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A Girl’s Guide to Trail Running » Blog Archive » Lucky to Be Alive

Lucky to Be Alive

Posted by Jen on Feb 18, 2013 in Uncategorized |

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.



Keira Henninger
Feb 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm


Wow what an ordeal. Thank you so much for sharing your story. May I please share this on my social media outlets? This is so important for people to read, and you write exceptionally well.


Feb 18, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Oh my, glad you’re both ok. One of my canyon runs takes me by a place where target shooters have a designated space to practice. Being from Alaska, I’m not terrified of guns, ’cause everyone I know uses them for hunting and uses them safely. Usually I just hear the gun blasts off in the distance but one time I heard a bullet go whizzing by me as I was coming off the mountain and it was freakin’ terrifying! I felt so helpless, not knowing where the shooter was and whether more were coming. I dropped into the canyon as quickly as possible (away from the noise) and like you, felt grateful to have skirted tragedy.

ken michal
Feb 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm

So glad you’re ok!! Sorry you had to deal with this terrifying situation!

I really hope these idiots are found and their guns taken away!!

All Day!

Feb 18, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Jesus Christ. We’ve come across hunters on wilderness runs a few times here in the San Luis Obispo area, but they’re hiking long distances and seem a lot more careful than the stereotypical drunk hunter. I’ve still thought about wearing an orange hat during deer season.

I just hope the shooters weren’t aware you were there (even though that’s infuriating). The alternative is that they were shooting at you, which is just too scary and reckless to even comprehend.

Feb 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Wow! So glad you’re ok. I’m curious to know if they knew or not, but either way what’s important is that you’re ok. *hugs* Give your daughter an extra kiss and hug. :)

Tyler Curley
Feb 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm

That is a horrible experience. Peavine is my home mountain as far as running is concerned. Over the countless runs I’ve had on its slopes there have been a handful of times where I have heard gunshots but only two times have they been close enough to give me real concern. Both times I was able to make the shooters aware of my presence through yelling and movement and firing ceased. Your incident is alarming and should never occur. Gun users should have a specified target and a clear line of sight to it. To be on the safe side I almost always wear a bright orange trucker hat for increased visibility.

Terry Rhodes
Feb 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Jen, That is such a horrible feeling running along and hearing the gun shots and thinking that you are safe where you are! I have felt that way on Peavine before but not as close a call! It makes me so angry and sad when I pass by places on the trails that are littered with brass and shotgun shells, broken glass and just trash! It does seem that no one cares! I am glad that you are okay! We should be able to run and feel safe, we follow the rules, we watch out for others, I guess we just take for granted that everyone out there feels the same as we do. So sad.

Feb 19, 2013 at 8:26 am

Thanks Terry! Very kind comments and so happy I was able to write about it.

Feb 19, 2013 at 8:30 am

Thanks Tyler- JB actually wore an orange hunter hat for years. It’s time to bring it back!

Feb 19, 2013 at 9:31 am

This just makes me sick to hear. I’m so happy that you guys are ok though. I love running up there but unfortunately there are a lot of stupid gun totting idiots shooting all the time. I had a similar experience about a decade ago out there, but it was only an accidental shot in my direction. It is an issue, but I am not sure what can be done. That experience is why I always have hunter blaze orange on.

Feb 19, 2013 at 9:34 am

Shelby- glad you are ok from that horrible close call. It makes no sense right?

Feb 19, 2013 at 11:35 am

Holy crap, Jen! I’m so glad you guys are ok! This is insanity. Wow.

Feb 19, 2013 at 10:09 pm

So just when did the great outdoors become just YOUR space? Your running trails? Sounds more like you have entitlement issues. You saw they had set up their target areas, why did you bother to continue on into it? Common sense would’ve told me to avoid the area. Did you ever stop to think the reason they didn’t hear you is because they were wearing ear protection?

Feb 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Hi Kimber-
No we didn’t see targets set up and as a matter of fact after a trip out there with law enforcement shows that they used a 223 assault rifle and they should be in jail right now for firing across a canyon onto a road. I never once said I had an issue with sharing trails. You obviously have no idea what I’m taking about.

Feb 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm

How could law enforcement know they used an “assault rifle”? There are numerous rifles that use the. 223 cartridge.

The term “assault rifle” is commonly used by inept media and people that have an anti gun agenda.

Feb 20, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Hey Stuart- I’m no gun expert. I’ve never claimed to be. It doesn’t really matter what gun what used- it was not fired at an appropriate backstop target. As I said before- I have always and will always share trails and space with all people. But my running doesn’t threaten anyone. Firing guns blindly across a huge recreation space is just plain dangerous. How is anything I’m saying not common sense?

Feb 20, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Using the terms “assault rifle” and “common sense ” are terms commonly used when there is an agenda.

This entry smells fishy to an avid trail runner and recreational shooter.

Feb 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Listen Stuart, I have no agenda other than I almost died on Sunday. I was with another runner, who can vouch for my story. I come from a family of hunters- what do you want? What is your agenda and why are you harassing me? Do you think it’s cool what happened? Have you been shot at while running? If not, then you don’t know what you are talking about.

JB Benna
Feb 20, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Im not sure if Stuart or Kimber even read the whole blog. Jen made it clear of that she was not trying to stir up any gun issues. I also went to the site of the incident this morning with law enforcement and I can vouch for Jen that they were not following proper gun safety protocol and were shooting down a fire road that happens to be part of the Silver State 50 mile course and a popular Mt Biking and running trail. Jen has every right to be pissed at the people that did this. This is not a rant about Gun rights or usage, but a retelling of a scary incident where the shooters were in the wrong. I would ask you to please stop harassing my wife. No one has made this a Gun issue but you. If you are going to be bringing up such issues, I would also ask that you have enough tact (balls) to you use your full name and not hide behind your computer, just as Jen and I have. Furthermore, if you do not believe Jens story, I would be happy to put you in touch with the appropriate person who can take you to the location to assess for yourself if it was proper gun usage or not. Thanks JB

Feb 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Hypersensitive are we? I was not there so I can’t say either way. If the events did unfold as written, that is unfortunate.
My intention is not to harass, just asking questions.

Making assumptions that all shooters are drunken idiots is like assuming all runners arrogant and have an inflated sense of entitlement.

I try and view both sides and not to jump to conclusions. I hope you do the same.

Feb 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm

No, you aren’t asking questions- If you were, I would have kindly answered them. You are telling me I have an agenda and that my story is “fishy.” Hypersensitive, actually no. If you are in fact an “avid trail runner and recreational shooter,” then awesome. Like I have said a few times- this is NOT a gun issue. Do you know how many times I have gone shooting with my father- enough to hit a target smack in the middle. I never once said target shooters are in general, “drunken idiots.” In fact, if you were able to actually read the blog, you would see how I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they couldn’t hear us. I am just a mom, a runner and a wife. I am not trying to change law, instead, I’m trying to warn my fellow outdoorsmen that this can happen and to keep an eye out. And yes, not only did the events unfold exactly as written, I’m even being kind about it. Like you, I lived in the bay area, and nothing like this ever happened to me before and I bet it has not happened to you. I sure hope it never does.

Feb 20, 2013 at 3:30 pm


First of all, I’m sorry this happened and I’m glad you’re okay. That being said, you may want to consider what part your actions and decions played in this unfortunate incident.

Without seeing the layout of the area, and whether this was an actual “Road” they were shooting across, or a goat-trail, I can’t speak to whether or not the shooters were obeying the 4 rules of gun safety.

I would however like to point out some of your statements in an effort to demonstrate that the target shooters may not be entirely at fault.

1. “My friend and I were shot at yesterday”

I sincerely doubt that you were “Shot at” by recreational target shooters.

“a shooter lowered his rifle in our general direction and began firing”

This is probably much more accurate.

2.”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.”

Makes perfect sense not run through areas known to be active target shooting ranges. Why change yesterday?

3.”As we rounded a corner, we could hear the sound of a gun shot. It seemed close, but we couldn’t see anything.”

“So we kept running up the hill”

WHAAATT?! Lemme’ get this straight… You heard gunshots, and they seemed close… so you kept…running…up…the hill. I’m not a runner, but I’m pretty sure this was a reeeeally bad decision.

4.”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.”

So you didn’t get any acknowledgement or sign, like a wave, that they had seen you? To me, the fact that “They did nothing and just kept walking around” would have been a pretty good indication that they had NOT seen me! 200 yards away, almost certainly wearing ear protection, and you “Thought they heard your request”?! Really?!

5.”I am seeking out ways to implement change”

I think the first change I would implement would be not to go running in areas that I KNOW are active shooting areas!

6.”The shooters were either drunk, disobedient, hearing impaired (with the use of protective sound gear) or just plain and complete assholes.”

You know this how?

7.”they used a 223 assault rifle”

Way to get the sexy media buzzword in there. And again, you know this how?

8.”It doesn’t really matter what gun what used”

No, it most certainly does not, so why do you make a point to use the sexy media term “Assault Rifle”?

By the way, I would give you 20 to 1 odds that it was not, by definition, an “Assault Rifle”.

I have to hand it to you though, you do have a flair for storytelling. That was quite dramatic.
You should look into writing screenplays.

There seems to be a bit of an underlying agenda here. So I’m curious if in retrospect you feel like you should bear any of the responsibility for this, or was it all those drunken, disobedient, plain and complete asshole gun nuts?

Feb 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Hey Bruce- How are ya! Thanks for stopping by and spending so much time detailing my post. Thanks for using quotes though- at least you read my blog. But since you aren’t a runner, but instead someone who I’ve offended because you are avid shooter, why spend anytime here? Why in the world would I have an “underlying agenda?” You think I wanted this to happen? I am mom of a 2 year old that now is pretty stressed out about what happened on Sunday. Which, may seem super dramatic to you, but was in fact what happened. (You were staying pretty classy until that last dig- bummer, I was taking you seriously for a minute). But to answer your question cause I want to be clear: I was running on public fire roads- in fact, an exact ultramarathon course used by many, many runners, bikers and hikers- not a goat road or a hidden singletrack. I was told what kind of gun “it could have come from” based on someone who is an expert. I am not. I don’t even know what a “sexy media buzzword” for guns are. The area which we went running is so multi-use, I had no idea that people would fire across a canyon. I guess I am naive about this sort of thing as this hasn’t happened to me or anyone else I know. In retrospect, yes I made some major mistakes. I have owned up to that- but the wrong was in the hands of the shooters. Do you think its cool of your fellow shooters to shoot down a blind canyon onto fire road. Is it okay for shooters to shoot across a freeway? IT was so blatantly a public road, that the idea someone was shooting across it, never, ever occurred to me. And since I am too nice for my own good, I thought there was no way that could happen. I am taking responsiblity- why do you think I wrote this?

Nathan Lee
Feb 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Heya Jen,

Hundreds of avid shooters are currently reading your post actually and we’re currently discussing it in on our boards.

Avid shooters huddle.

Feb 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Nathan- I figured as much. But I have to commend you for having the guts to leave your full name and to let me know. Maybe you all can leave me alone. I am not sure what you all want?

Nathan Lee
Feb 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Oh, we don’t want anything from you, as a whole. We are just reading and discussing what a bunch of idiots those men were. Some people disagreeing, but you know how that all works out.

Me, personally, I’ve been trying to train for Rangar, but I keep getting the shin splints. I’m not much of a runner though, mostly been into lifting and contact sports my whole like, but trying the whole running thing out. Shin splits are a pain. Not as bad as being shot at though; however, I would imagine having shin splints, while being shot at, would be a whole different level.

Feb 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I”m a target shooter and gun enthusiast and am sure the negative comments are coming from people who have never had a gun fired in their direction. I believe that 99% of people that shoot outdoors are responsible and the 1% who are not can wreck your day and make the rest of us look bad. My friend’s car once took a bullet while driving up a main road near Santa Cruz because some idiots were shooting in an unsafe direction. I’m sorry that this happened to you.

Feb 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Thanks Nathan- here’s a response to your group:

Paul Grimes
Feb 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Scary incident Jen! Sorry you’re catching so much flack for recounting and sharing your experience!

Feb 20, 2013 at 9:29 pm

I am Jen’s father.
I am a hunter, gun enthusiast, belong to four big game conservation groups and the NRA. I am also a retired law enforcement officer of 31 years, and currently employed in private contract security for a federal law enforcement agency.
Jen has been around firearms her whole life. She has been taught the safe way to handle a firearm, the dangers of weapons, and how to target shoot.
She experienced a very scary experience of having a weapon discharged towards her, that could have easily injuried or killed her, her dog, or her running partner.
This incident was conducted by multiple irresponsible persons, discharging high powered rifles in a public use area, without the common sense to shoot targets safely into a proper backstop absent of bystanders.
I have conducted target shooting for the last 28 years living in Reno. Each and every time I used a high powered rifle for target shooting, I drove to the Washoe County Shooting facility on the Pyramid Highway, or the Carson Shooting facility near Moundhouse. I don’t enjoy the drive to either location, but that is where responsible firearm enthusiasts go to safely shoot high powered weapons.
Jen felt responsible to make runners, hikers, mountain bikers, motorcycle/off road enthusiasts, and anyone who enjoys the outdoors aware of this incident and to try to prevent a tragic accident from happening in the future.

Feb 21, 2013 at 7:56 pm

I’m Jen’s younger sister, gun enthusiast, avid hunter, and professional veterinary student. I’m the recipient of the National Turkey Federation Scholarship (Reno, NV chapter), and Co-founder of Cast and Blast (a gun club) at Washington State University.
I’m disgusted as a fellow lover of the woods and female hunter, the attack upon my sister by people who supposedly share my same enthusiasm for hunting and guns. I as she, was raised by my dad to use guns in an appropriate manner treated with the upmost respect and safety. Just to those who think I know nothing about hunting or guns- I began hunting at age 15, have received multiple hunting and wildlife conservational scholarships, and have been a small and big game hunter since beginning this enjoyable sport and hobby. I’m also interested in specializing as a veterinarian in wildlife.
What happened to her, and her sharing her story is not an agenda, or naive dramatic story to blow out of proportion or go against our cherished 2nd amendment, it is simply a warning to fellow runners to be aware about this specific location in Reno, NV, and again as a reminder to the arrogant, where she was running is a highly PUBLIC RECREATIONAL area, no not a gun range, remote area, or area to shoot into the backdrop of a mountain, or pit. I ask you all as a young 23 year old woman to be men, stop assuming she knows nothing of the proper use and handling of guns, and to show respect, act as men and uphold the good name of fellow gun enthusiasts and hunters. I hope she receives more support than this continual nonsense and negativity. We should all be concerned that irresponsible people who use guns such as these men she encountered that day, give bad names to the rest of US fellow gun enthusiasts and hunters. I sure hope nobody ever has to encounter what she did.


[…] Referenced story: Getting shot at on a training run […]


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