Readers Roundtable: Spooky Running Stories!

cbus2016_0332It’s dark and fog is swirling around as your headlight bobs up and down. It’s so early that your brain is foggy too. You turn the corner and run past the graveyard on your neighborhood loop, half-dreaming, half-worrying about all the things you have to do in the day ahead …


What is it? Is it a zombie? A ghost? A guy with a chainsaw? A raccoon?

Whether it was truly terrifying or terrifying until it turned out to be hilarious, we want to hearย all your stories about running scared!

โœซAnd join us for #SaltyChat tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST on Twitter, where we’ll dive deeper into the crypt of running terror! Muhahahaha!โœซ

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. When we moved into our new house on a cul-de-sac and I started running (before the age of headlamps, etc) there was a curve before the end of my street and about a month after moving there a dog came out and was growling at me viciously and barking and moving towards the edge of the property (before the era of invisible fences). I was terrified and every day hoped I wouldn’t see that dog – since it was a dead-end street I couldn’t avoid the curve.

    Then my wife and I were out walking around and met the dog at her house … she was a 15 year old mutt, not in the greatest of health but the absolute sweetest thing you could ever want to meet. That was a source of laughs and good natured ribbing for years (still is). After that I could just say ‘hi Charlie’ when I ran by and make out her tail wagging in the dim pre-dawn light.

    1. Ha! Every unrestrained dog is vicious to a runner until proven otherwise, but that’s to the extreme. Would only be funnier if it was a shitzu (although those little suckers can bite)!

  2. I was training for CIM in late fall after work so it was not only pitch black but also heavy tule fog (the California kind that grabs the earth and sucks in any reflecting or other light). Our house was on a circular one-mile loop with some dead-end spurs. At one point I stopped then realized I couldn’t tell right from left, up from down, whether I was still on the main road or one of the spurs. There were no cars, no house lights (part of the road passed a little park, completely dark), no phone (but no one home to call), no flashlight, I was petrified, wondering if I’d run in circles for hours. Finally I retraced some steps, found a cross-road, took a chance and slowly, oh so slowly, walked along the edge of the road (one foot on asphalt, one on dirt), until I could tell I was going uphill. Only then did I realize I was going the right direction to my house. I cut my run short that night!

  3. Around Thanksgiving last year, I was training for a trail race and had headed to a nearby park after work. This is a trail I run all the time; it wraps around part of the golf course and then drops you on the road where you can go in either direction to catch another trailhead. Iโ€™m a mile-ish in, running along a stretch of houses that back up to the golf course and I see an older guy out for a walk. Jeans, sweatshirt, looks like Richard Gere, which I notice when I give him a heads-up that I’m behind. He seemed startled, and I apologized for scaring him and kept going.

    About 100 meters later, the trail goes back into the woods and switch-backs for maybe a quarter mile. Just 20 feet or so into that stretch, I realize Richard Gere is running. In blue jeans. Quickly. Behind me.

    This made the hair stand up on my neck a little, as it were. So I sped up. Which was working great until I tripped on a root hidden by dead leaves and rolled one solid time. I didnโ€™t pause, I just rolled to my feet and hauled ass. The guy โ€” and considering the switchback โ€” had to have seen me fall and didnโ€™t call out, which made me even more nervous. But by then I was on a busy road, in daylight, and about a half mile from my car.

    I chop-chopped down the road, figuring I would reassess my plan at the next trailhead. Iโ€™ve got another out at the top of this trail, which is another quarter mile. I figure if heโ€™s still behind me, thereโ€™s no way he can make it through this overgrown trail without me knowing it. And then Iโ€™ll just drop 6 min pace back to my car and call it a day. I didnโ€™t see him again, and it was probably just me being paranoid โ€” but better safe than sorry, for sure.

    At the top of the trail I did a quick assessment and everything seemed to be fine. My toe hurt initially where I stubbed it but subsided quickly. Scrape on my knee and my leg.

    Then a ladyโ€™s unleashed dog jumped on me and we had to have a talk about that. Lady, listen. I just escaped Richard Gere. My adrenaline is high. You are lucky I didnโ€™t punt your dog Anchorman-style off the hill.

    The rest of the run was fine, I averaged considerably faster than I ususally do on those trails and I think it was the cool weather combined with a strong fight-or-flight response.

    When I got back to the car โ€” 5 miles after falling โ€” I realized I had landed in some sort of thistle. Even better, there were still thistles in my leg. And when I got home I discovered they were also in my hand. Terrific.

  4. Here’s mine. You can read the extended version here.

    I was about 5.5 months pregnant with my third child. It was a Saturday morning and I ran super early to get home in time for a busy day ahead. At the half-way of my 5 mile out and back I stopped to pee and felt a “heart palpitation come” on – it had happened to me before, where, usually after resuming running after stopping, my heart starts beating really fast and I feel weird for a few seconds to a couple of minutes. But this time was different then the earlier ones that were just minor annoyances. This one lingered and I was on an isolated stretch of road with no phone, early in the morning all alone. I sat on a split rail fence waiting for it to go away, but it didnโ€™t. And then I started to feel anxious, nauseous and then I felt like I was going to faint! There was a house about 200 meters up the road. I got up to try to walk there, but I felt too woozy. I thought about trying to crawl. I was so scared to lose consciousness by myself, pregnant, alone along the side road! I sat in the dirt next to the road and wished for a car. Any car. Anyone. Someone. Nothing. I was willing myself to stay with it and then I WILLED myself to relax. I needed to get that palpitation to stop. So glad I had some wits about me! Relaxing worked. My heart slowed down and regained its rhythm and I stood up and took a short walk to test everything out. And then I jogged slowly home, rattled.

  5. I got caught in the middle of a police chase. Last year I took my daughter, in the stroller, and my dog up to run on a rails-to-trails running path I go on all the time. It’s rural, in the woods, and pretty remote. I got on the trail and started going when I heard police sirens fly by on the road parallel but up a wooded hill from the path, then the police car u-turns into the parking lot about a quarter mile behind me. I turn to see the police car pull onto the path as far as it can get, then the officer jumps out and takes a knee (you know, aiming with a gun stance) and starts yelling into a mega-phone, “Get off the trail! Get off the trail!” I’ve got the stroller with my 2-year-old and my puppy with nowhere to go (the lake to my right and the hill on my left). I look ahead and see people and police lights coming toward me ON the path. So I off-road it down to the lake, fearing gun shots from either direction at any second, then make my way back to my car along the shore and got out of there. Found out later the police were chasing a felon with a warrant, he drove onto the pedestrian path then ditched his car when it got too narrow, and started running. UGH.

  6. A couple of times I was a race volunteer in a zombie costume for a Zombie run. Before the race when people were milling about and warming up, I got people in the mood, by creeping up on them, suddenly grabbing their shoulder or arm and snarling. Oh, the screams! The biggest and burliest guys were always the ones who screamed the loudest.

  7. A few scary ones in the last year — in Jan my husband and I were vacationing in Panama. I am cautious when running in new places but don’t let the fact a place is unfamiliar stop me from heading out (I need to get checks for me state and country lists, lol! And we all know what a great way it is to see a place). Was having a great run and then had a scary run-in with some dogs (see my TripAdvisor link for for story:

    So that rattled me pretty bad and I have a had what feels a bit like a mini version of PTSD with animals ever since! About a month after our trip, I was running and a golden retriever came running towards me — I screamed bloody murder! He just wagged his tail and wanted to be pet, lol. One pre-dawn morning this spring, I was out and my headlight caught a skunk in its beam — in my town, they are also very white and reflect light well. I am a biologist and am not afraid of skunks, but I screamed and did a 180. I sprinted and when it felt a safe distance, turned back to look — the skunk was running after me!! What the what!? That is not normal behavior for them but rather than finding out why this one was, I continued sprinting and that was the day I learned that I am not a fast runner, but I am faster than a skunk!

    At 10 months post-dog scare, I still find myself much more anxious around animals when running than I used to be and plan to start carrying pepper spray when I travel in the future. It’s really bummed me out to have that fear when I did not used to feel that!

    PS I have no idea who is telling the truth re: TA response — the Hotel Boca Brava had their story and our hotel had its story — but there are other reviews about scary dogs with BB and that was what the local word on the street on the island was so who knows?! I can tell you they never replied to my actual email and that our hotel never told us not to eat there.

    1. The skunk story made me LOL…I run early in the morning and always see so many skunks. I’m terrified of getting sprayed. Way to outrun it!

  8. About 10 years ago I was running at the very popular park near my parents’ house when someone reached out and pulled me into the bushes.

    Turned out to be a woman about my age, hiding from a scary turkey. For real: it was pacing and hissing on the trail just ahead.

    We waited together for a few minutes until it seemed to become interested in something in the opposite direction. Then we sprinted away.

    1. OMG! You just reminded me of the scary coyote story! I was pushing my babies (1 and 2) on the swings after a run and a lady walking a dog came up to me and told me to hurry because a crazy coyote was coming and I looked over and this mangy scraggly coyote was zigzagging toward us. I tore the kids out of the bucket swings, threw one in the stroller, carried the other and me and the lady and the dog started running and it followed us until a guy with a huge stick came and scared it away! It was so insanely weird. It feels like a dream, but it happened way back when!