Thursday, March 5, 2009


As a woman who runs alone, I am constantly aware of my surroundings. You just can't be too careful, I guess.

These are the things I look out for while I run:
  • Big white vans
  • Dog poop
  • Killer bees
  • Drunk drivers
  • Stupid drivers
  • Skateboarders
  • Coyotes
  • Stray dogs
  • Crows sitting above me on tree branches
  • Horse poop
  • Rattle Snakes (on trails)
Aside from stupid drivers and poop of all sorts, I'm happy to say I have not encountered any of these possibilities... until today.

I live in an area of San Diego County that has a lot of open spaces. Near my home there are hills, open fields, and avocado groves. As a result, we also have a lot of coyotes. Mostly they come out at night and their prey usually consists of bunnies, gophers, cats, and other small animals.

It seems that they are becoming more bold these days as more and more people move into their stomping grounds. It's not uncommon to see them in the daytime, wandering around on the outskirts of populated neighborhoods.

I was about three-quarters of my way through my run this afternoon, when I saw what looked like a small, funny-looking dog cross the street ahead of me. As a recovering dog-fearing person, I was immediately on the alert. I watched from a short distance as it disappeared into a group of eucalyptus trees. I decided to keep going since the dog looked like it could do only minimal damage if it decided to attack my heels.

As I approached the spot where I saw the little "dog" go into the trees, I watched another dog- a much bigger dog- cross the street ahead of me. At first glance, it could have been a German Shepard. Its tail, legs, and gait gave it away. It was a coyote. It, too, disappeared into the trees. I then realized that the first dog was a coyote, as well.

My heart started pounding and I debated turning around and heading back the way I came. It was late in the afternoon and my husband was expecting me home soon. To run back the way I came would be way too far. It would get dark and my husband would start to worry.

I decided to keep going since there were enough cars coming and going to give me some confidence that the coyotes would not come out and attack me. I also kept my hand close to my canister of pepper spray (I don't run alone without it).

I crossed to the opposite side of the street from the trees where the coyotes ventured. I kept my ears and eyes alert for signs of other coyotes that might come out of hiding in order to join their buddies in the trees.

While that was the last I saw of the coyotes, I have to admit I was spooked. Spooked enough to pick up my pace and run -not walk- up a big hill. Every little noise I heard after that made me nervous. I even saw a huge black dog staring at me from behind a flimsy, little fence. I almost started to panic when I realized it was just a small horse.

I was glad when I finally reached my cul-de-sac. I felt a little foolish being afraid but I think I did pretty well for someone who used to fear being mauled to death by the yappy little chijaujau down the street.

So, here are a couple questions for you:
  1. What do you fear while you run?
  2. Have you ever been spooked by something during a run?

The following are pictures I took of a coyote near our house a few weeks ago. It was out in the middle of the day and seemed to be looking for gophers.


Run Mommy said...

Oh my! Living here in Southern Ontario, I don't worry too much about coyotes. However, I sometimes worry about other sorts of predators - 2 legged kind. I usually run pretty early in the morning when the streets are very quiet. I worry more about sinister people at that time then I do at 10:00 at night! Once on a trail run by myself, i tripped on a root and fell into a ravine. It is very minor but after that I was convinced every root was an enemy and that I would end up in a ravine unable to get out and no one would find me for hours or days!

tfh said...

Honestly, my heart starts to pound when I'm started by any animal, even if is just a deer and I know it won't hurt me. I have seen foxes and picked up the pace! But for the most part, out here I don't think there are any very dangerous animals. I'm glad you carry the pepper spray!

Glenn Jones said...

You really don't need to worry about coyotes. Unless they're the smuggling kind there in San Diego Co.

Honestly - you need to be more worried about someone's pet dog than you do a coyote. I often see them when I run in some of the hills here in Orange County.

Mountain lions - now that's another story. Every now and then an alert will be posted around here, but they are few and far between.

My biggest problem here are cyclists. The road bikes mow us down on the streets, and the mountain bikes wipe us out on the trails!

Lisa Slow-n-Steady said...

I don't think you should worry much about coyotes, they're typically more afraid of people than you are of them.

Stray family dogs on the other hand...are not afraid of people and that's what worries me the most.

LisaM said...

I fear strange men on the trail that I run. I run listening to my ipod but its low enough that I can hear people around me. When I enter a stretch of the path where I am alone, I look behind me periodically to see if anyone is behind me, just so that I am aware. Fortunately, there are usually people out and abut walking, running or biking so that I feel safe.

Rookie on the Run said...

I agree with those of you who said that I should be more afraid of family dogs on the loose. I am more afraid of them. At least coyotes are usually afraid of people. I'm afraid of the two-legged creatures... especially early in the morning and on trails. I would rather run on trails but am a little fearful of doing that alone.

Mountain lions... fortunately, we don't have those in our immediate area. I worry about those when I go hiking in the Cleveland National Forest. :p

Sarah said...

Well...we don't have coyotes here. But, we do have bears, so I am always on the lookout for them. I mostly worry about strange cars and strange people. Why is it that white vans freak me out too?

Mark Berry said...

I frequently run on a 7.4 mile trail around a rural lake. I'm amazed - and dismayed - at the number of women I see running alone, especially when they are wearing earphones and - seemingly - oblivious to their surroundings.

Several times, I've ran around women runners who - when they realize someone is close by (they couldn't hear my call that I was passing them or the sound of my steps???), scream or engage in some other extreme startle response.

To the best of my knowledge, no bad has come to anyone on the trail, but I know that I wouldn't want my wife running there alone.

MCM Mama said...

No coyote worries around here! I live in a pretty urban area, so I worry more about people. I once had a homeless man startle me. Another time a guy on a bike followed me for a while. That really freaked me out, but he left after I darted across a fairly busy street. I very seldom run without my cell phone now because of that. It's also one of the reasons I don't run with an ipod.

Melanie said...

no coyotes around here, and I don't run by myself at night, but city drivers! Ugh! they're horrible! Great post :)