Murder on the trail.

I recently sat down for a chat with a local friend who has this awesome (and topically diverse) podcast called Iconoclast of Things. Each podcast has a “thing” to talk about. For that episode, the thing was the Indian Creek Trail. The recent string of murders on the trail made him wonder how female runners deal with fear, harassment, etc. The podcast episode is AMAZING and I hope you give it a listen here.

That said, I wanted to talk a bit about Indian Creek Trail and the string of murders that really seems to be serial killings but I don’t think have been labeled as such.

I have run Indian Creek Trail many times. I first learned of Indian Creek Trail from the races the Patriots Running Group puts on there. I have raced many times there. I also was interviewed by a local news station for a weather advertisement they made. (How people rely on reliable forecasts… and how I use the information as a runner). They shot some nice footage of me running over the bridge near “The Other Place” bar in Olathe.

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Running Grass Skirts and Hawaiian Shirts race in -16 temps on Indian Creek Trail

Most recently, I was using Indian Creek Trail from long runs. I wanted something with some rolling hills, that was well-maintained… but mostly I was trying to avoid the bugs that I was encountering on my night runs on my heavily wooded trails. I reasoned that as a suburban paved trail, it  would have less bugs and would be pretty safe.

For the most part, I felt pretty safe. I would have a friend meet me every few miles to check in. It was OK. The 17 mile trail snaked through Overland Park, Kansas with most gentle hills and a few steep inclines.

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Martini Madness 5K at Indian Creek Trail

There were sections that I was uncertain of. I felt pretty good running by golf courses and residential neighborhoods. But there were many times that the trail would cross the highway, and that meant running down into the underpass. This put me on edge. I told myself that in Overland Park, Kansas, there probably weren’t homeless people camped out. I would be OK. Just keep running.

After running there a couple times, I just couldn’t shake the fear I felt running under the highway. I started bringing my pepper spray along — not something I typically do. I usually save my deterrents for isolated trail runs, not running in town.

Looking back now, I am happy that I took those precautions to protect myself.

The fifth body was found along the trail this week, although this murder seems unrelated to the other four. It doesn’t fit the profile of the other four victims: older white men walking their dogs along the trail.

Walking their dogs along the trail. They were with their dogs. I have no idea what breed of dogs they were walking… but that is a thing we tell women to do to be safe. “Take your dog with you!” I began running with my dogs on the trails, pretty much every run, when I wanted some company. It was reassuring to have my dogs with me when I was running in the dark in the middle of nowhere.

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Evening trail run with Atlas the Wonder Mutt

There just aren’t any answers yet. All I can do is to stay vigilant and protect myself while running. I will continue running with my very large dogs. I will continue to carry pepper spray or a stun gun. I will continue to vary my routine, and let my family know where I am. (Here is a post I did on how I carry all the gear with some pictures of how I load everything up.)

I recently learned of a group called “One Ear Out” which advocates for running with one ear uncovered while running. (Their daughter was struck by a train while wearing headphones.) This is an excellent practice as you should always remain aware of your surroundings. Another option might be the new bone induction headphones that rest on the cheekbones instead of in the ear canal. I did a review of one brand here, so you can see how they work, but there are many options with these as well.

Stay safe out there, friends.

Update: A couple people asked what products I use. Note that I am not selling anything – but am happy to make recommendations.

Pepperspray

I have a handheld one that wraps around my hand with elastic and velcro. I don’t like things on my hands, so I push it up onto my forearm, and I practice pulling it down and getting my thumb on the trigger before each run. Mine is black, but here is a pretty pink one on Amazon. You can read about how they work and how often they should be replaced here.

Stun Gun

Stun guns are legal in my state, so if I feel I want to be extra cautious, I slip a small stun gun into the front pocket of my hydration vest. It is easy to access if I need it, and has a safety so I won’t zap myself if I fall down. I feel like even just pushing the button and making the big ZAPPPPP in the air would make someone leave me alone.

I have this one, but there are lots of other options on Amazon as well.

ID Bracelets

In the event of an emergency, it is good for responders to be able to identify you and have a contact number for your family. I have reviewed Road IDs here. They seem to be the most popular option for runners, hikers, bikers, etc.

All this gear fits nicely into my hydration vest, along with my phone, nutrition, TP in a ziplock, etc. Link to my vest in main body of post.

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