance come in handy.

This past weekend, for example, I set out to run one of my favorite routes. It winds through a few quiet neighborhoods and then angles off down a county road to a lovely trail loop and back. I started my mileage app and loped off.

Jogging into Woods by Marabu, ABS FreePic

But I changed the plan along the way.

As I approached the opening to the trail, I noticed a large SUV with tinted windows, pulling in right beside me. Two big guys (and I dare say they were creepy looking) stepped out and stared at me.

They weren’t dressed as runners, so I doubted they had arrived at the trail for the same reason I was there.

OK, perhaps I was paranoid. Maybe I’ve watched too many television crime dramas. But I surely didn’t want to make some na├»ve assumption of safety and jog the lonely loop alone with those two unknowns out there.

Usually, I run with other people.

Runners tend to congregate. We interact at races. We join Facebook groups. We post workout and fun run plans. Eventually, we kind of sort ourselves out by average paces and create our own running packs or partnerships.

Often, I take my uber-alert watchdog along with me, especially if I go solo. I frequently wear a whistle and carry a pepper spray (or something even more effective) when I go.

Almost always, on this particular route, I spot at least one patrol car parked by the trail entrance. Sometimes I see three or four at once. (One police officer actually clued me in. They pick up a strong Wi-Fi signal there for some reason, so they stop there to do their in-route call-ins and reports.)

But not that day. The place was deserted. Except for the two strange strangers.

I’m pretty sure I could have outrun either of those corpulent creeps on a straightaway, especially in their clunky boots. But on a looped trail, where they could have cut across and intercepted me … I wasn’t so certain.

So I changed the plan.

I veered off in the other direction and rejoined the county road traffic. Then I headed for town and opted for some neighborhood hill-work instead. I still got in my miles, even adding a moderate degree of difficulty.

I’ll never know if those two creepy-looking guys were menaces or harmless trail walkers. And I hate that we live in a world where we have to be so suspicious of unfamiliar people. But I’d be kicking myself today, if I’d gone ahead and been outnumbered by strangers with evil motives.

Have you ever altered your running plan en route because of potentially sinister strangers?

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