They only come out at night

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 16, 2003

I started running about eight months ago and enjoy getting out in the fresh air and sunshine for a little while.

I’m not a good runner. My runs are little more than fast walks, but I feel I get some benefit from it.

It’s been a struggle, however, since the time changed to get out during the day. I bring a change of clothes with me to work and try to get out between 4 and 4:30 a couple days a week and hit the track at Planters Park and then go back to the office to finish what I have to do. Some days though, I get hung up and can’t get away.

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That happened Thursday. I ended up getting home about 6:30 and changed to go for a quick run in the dark.

I enjoy running in my neighborhood. Lots of people are out walking their dogs or riding bikes. It’s usually the same people. While I don’t know any of them by name, we always smile and acknowledge each other with a nod or a &uot;hello.&uot; We are brothers and sisters in fitness.

There’s the attractive young couple that regularly walks their great dane; the man who sports a &uot;Kojak&uot; cut and walks carrying hand weights; several pairs of women who walk; and the young man straight out of Runner’s World who pounds the pavement daily and covers distances in 10 minutes that take me 30. I hate him.

The streets Thursday night were bereft of walkers and joggers. I was on my own this night. It was kind of nice, except for having to jump quickly into someone’s yard a couple times to dodge oncoming cars that were traveling far above the 25 mile an hour speed limit that most people seem to observe during the daylight.

I soon found, however, that the speed limit is not the only rule of polite society that my neighbors flaunt when the sun goes down.

Near the end of my street is a large field. There are few streetlights there and on this cloudy night it was pitch black as I approached. In the field, I saw the light of a solitary flashlight shining through the darkness.

It was when I was almost directly across from the light that I heard it, faint at first. But within seconds, the unmistakable sound of approaching footsteps turned into loud, fast thuds.

I felt like I was in some cheap horror movie – alone in the darkness with eerie music rising. In horror, I wheeled around 360 degrees but saw nothing. Meanwhile, the invisible entity was coming ever closer, the thuds getting ever louder.

I was sure it was a horse, no doubt carrying some headless ghost rider who was going to impale me with a long sword.

Then suddenly my stalker appeared – it was the great dane that the nice-looking couple always walks on a leash. At night, apparently, he is set free to terrorize unsuspecting joggers.

High on endorphins with my heart already pounding from the run, I stood frozen in terror as he circled me, sniffing and snarling. The dog’s head was level of my chest, my throat within easy snapping distance. His owner, still in the field, did not seem overly concerned as he meekly called for the beast. It paid him no mind, though.

I finally mustered the courage to move and began to walk away. He snorted a couple times but mercifully let me go on my way. He likely had just eaten some child, I suppose.

I would be charged by one more large dog – this one named Jackson – before making it to the safety of my home.

I spent much of Friday on the Internet researching treadmills. I intend to stay indoors once the sun goes down.

The nights belong to the beasts.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or via e-mail at