Running Scared – The Spooky Stories Strava Won’t Tell You

Running is many things, but it is almost never boring.  From close calls with cars to wild life encounters, there’s plenty of things that can make a run go from routine to terrifying.  To celebrate the best holiday of the year (Halloween, obviously), I’m sharing some of the hilarious stories my favorite running buddies have shared.  Because every runner has that one experience that makes your heart race in panic, only to be chuckled at over beers and nachos later. 

Need some more terrifying situations to try to avoid? Check out my Runners Worst Nightmares post! Here’s the stories of the things that go bump on the trails, and have us running scared!

Running Scared

Night Racing – If you’ve lost you mind completely, you just mind find yourself in the ultra marathon club. Races that vary in length from 31 to 100+ miles are not for the normal or sane, but they can be pretty exciting! Especially when those distances mean running well into, and sometimes through, the night. You’d be amazed at just how much those trails can come to life in the nocturnal hours, but that amazement doesn’t mean you probably won’t be incredibly creeped out at some point.

Fun fact, did you know that spider eyes reflect the light of headlamps? And there’s no shortage of spiders willing you to keep you company in the wee hours of the night! During an overnight stretch, Emily learned about all the things that truly go bump in the night, and it wasn’t just spiders with glowing eyes. As she and her running partner approached what they thought was an aid station, they heard the welcomed sound of clapping. Welcome until they realized they weren’t close enough to really hear humans cheering them on, but coyotes yipping instead. Nothing like a little trail trauma!

Demon Tree – A couple of months ago, when the sunrises started coming later in the mornings, I was still running on some local trails just before the sun would appear.  And while I had all the head lamps and pepper spray, I honestly felt safe on those familiar trails.  Most days.  So safe in fact, that I would often listen to podcasts on my bone conducting headphones, so that I could still hear approaching boars or serial killers.

One particular morning, I was enjoying a light hearted podcast centered around a New England folklore. A coven of witches who were banished into a forest of trees, and whose persecuted spirits still haunted the woods. Pretty standard stuff. Right about that time, my headlamp bounced off a tall tree stump (about 4 feet high) that had some sort of viney-fern growing out of it. And for a hot second, I just knew that I was looking at a demonic tree witch, and I didn’t know if I had the ability to out run it.

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It took about 3 seconds for me to adjust my light and realize it was the same vegetation I passed on a daily basis.  But for those 3 seconds, it was sheer terror on the trails.

Trapt Rope – Lady runners know the cardinal rule of safe running is to trust your gut. A lesson that Natalie, thankfully, headed beautifully while marathon training a couple of years ago. During an early morning run with a group of friends, another great safety technique, Natalie thought she noticed something on the ground ahead. On a well-trafficked paved trail, she suddenly realized what was lying there.

Some sort of net-like rope. Laid out like a cartoon boobie trap, waiting for an unwitting “jogger” to come along. Natalie took one good look, and just noped it right out of there, turning around and sprinting back in the other direction. She laughs when she remembers how she didn’t even wait for her friends to see the rope. Thankfully, her abandoned friends followed suite, and they reported it to the police before another runner or cyclist wandered its way.

Bad Bladder – Every runner knows the fortunate blessing of coming across a well-placed bathroom just in the nick of time.  And while many would turn up their noses at port-a-potties, for runners they can be a last saving grace.  But what happens when your luck just runs out?  Well, Whitney at was kind enough to share.

Because when you gotta go, you gotta go.  Especially for those of us lucky enough to have post-partum bladders.  Whitney realized that making it to a gas station just wasn’t going to happen, so she did what runners everywhere have done for centuries.  She found a private place to pop a squat.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t as private as she had hoped, which she realized when an unassuming Porsche drove past her.  Nothing like getting caught mid-squat to give you a little jump!

Killer Coyote – One of my favorite people to run with is reporter on the run Maddie Dart.  Since Maddie is an official media personality, I figured I’d let her do what she does best and tell her running scared story.  Take it away Maddie!

“It was another humid morning in Corpus Christi, Texas. Andrea, THE QUEEN of Metcons and Miles (Maddie’s words, not mine), and I were on our normal morning run. This usually consisted of talking about work drama, people who annoy us, and true crime. As we rounded the corner of our neighborhood route, I saw a four-legged creature wandering around. Now, seeing a stray dog or cat in Corpus is not out of the ordinary. In fact, it’s expected to see at least one on a daily basis.

But what was this dog doing?”

“All of these thoughts flooded through my mind as Andrea kept talking (I was oblivious), when I realized that stray dog was a COYOTE. I worked to think of a reaction or solution to prevent being chased by something that,  I’m sure, can run faster. We KEPT running because I didn’t think the coyote was really a threat, until it dropped something on a front lawn and got closer. That when I threw my arm out in front of Andrea and probably said ‘holy crap there’s a coyote and it just dropped something in that lawn!’ I was right.”

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“We came upon a gruesome scene, in a poor, unknowing homeowner’s front yard. The head of a dead Yorkie dog. Now, neither Andrea nor myself are one’s to get squeamish, but it was quite the sight to witness at 6 AM. The coyote had run off, perhaps with the other half, and we contemplated knocking on the front door, just to warn the homeowner before a happy child discovered Yorkie remains. We decided against potentially waking someone up to come see a decapitated dog, which meant we had to run past it on our way back. It was spooky AF.”

“Also, lock up your small animals people.”  Inarguable words of wisdom, if I do say so myself.

Risky Relay – Running in unfamiliar territory can be a great way to keep things interesting and fresh, but it also means runners need to be more aware of their surroundings. On a multi-state relay race, Athena found herself running overnight in a small town in Mississippi. While crossing a bridge, her necklace was suddenly caught on something; she realized it was a fishing line.

A fishing line that had seemingly been strategically placed along the race course. Not exactly the friendly welcome that we runners hope for. Being the thoughtful runner she is, Athena made sure her team members notified the rest of the incoming teams. Thankfully, there were no beheadings before the finish line!

Unexplainable Chainsaw – As women runners, we’re told to be aware of our surroundings.  To make sure we run unpredictable routes, and pay attention to anyone who might be following too close.  Andi from had a recent experience that drove that point home.

On a calm, misty morning (like all good ghost story beginnings), she was running through the city when she turned onto a residential street. Nothing unusual. Except for the man standing at the end of it, unmoving. Initially, she thought it might be a scarecrow or statue, because it was so still. As she got closer, she picked up the pace, just in time to realize that her scarecrow was actually a man holding a chainsaw. Was he about to cut down a tree? Why wasn’t he moving?

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Photocred: Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Questions we will just have to live without knowing the answer to, because luckily for Andi, the girl is fast and she booked it out of there before she could find out.  That’s one way to set a mile PR.

River Rando – If I had a dime for every runner who has told me about some weird, creepy guy they’ve spotted on a run, well I’d definitely have a second house in the mountains.  While it’s no joking matter, there are some scenario’s that are just almost so far fetched and random, you’d think they were made up if you didn’t know any better.

Like the time Chelsea from happened to stumble upon a random gentleman taking care of his hygiene.  Not terrifying in and of itself.  Until you realize that Chelsea had come across this guy, mid-river shower, completely naked.  Now, he could have just really needed a good rinse off (no judgements from me), but she was shocked to say the least.  Pretty sure she did not regret having the company of her doggo for the rest of her morning!

Fast Finish – Few things fire up the old bowels like a good run! During Jacqueline’s first marathon, she was one of the lucky runners to make it through the entire 26.2 mile effort without needing to pull over for a pit stop. Unfortunately, once she came to a stop, her stomach seized the opportunity to get things going, and we all know those post-run poops wait for no one. Unfortunately for Jacqueline, she wasn’t alone in the sudden urge.

As she looked around, she realized that all of the port-a-potties were full, and there were thousands of runners standing between her and a place to go. Fearing she would find herself in the middle of a Bridesmaid moment, pooping in the middle of the road, she used every ounce of sphinctal strength she had. She kept moving, and finally found the holy grail she was searching for; an empty bathroom stall. RIP to the poor soul occupying the stall beside her, because Jacqueline had long surpassed the point social graces. But nature waits for no one!

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