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New nonprofit working to keep people safe while exercising outside

NOW: New nonprofit working to keep people safe while exercising outside

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MISHAWKA, Ind. -- The rainy weather is less than ideal for a run outside, but as temperatures begin to warm up, more people will hit the pavement for some exercise.

One Michiana woman wants to help those people stay safe with her new nonprofit organization.

According to a recent study, more than one third of people feel afraid some or all of the time when exercising alone outside.

Kacey Williams, an avid runner from Dowagiac, wants to change those numbers.

Williams began running more than 10 years ago for the mental benefits.

“I started to run a lot and realized it was truly my escape from everyday life,” said Williams. “When that was threatened, it was really hard for me”

Williams says twice over the past few years, drivers have followed her and threatened her safety.

The first incident happened about two years ago. Williams went for a run near an undeveloped industrial park by her house. She says a man drove by her several times and stared intently. Williams panicked and ran into a cornfield. She called her in-laws and asked them to come and pick her up. Williams says it left her sick with fear and anxiety.

Williams took a self defense class and began running with her dog or husband.

However, something similar happened last September when Williams went for an evening jog. Her dog was injured and her husband was at a soccer game but Williams says she had a long day at work so she decided to run anyway.

During the run, Williams noticed a car pass her twice. She thought it was suspicious so she kept an eye on out for the driver. Williams says moments later she saw the driver swerve from across the road and drive toward her. Williams jumped on the curb when she heard him slam on the brakes and open his door.

Williams sprinted off, fearing for her life.

Sick of feeling like she couldn’t even exercise, Williams decided to take action.

“There always seemed to be more that you needed to have in order to be safe,” said Williams. “When I was, you know thinking about that, it just doesn’t seem fair.”

Williams founded “I Will Run Free” this year. The nonprofit is in its fundraising stages, but once enough money is raised, Williams wants to offer free self-defense and situational awareness classes to people in the area.

“If you’re prepared by taking a self defense class or having some type of equipment that you know how to use then you’re going to know exactly what to do next,” said Williams. “You’re going to be afraid but it’s not going to seize you the way it does when you’re completely unprepared.”

Safety experts say this is a good first step. They also suggest people who workout outside should tell others where he or she is going and when he or she will be back. Expert says people should always bring their phones and stay in well lit, populated places.

“I hope that we can create environments that encourage people to not only be aware of their surroundings but to encourage people to be comfortable in their everyday lives,” said Williams. “We all deserve that freedom...  and the ability to say I’m going to take that freedom because it’s mine.”

Williams doesn’t think it’s fair people should have to take precautions like this but said its part of today’s world.

“Our ultimate goal is to just truly encourage that you can stand up, you can speak out, you can live your daily life and you shouldn’t have to change that based on someone trying to intimidate or threaten your way of living,” said Williams.

To raise money for the trainings, I Will Run Free is hosting a run on June 8th in Dowagiac. To sign up click here.

If you would like to donate or offer services email kwilliams@iwillrunfree.org.

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