Lessons you never want to have to learn…

As a runner, it’s easy to think of your runs as your safe and sacred space. It’s a place where you can unwind, get out of your head (or maybe into it), burn off stress and energy…a place that ultimately makes you feel happy and strong. And yes, runs can be that.

But it’s very easy to slip into a “safe” mindset and remember that we are vulnerable – possibly more vulnerable when running than at other times. Until you’re shaken out of that safety and into reality.

It happened to me yesterday.

I started out for my run, all set with my Pear app and ready to go. As I walked down the street, I noticed a guy sitting at the end of the block on a bike. I felt a slight ping in my gut, but in an unusual move for me, I didn’t listen to it. I proceeded across the street and headed to the next street over – my intent being to run to and over the bridge, then along the river. My garmin was taking its time connecting, and I paused in my walking for a moment to let it connect to a satellite. When it did, I hit start and started out. As I turned the corner, I realized I’d forgotten my timer (since I was out to do 9 miles, I was wearing my Nathan hydration pack – which meant that my phone was in my pocket…headphone cord (kept at a low volume so I could hear things) attached), and turned around, stopping and intending to discard my workout on the garmin. I went back across the street and started down towards my street. I got about halfway down, when a pair of hands spun me around and reached into the pocket on my pack, grabbing the phone. No words were spoken other than me yelling my head off – I was just met with a sick grin. I made an attempt to grab the phone back (resulting in a bruised knuckle on my right hand), then finally listened to my instincts which screamed “IT IS A PHONE! IT CAN BE REPLACED!” and let it go but continued to scream as my assailant jumped onto the handlebars of the bike – driven by the guy I’d seen at the end of the block.

I’ve often said that the police precinct isn’t that far and I could easily run there. And it isn’t far…but when you are hyperventilating and shaking like a leaf because what you never thought would happen to you did less than a block from your apartment, those couple of blocks looked and felt like a marathon.

I must commend the police – they were all awesome. An officer immediately brought me behind the swinging door, another met me with his iPhone so we could try find my iPhone – the assholes were intelligent enough to turn it off immediately – to see, they immediately radioed out the location the mugging happened and the direction they had gone, and put me in a car to go out and see if I saw them anywhere. I didn’t, but it did occur to me that not knowing if they had any weapons (the guy who actually took my phone at least didn’t have anything in hand as he grabbed the phone with both hands) I wasn’t really sure I wanted to be sitting visible in the car when the cops jumped out if I did see them. They offered to take me to the ER, but I could tell nothing was broken as I have full range of motion in my hand. We went back to the precinct and one of them filled out his report while I filled out mine. He got me some water and went to check if a detective was available. Came back down and said “Five minutes…he was here overnight with a robbery that turned into a shooting.” (Which even if not intended to have this purpose helped me realize again how lucky I was.) After about 5 minutes, he walked me upstairs where I met “my” detective who promptly got me a Coke – the sugar really does help settle the adrenaline – and said “Do you want something else to drink?” and added “Yes, it can be arranged” to my questioning look. I declined “something else” as it was early and I wanted to remain clear-headed. We went over everything and again tried find my iPhone with no result. We set it to wipe the phone as soon as it was turned on – and display the message “This phone has been stolen. Please call…” and he put his number in there. Just in case someone gets stupid. I looked at some pictures, but couldn’t be sure on any of them. (Looking at “line up” pictures is MUCH harder than it looks on TV, and features all start to run together, no matter how much you think you will instantly recognize the person who mugged you.) He gave me his card and number and instructed me if I saw them again to call 911 and give the person his name in addition to other details. He also reassured me that I had definitely done the right thing in giving up the phone and not to beat myself up. They arranged for me to have a ride home jut for peace of mind.

As soon as I got in and said Mo’s name, he immediately came out from his resting place under the futon and as long as I’m in the apartment, he will not leave my side or let me out of his sight. He even sat on the toilet lid while I was in the shower last night! He definitely knows something isn’t right and is doing all he can to comfort me.

I changed out of my running clothes, found an old “stupid” phone to see if it could be hooked up temporarily or what my options were, and went to Sprint. Because I’m not eligible for an upgrade, I would have to buy a new phone – but luckily I had insurance on the phone. While they started working on connecting the stupid phone so I can text and make/receive phone calls, I called the insurance company and got that claim started. An hour or so later, with stupid phone hooked up and the insurance form I needed to complete and fax in in hand, I headed home.

Definitely gave into emotional eating, but I’m not going to beat myself up over that. I called Mom and Daddy and talked with them. Talked with Andrea also (who apologized for having my iPhone 4s which I’d given her when her iPhone died due to water). And hung out at home for a little while. I finally decided to head out and get some miles in.

I knew it wasn’t going to be the 9 I was “supposed” to do, but since I’m not doing the full marathon distance on the cruise, I’m not going to stress it. Because it wasn’t going to be 9, I went with my iFitness belt, which can easily be hidden under my shirt, and a handheld. I also took the subway to Battery Park where I was able to start with plenty of people around. Granted, anyone who was on a bike and stopped near me got the stink-eye as did anyone who ran up behind me – at least at first until I calmed myself down and reminded myself I was on a path with lots of people running. I ended up doing more walking than running, largely because of the eating earlier. But I got 4 miles done and by walking by the spot to get to the subway and doing some miles, I felt like I was beginning the process of taking back my power.

I did get a bottle of wine on my way home and had a glass before taking a hot shower and changing into pajamas. When it was time to try and sleep, I turned the tv onto Boomerang where the line-up was Scooby Doo, Tom & Jerry, The Flintstones, and the Smurfs – nothing that would freak me out like some of the other options – and set the sleep timer to 3 hours. Getting to sleep did take a little while – at first when I closed my eyes I saw the sickening grin, but gradually that went away. I managed to sleep through the night – thankfully without any nightmares.

Got up and went to church this morning, which was exactly what I needed. Pastor Vicki’s words of grace were exactly what I needed to hear, and just being among friends and church family was awesome! One of the guys was behind me in line to talk with Bishop J, and Bishop J immediately said I would have to come to the workshop – date TBA – that UMW is doing on self defense. Luis talked with me a little after and helped me see that while I didn’t listen to my gut a) there is no guarantee that listening to it would have resulted in any different outcome but that b) I can learn from this that my gut instinct is likely right and I can pay it more heed in the future should it be necessary. He and others said I seem to be in a good place right now, but not to beat myself up when the downs come as getting through this and feeling safe again will be a process.

I faxed in my claim form and have already completed it and should have a replacement within a couple of days. Of course, I had to pay a deductible, but that’s cheaper than even the cheapest android phone at Spring and definitely cheaper than a new iPhone. Not fun, but it’s definitely better than hospital bills…or worse.

So yeah… This weekend has been one about learning lessons. Lessons I never wanted to learn. But lessons that will ultimately make me stronger. I’ve been reminded that while running does make me stronger, it doesn’t make me invincible – things can happen. It’s reminded me the need to be HYPER-ER aware of my surroundings (in the ultimate irony, just as I was starting out I had the If/Then cast recording playing – very soft – and one of the lines in the first song is “Be smart, self-sufficient, and hyper aware”), to not take anything for granted, to listen to my gut, to lean on my friends, and to take even more care in varying my route and so forth. I’m also going to look seriously into a watch that a) connects even quicker to GPS satellites and b) has an SOS feature on it that I can use to alert a list of people if I get into trouble on a run. Someone going on the Alaska cruise has one and has offered to let me try it there, but at this point I’ll be getting one with money I’ll have after the cruise (darn “deposit” I have to put down…but since I’m not planning on spending money online I’ll be getting it back at the end of the cruise) unless I absolutely hate it.

Bottom line is, I’m safe. And I will go on from this and be stronger and tougher than before.

Be safe out there everyone!!


10 thoughts on “Lessons you never want to have to learn…

  1. I’m so sorry this happened to you, Beth! I am glad that you are okay. I never knew they made gps watches with an SOS feature. Since my Garmin quit and I need a new watch in the relatively near future, I may look into that…

  2. What a chilling story but Thank God you are physically okay and that you let go of the phone. The police treated you so well; that is gratifying to know. You are right about needing to stay aware and not always think your safe – not just when running, but when doing anything alone. I often shop early morning and late at night. I go to the same places and have been as vigilant as I should. Thank you for the reminder!!!
    Also, thanks for your blog. You continue to inspire me.

  3. So sorry to hear this! I moved a year ago to the NYC metro area from NC, I really needed to read this tonight, when I first moved here I was super vigilant (scared really) now I’m too comfortable! A good reminder for all! Thank you for sharing your horrible experience, praying peace for you!

    • Thank you Donna! Yes, it’s very easy to get too comfortable and feel too safe. It’s a fine line between being vigilant and being paranoid – and especially now I’m working hard to stay on the positive side of that line.

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