Was the phrase Seattle runner Kelly Herron yelled repeatedly as she fought off a registered transient sex offender who attacked her in the Golden Gardens public restroom last month. On a Sunday afternoon. In a park frequented by families.
I am not naive. I have read the articles on assaults on runners, the tips on how to avoid being “selected” as a victim. I do not run with headphones so I am at my most alert. I will change my route if I feel uncomfortable with what I see ahead of me. I almost always run with a friend, my husband, or my running club. If a public restroom becomes a necessity, two of us usually go in together or my husband will wait right outside. I thought I had running safety on lock.
My running partner/friend and badass marathoner, Katie, and I both had moms who were, during our middle and high school years, what seemed overly concerned about our safety on runs. My mom would ride her bike across from me on our rural Pennsylvania roads. Katie’s mom followed her closely in the car. (To the point where she was pulled over by the police for stalking. Katie had to confirm that her mom was indeed her mom.) She told Katie to always tuck her ponytail into her shirt so that someone could not pull her into a vehicle by her hair. My mom hated that I refused to carry my phone on runs. Now I get it.
I run in Golden Gardens. I have used that restroom. Kelly’s experience hit home. Reading her story, you will find out that three weeks before the attack, she took a self-defense seminar offered at work. She credits her intuition, the knowledge she learned at the seminar, and her fighting spirit with giving her the tools she needed to escape her attacker. Thank you, Kelly, for standing up and speaking out…it made me question my readiness.
What if I wanted to fly solo for the day? Would I be able to defend myself if I were attacked by a depraved person twice my size?
Scrolling through my Instagram feed shortly after the attack, I came across Krav Maga Seattle‘s post about a free Women’s Empower Seminar they were holding on April 1st–a sign. Katie and I registered, hoping we would receive practical, hands-on techniques, techniques to help us beat the ever-loving shit out of someone who dared attack us.
We were not disappointed.
The seminar, KMS’s third since opening in 2014, filled up within eight hours of registration. Forty-eight other women joined us on the 1st. Co-owner Chau Le began the session by going over what attackers look for in potential victims, but spent little time lecturing. Instead, we did an exercise designed to make us uncomfortable so we could feel our bodies’ physical responses to a gut feeling of “this is wrong.” The top two things I took away from the first part of the workshop was this:
Safety > Being Polite. Trust your instinct. If you are about to ride an elevator and the doors open and the person inside gives you the creeps, don’t get on! Be an asshole. Turn around. You’re never going to see that person again. Seriously, just don’t get on.
That may seem like common sense, but a lot of times the reaction to the above situation is: Crap. He saw me standing there and it’s going to seem like I’m rude/racist/confused/judgmental/weak if I don’t get on the elevator now. I’ll just look at my phone while I’m in there.
Le and his staff drove home the need to develop a fighting spirit: What are you willing to do to get home safely? Will you pick up that rock/stick and smash it into someone’s head if they are attacking you? And finally, he asked: When are you done fighting? The answer…
You’re done fighting when they’re done. And when they’re done, you kick them and get the f*ck out of there. -Chau Le
After that, senior instructors Allie and Angela (total BAMFs) took over and demonstrated straight punches, palm strikes, and hammer fists. We immediately practiced on our partners who held striking shields. No holding back. We struck standing, kneeling, and on our backs, switching out only to hold the shields for our partners. Katie, by the way, is a black belt, so holding the shield for her was not much of a break. What surprised me most was how utterly exhausting it was to fight continuously for…less than one minute.
We learned defenses for if an attacker grabs you by the wrist, by the hair, bear hugs you from behind, or manages to get you on your back. It was practical, intense, and eye-opening. Prior to the seminar, my fighting experience had been limited to cardio kickboxing videos and defending myself from Thorin’s raspberry attempts on my stomach, or in other words, completely unprepared.
Ladies, if you run alone, or if you, like me, are fairly confident in your ability to run away from an attacker, but not after a long lactate threshold run or V02Max workout, I definitely recommend seeking out a self-defense course. Leaving KMS, I felt amped. I felt ready. I felt prepared. To do whatever it takes.
It is not fair, nor right that this type of training is necessary, that women have to prepare mentally and physically for a potential attack while exercising alone outside. But it is. So please, search and sign up. Thank you, KMS for an awesome seminar.
Not today, mother fucker. Not today.