She flagged me down just before the end of my run. I was fiddling with the Pandora app on my iPhone, skipping “Every Breath You Take” (great song, but not high tempo enough to power me through my final five minutes) and settling on “Where the Streets Have No Name” (maybe not fast enough either, but I would never skip U2; it’s a matter of principle). I lifted my eyes and my hand to offer my usual “Good morning!” and wave when I saw her come to a stop, looking like she had something to say. So I pulled out my ear buds and stopped too.
“Hey, have you heard about the guy on the trail by Lanman Road?” she asked.
“No. What guy?” I replied as my breath started to slow.
“There’s a guy who’s been flashing women. He just jumps out of the bushes when he sees them approaching.”
“Oh, that’s awful,” I offered, suddenly aware of my heart beating in my chest: was it the run or this news? “Have you seen him?”
“No, thank God, but someone reported him to the police. One woman’s seen him twice. They say he’s clean cut, about 5’10″, wears jeans, more weird than threatening,” she explained. “I wasn’t sure if you run that far, but I’ve seen you out here before and I wanted to let you know.”
“Wow, thanks. I had no idea.”
I didn’t know what else to say.
“Anyway, a bunch of us are getting together to start running in groups. If you want to give me your e-mail address, I’ll add you to the list,” she said, offering me her phone. Then a mischievous smile twinkled across her face: “It’s not like we’re gonna let this creep rob us of our fun. I mean, it’s our trail, right?”
“Yeah, sure, that would be great,” I smiled back while I’ll plugged my name into her contact list. “Thanks for doing this.”
“Absolutely! Strength in numbers, you know?” she called over her shoulder as she jogged away.
I’ve written before about the camaraderie among the walkers and runners on the trail near my house, about the strangers that become acquaintances as we move through the seasons together. And I’d seen this woman many times before. She’s about my age, but much fitter. Last week, she was just starting her run as I was finishing mine and then I spotted her again, about an hour later, running by while I, long since done, sat eating a cinnamon roll with a friend in a coffee shop downtown.
I’m not sure which feeling is stronger: my annoyance that some jerk is making me think twice about a solo running routine that helps bring peace to my days or my gratitude to this familiar stranger for offering me a new direction to go.
A note to my mom and other interested parties: I’m going to run in my neighborhood – even though the hills will kill me! – until I hear from my new friend about running in groups.
Edited to add (9/19/12, 10:02 a.m.): I just got back from a run in my neighborhood. I survived the hills…mostly. (That last one on the final half mile kind of kicked my butt.)