I’ve been running for what seems like forever, and until more recently I’ve been mostly a solo runner. Over the years, and through all of the time I spent on trails and pavement by myself, I’ve been fortunate enough to run largely without incident, unless of course you count hallucinating or throwing up purple vomit as incidents. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always felt a bit invincible; I’d even go so far as to say that I’ve even been a little bit reckless.
And then last summer happened.
I was on a solo roadtrip passing through Salt Lake City with Abbie (my dog) and decided we might as well go explore a little on foot before be crammed into a car for another long day of driving. I found an amazing trail system that boasted sweeping views of the city and decided that the best course of action was to find the very best view (which meant we’d be going straight up the mountain). And it was absolutely stunning. Wildflowers everywhere. Steep, vast, hillsides. And so much solitude. It was heavenly, really.
At some point – while keeping my eye on the top of the mountain – the trail had turned from runnable fire trail to a rocky, steep, and winding scramble. I was practically on hands and knees climbing my way to the top, while Abbie (who was thankfully on a leash) was slightly out in front of me. While scrambling, I was listening to a podcast on my AfterShokz, fully immersed in the story and lost in my own thoughts, barely taking notice of where my feet were taking me. All of a sudden, I heard something strange – decidedly not a sound from my podcast – coming from very close by. Sure enough, I looked up just in time to see a baby rattlesnake coiling and alerting Abbie and I to back off. I felt a chill run through my body and backed away slowly, keeping Abbie inches from me, as we made our descent off of the rocks. I kept thinking…what if I had been wearing regular earbuds? What if I hadn’t heard the snake’s warning?
I think about that trip a lot; I think about the fact that I was at the top of a harrowing, steep, rocky trail alone with Abbie. Far away from help. Far away from everyone. What if one of us had been bitten by the rattlesnake? What would I have done then?
And just two weeks ago, while running with my husband in the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, I had another brush with a very large, very rattly rattlesnake that really got me thinking.
I was running a few yards out in front of my husband on a rolling single-track trail with deep brush on either side. We were headed back toward the car when suddenly, a giant Canebreak (or Timber) rattlesnake and I startled one another. It popped it’s head out of the brush, right in front of where I was about to step, and then began to coil and rattle. I jumped out of my skin and then ran back towards my husband screaming, “SNAKE!!!” When we inched back towards the snake, it had come to lay in the middle of the trail, blocking our way back to the car. We stood there, not knowing what to do, attempting to throw rocks in its direction, stomping our feet in hopes that the vibrations would will it off the trail but we were unsuccessful. The snake did not want to budge.
My husband got close enough to take a photo (thankfully I always carry my phone) which I would later learn was so that we could identify the snake if we got bit. And then we had to make a decision to move slowly around and away from it. The rest of the run was a blur. I was a ball of nerves and what if’s.
Once back at the car, as we shook off the encounter, we talked about safety and how we could be safer when we’re running – whether together or alone. We talked about being more aware of our surroundings – for instance, not wearing regular headphones and instead always carrying our AfterShokz – and we talked about having a plan for emergencies. Part of our emergency plan included having a method to call for help, the importance of alerting friends and family of our whereabouts and of course, having an ID on us at all times because you just never know.
I realize now – after over twenty years of running – that I am not invincible. Running should be fun and adventures should be aplenty, but safety should always come first.
In honor of National Safety Month, check out my top safety tips for solo runners and enter to win my favorite personal safety device – a Wearsafe Tag – that easily allows you to alert friends and family to your location with the press of a button. One winner will receive a Wearsafe Tag and a lifetime subscription to Wearsafe and the chance to gift the same to their running buddy of choice. A second winner will receive a Wearsafe Tag and a one year subscription and the chance to gift the same to their running buddy of choice.
Run smart, run safe, and as always, stay sweaty out there!
Disclaimer: I was provided with products from AfterShokz, Wearsafe Labs and Who Am I ID for review purposes. That said, all opinions, thoughts, and stories are my very own. I truly appreciate all of the brands that support the Sweat Pink community.