Monday, February 28, 2011

An unwanted training partner

Yesterday was long run day. It was my first long run after being sick and I'd planned to do 18 km. My usual long run buddy, Jen, is sadly out of commission for the time being due to a nasty gall bladder, so I was going out on my own.

I started off strong enough that I had to reel myself in. I didn't want to go out too fast and be unable to finish the distance. I ran along the river, down a hill and towards an underpass that would take me under one of the highways that runs through my town - or not. The river was apparently high and there was a mixture of couple feet of water and ice blocking the path. No go that way.

So, I decided to do Foster's, a route that's popular with runners in town. I had actually done the first section of it the day before with the running group, but it had made me want to do the rest of it in order to get the fabulous view that's at the top of the hill.

First was a short run along some trails through trees and then up a road that is about 2 km uphill. At the end of that is a rock which marks the end of the road. I remember doing this run in the fall and the view was stunning - rolling hills and golden trees. I was looking forward to what it would be like in the winter.

I trudged my way along the road. It's uphill most of the way, but enough that you know you are working, not enough to make you need to walk. Before long the rock came close. I finished the uphill strong, touched the rock (for good luck) and turned around to head back down.

Then heard some barking...

And from the house beside the road came a german shepherd.

I watched as he came to the end of the yard and I started walking. I wasn't going to run while being monitored by that thing. I was just hoping he realized I wasn't intruding on his territory and leave me alone.

No such luck. The dog didn't stop at the end of his property. He went right through the fence and came right at me. Barking the entire time. Obviously he didn't think his territory ended where the fence did. I kept walking. The dog was about 10 feet away from me. I didn't even know what to do. I know better how you're supposed to react to bears then I know how to react to dogs. I avoided eye contact and just kept saying quietly "I'm going, I'm leaving."

I'm amazed that my legs even functioned. I was sure they'd be frozen, but somehow they kept me moving slowly along. I glanced back at the house a couple times in a vain hope that an owner would see what was going on and call the dog off. No such luck. At one time, the dog moved so that he was slightly in front of me. I kept walking. I had no choice. It was either continue back down the road, go onto the dogs property or climb a barbed wire fence on the other side.

No more then 3 feet away from me. I was terrified that anytime this animal would lunge at me and attack. As tempting as the barbed wire fence was, I figured stopping to climb over it would give the dog a perfect opportunity. Besides which, it was only 4 feet high, hardly enough to stop a german shepherd if he wanted to jump it.

The dog backed off a couple feet, though he was still barking. At least he was staying behind me now. I suppose he was making sure I was leaving. The panic eased enough for me to realize that I was carrying my cell phone, and like an idiot hadn't made use of it. I slowly opened the pocket it was in and dialed my husband.

First thing I told him was where I was. Except I couldn't exactly, because I didn't even know the official name of the road. Then I told him the situation. The dog was now giving me a bit more space, but I still wanted him to stay on the phone with me until I felt like I was clear.

I must have gone far enough for the dog by now. When I glanced back, he was now staying in one place while I got blessedly further away from him with every step. I kept my husband on the phone as long as I was being watched. The dog finally decided I had gone far enough and turned around and returned to his house.

Looking at my garmin after the fact, I walked for about 9.5 minutes. Probably about 7.5 of that was with the dog on my heels, the last 2 as he let me walk away.

It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

And one that taught me that I have seriously neglected some running safety.

First off, always tell somebody where you are going to run. Always make sure you know where you are running. If something happened, even after I got my husband on the phone, he had a very vague idea where I was. He might have had to try calling one of my running friends to get find out what "foster's road" actually was.

Next, have an idea how to deal with dogs. Nobody wants a large dog that close, but unfortunately, there are too many dog owners out there that don't control their dogs properly. A quick google search found this article for me. It gives some very basic safety tips for dealing with dogs: don't make eye contact, walk away from the dogs property, if the dog approaches you, stay very still and tell it to "go home" or "sit". Finally, if the dog tries to jump on you, turn to the side and push it off with your forearm.

I also know that I will never run that route alone again.

And I'm considering carrying dog spray.


  1. Oh my god that's scary!!!! So glad everything is ok and some great tips for all of us!

  2. Glad to hear you're ok after that heart attack inducing bit. You also made me realize how horribly unsafe I am while running sometimes.

  3. Deb, I think it would be good to report the situation and try to contact Dr.Foster about it so no one has to go through that again, and possible save someone from injury. That is a public road, and a very popular running/walking route. Sheesh, that is scary. Perhaps a letter to the editor in the paper warning people would also be prudent. Contact Fosters first though, they probably didn't even realize the dog was out.

  4. Oh my gosh that is so scary!! Glad to hear you made is back safely.

    Hubby and I have had a couple run-ins with dogs, one was even on a leash with his owner.

    You bring up some good safely points- thanks for sharing! I try to always leave a note for hubby to let him know when/where I am running. I usually don't carry a cellphone though.