A Runner Was Attacked*

Two weeks ago, news broke that a woman not so far from me had been attacked while out for an evening jog.

I am a true crime junkie, so this was far from the first news report about an attack on a female runner that I’ve ever read. But there was something about this case that sunk deep into my gut and unsettled me.

Maybe it was because I know people that know her. Maybe it’s because it was a random attack, and for so long it felt like the police had no suspects. Maybe it’s because it’s closer to home than I’m used to. Maybe it’s because I know that she spent 13 hours overnight, alone, critically injured just off a walking path, waiting to be found.

Maybe it’s because I felt some strange connection to this case, and feel that really, it could have been me.

I don’t run in the evenings anymore… but I used to. I was an evening runner for years. And to be perfectly honest, if it wasn’t for COVID and M working from home most of the week, I’d probably still be an evening runner now. I have spent many evenings running or walking on the trails here, at the exact time she left her home.

Since the news broke about the attack, I feel like I’ve been a little on edge. On one hand it feels almost silly to be so affected as it technically happened in another city and I don’t know her at all… but on the other hand, I feel so strangely connected to this case. I’ve followed every update, ravenous for information about police progress and her status in hospital.

I think deep down it gutted me because this is one of my biggest fears, and it happened in a place I know well.

It’s different when you read about it in another country, or another province. When it happens not far from where you live, the impact is different. The fear is real.

Today police announced that they had made an arrest in the case–a 21 year old man was in custody and they were confident they had their man. With the release of his name came the charges against him: attempted murder, aggravated assault, and aggravated sexual assault. They don’t believe he knew the victim before the attack.

As relieved as I was to know the police had someone in custody, hearing the charges just made my skin crawl and I really acknowledged how much this case has gutted me. It has added another complicated layer to the uneasiness I already feel about running on the trails unless they are packed with people. This attack happened on a path in the middle of the city, with a police station just down the block.

It just made all those running safety tips I’ve read over the years feel very real. It also made me take pause and realize that despite all the good you find in the world, there really is evil here too. Shortly after police released the name of the suspect in custody, news broke that someone of the same (fairly unique) name had sent best wishes for her recovery and donated a substantial sum to the GoFundMe account that had been set up to assist her family.

It made me feel sick.

I’m glad he was caught, and I hope he spends the rest of his life behind bars. I hope that she is able to recover from this somehow, and is able to live a full and happy life in the years to come.

I hope that the feelings of safety and security he stole from the people nearby isn’t permanent. He attacked one woman, but he violated an entire community.

For me, this case has really just made me take pause. It made me realize that I’m quietly grateful for each run I finish that is totally uneventful.

I refuse to let the joy I’ve found in running to be stolen from me, but this case hit me hard… and I feel like a few pieces were chipped away. I’ll keep running, but with my music low, my hair tied up, and always in daylight when there’s almost too many people out.

And hopefully that will always be enough.

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