I’m still a bit of a mess right now. But I can’t let time pass and risk not getting an important message out to my fellow lovers of the trail and outdoors. I’m still trying to comprehend what happened to me and a running companion yesterday. The bottom line is, we are lucky to be alive. This is not intended to be an over-emotional rant about something trivial. My friend and I were shot at yesterday about 9 miles into our trail run. Let me start at the beginning.
Each Sunday, I have the pleasure of guiding a wonderful group of ultrarunners in Reno. We have chosen routes around Reno conducive for as much snow-free running as possible. One of those routes at the moment happens to lie within the Silver State 50/50 course out at Peavine Mountain. Lots of jeep trail, intertwining singletrack, a grinding steady 10 mile climb, etc. The perfect spot or so we thought. As I have run out there before, some of the routes intersected with places that are quite obvious, favorite target range shooting spots. The litter of empty rifle shells, beer cans and the like has always made me cautious and sometimes unsure of who I was sharing the outdoor space with. But, I was raised by an ex-police, and current federal marshall dad( also known as my always delighted 100 mile crew captain). My dad showed me a reverence for gun handling and the proper protocol for shooting a weapon. I’m talking, I have never had reason to be scared of those with guns before. I have tried to share my space with them and stay away from areas I knew were active for weapons firing. I almost always chose to run on singletrack in or near wilderness, where I never see this. Except yesterday.
About 8 miles into our run, Eric and I split off from the other runners (who wanted to run a bit less than us), we proceeded to head north up the canyon towards the summit of Peavine. It was a lovely, sunny February day and we were chatting a bit about everything. As we rounded a corner, we could hear the sound of a gun shot. It seemed close, but we couldn’t see anything. I had never encountered any target shooters directly near my running trails while I was running. Never. So we kept running up the hill and heard nothing else for a bit. Then again as the jeep road wound around another turn, we could see 4 men each carrying a rifle. We stopped. The men were walking around with their riflles and appeared as they had set up some target away from us into a safe zone. Just to make sure, we jumped up and down and yelled that we were down the road. Thinking we were successful, they did nothing and just kept walking around. Okay, let’s be cautious, and see. They were only 200 yards or less from us and we thought they heard our request and had seen us. Nothing happened for a what seemed like 30 more seconds and then just like that, a shooter lowered his rifle in our general direction and began firing. A loud thunderous crack exploded the air. We crouched down and began screaming at them at the top of our lungs. “STOP! HOLD YOUR FIRE!” over and over and over. Right in the nick of time we found a raised dirt hill and jumped behind it. We crawled on our hands and knees to lowest undulation that we could find. Then the bullets began piercing the air above our heads. I could feel the electricity of the bullet, one by one as they buzzed overhead. My dog Luna, Eric and I stayed still, screaming for them to stop. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Eric got quiet and then I did too. Time became warped and I began to think of my daughter. I kept thinking of her. Eric told me he too, thought of his little girls. I pictured Eva at about 10 years old and then I began to cry and then Eric and I started talking about what we should do. We were 8-9 miles from our cars and felt we had no way out. Remembering, I brought my phone with me, I pulled it out and tried 911. The shots seemed to change direction and then silence. Nothing would connect on my phone. I kept screaming and was feeling desperate. The shots began again, after what must have been a re-loading pause, and I didn’t know what to do. So we decided in that moment to make a run for it down the hill when it quieted again and try to get away from these men. We justified that we didn’t know what their intentions were or if they were after some moving animal above us. We also had no concept of how thick the hill was that was sheltering us. Could the bullet penetrate and come through? In either case, it felt wrong to stay there indefinitely and let the shots continue. I trusted nothing. We waited for a moment of calm, agreed to run as fast as our legs could go, and then counted to three and took off. We knew that a road curvature would give us protection in about 2-300 yards down the road. We made it about 100 yards down and more gunshot. I kept looking back to make sure Eric was right behind me, all the while, expecting a bullet to hit my back. I sobbed the whole way down the hill. By some unknown grace and intervention, we sped down that jeep road at a speed my legs have never felt and the men were out of sight. We slowed down but kept going a bit more, until we didn’t hear any more shots. We stopped, shaking, sobbing and in utter disbelief. How did we not get hit? How did those men not see or hear us? How lucky are we to be okay?
I pulled out my phone and dialed 911 again and connected with the dispatch. They sent police to go look for the shooters and agreed while it was legal to shoot their weapons if homes were more than one kilometer away, it was illegal to fire blindly down a canyon, across widely used roads,on public use land. The shooters were either drunk, disobedient, hearing impaired (with the use of protective sound gear) or just plain and complete assholes.
Eric and I had to get back to our cars and the only way to do that was to run. We ran in silence for a minute or two, and then one of us would talk about what happened. Eric said he will always and forever wonder if they heard us scream at them. It was a very long descent down to our cars- some of it spent on the phone with police or my husband or my dad. I am pretty sad and pretty pissed off at the same time. Nightmares plaqued me last night and I am trying to just deal with it a little at a time. Eric confirmed he is feeling the same way and didn’t sleep at all last night. It is consuming me and that is more irritating than anything.
In either case, it occurred to me, that in 10 years of running trails, this has never happened. An isolated incident, yes, but how many close calls have others had? Why is the law so ignorant for the shared use of people running trails, mountain biking and hiking all the while others are shooting weapons. PLEASE, PLEASE I beg of all of you- watch your surroundings, listen intently and don’t take for granted the areas in which you run.
I am going to be okay. Shook to the core, but also totally alive and grateful for today. I hope no one else has to go through something like this. I am seeking out ways to implement change. But for now, I want others to be made aware. Research the law near you and seek out singletrack versus car accessible roads if not near a protected national park or other protected area. Congested areas are highly contested issues for the gun laws. I would rather deal with my snowy, icy, bear ridden wilderness trails that cars can’t access ,than deal with this again. But, I’m not going to take this lying down either. I am angry this happened. If this has happened to you, please let me know. From what I can tell, law enforcement is pretty cauloused to this. But I am certain, the line between life and death is quite thin and no one should have to run from gun fire when out for a Sunday long run.