When Sidney schoolteacher Sherry Arnold was kidnapped during an early morning run and killed in January, the news reverberated through Montana’s running community, which staged memorial runs across the state in her honor.
More recently, someone attempted to sexually assault two women walking alone in Missoula.
But as Runners Edge salesperson Vicky Mix noted, “a lot of women like to run alone, or don’t have the option of not running alone.”
So Runners Edge and Run Wild Missoula will hold a class Monday night on safety and self-defense for runners.
“With what happened over in Sidney, and all of the other things happening around Missoula, it seemed like a good idea,” said Mix.
Missoula police Detective Jamie Merifield and Sgt. Jim Klawitter will speak at the 7 p.m. program at The Loft, 119 W. Main St.
“It’s basically going to be a lot of common-sense awareness, a lot of question-and-answer stuff,” said Klawitter, himself a runner.
Perspective is important, he said. Attacks on runners “happen very infrequently,” he said. “But even though it’s infrequent, it’s something you should be prepared for and think about.”
In and around Missoula, runners should be prepared to deal with predators of both the two- and four-legged variety.
Last summer, a runner in the Pattee Canyon recreation area ended up in a boxing match with a mama bear after encountering its cubs on the trail. That bear eventually retreated.
Klawitter said he’s twice encountered a large black bear in the same spot on the main Rattlesnake Recreation Area trail – one time “literally so close I could have reached out and touched it.”
Signs on the Rattlesnake trail also warn of mountain lions. And even in town, aggressive dogs can be a problem.
“So I always carry pepper spray,” Klawitter said. “That’s something I recommend.”
Klawitter will talk Monday about how to use pepper spray – and about the legal implications of doing so.
Mix said Runners Edge sells two small pepper-spray canisters, one that directs a stream (and thus requires better aim) and a larger one that puts out a fog. With the latter, “you have to be more careful in windy conditions,” she said. Pepper spray is also available at outdoors stores and other locations around town.
The possibility of close encounters with cars likely presents an even greater danger to runners. Reflective gear and headlamps are essential for folks who run in the dark, Mix said.
“The better seen you are, the safer you are,” she said.
Monday evening’s event is free.
Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @CopsAndCourts on Twitter.