Class to offer tips for runners, walkers

Todd Williams, a two-time Olympic runner and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, conducts a clinic at a store in Chicago.

Just like any day, Erica Worden Bowen set out for run without a care in the world on a June morning in 2012.

At the time, the then-43-year-old was living in Woodfield Long Point, a high-end apartment complex near Kearns Park in Mount Pleasant. It was 9 a.m. and there were people out running and walking their dogs on the sidewalk along the winding Wando Park Boulevard.

As she passed under the Interstate 526 overpass, she took note of some wildflowers blooming and a half-eaten apple near the sidewalk and caught a glimpse of someone coming up behind her.

"At first, I thought it was my husband, Rich, trying to scare me," says Bowen, recalling her thoughts just before the stranger grabbed her "skort," a skirt made for running, and pulled it down around her knees.

She turned to see the person, presumably a man, and noticed he had an elastic bandage wrapped around his face and taped surgical gloves and booties around his hands and feet, a sure sign that he probably intended to rape her and get away with it.

The 5-foot-2, 130-pound woman then went into fight mode, "donkey kicking" the 200-pound man, even with her skort at her knees, and screaming. One of the kicks landed in the assailant's chest and he fell backwards.

"I jumped up, kept screaming, and ran to the first house I saw, about 100 yards away, and started knocking on the door," says Bowen, adding that elderly woman opened the door and called the police.

The attacker, later identified as Keith Preston Crum of Bowman, was busted in August 2013 after he "exposed himself" to a woman sitting at bus stop on the U.S. Highway 17 frontage road near Bowman Road and turned out to be a repeat sexual offender. In 2004, he was put on the National Sex Offender Registry after an assault on a 13-year-old girl.

As for his activity in the summer of 2012, he was charged with 13 counts of indecent exposure for a string of incidents (several involving runners and walkers) in Mount Pleasant and Charleston, as well as two counts of first degree assault in Mount Pleasant and one count of third degree criminal sexual assault in Charleston.

Earlier this year, Crum was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison but could be out in four years because of time served.

Bowen says she thinks Crum is a habitual offender, should have been sentenced to a longer term and will probably commit more crimes in the future. But she's not scared and doesn't think other women should be. Just careful and alert.

Locals can get tips next month from an expert in both running and martial arts.

At 8:45 a.m. and 7:15 p.m. Sept. 8, a, two-time Olympic runner Todd Williams, who earned a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2011, will be holding free "RunSafer ASICS, Be Prepared" clinics at Fleet Feet Sports in Mount Pleasant.

"I started RunSafer because I felt there was a need to bring safety training to the runner, jogger and walker," says Williams, who has conducted more than 100 clinics since creating RunSafer in January 2013. "The goal with the hour-plus workshops is to have individuals understand that they shouldn't be complacent about their safety and training should be mandatory for everyone to be prepared."

In a nutshell, Williams says the clinic is geared toward educating individuals on the importance of making smart choices to possibly keep them out of dangerous situations, "as well as demonstrating some self-offensive techniques that could turn the tables on an attacker."

But the clinics aren't just for women.

Williams says men can be targets as well and the clinics have takeaways that men can use and pass along to loved ones.

He also hopes that the clinics will generate conversations, via word of mouth and social media, so that more people are both aware and safer. Williams says the support of ASICS, a running shoe and apparel brand, has helped the program grow.

Bowen applauds Williams and Fleet Feet for bring the message to the Charleston area.

Even though Bowen was assaulted by a stalker while she was a student in Atlanta in the early 1990s, it didn't make her stop.

"I kept running. I ran the next day," says Bowen. "You can't let them beat you. You can't let it deter you from living your life."

"I think the only reason he didn't get me in the car was that I was aware of my surroundings and recognized his car," says Bowen of her earlier attacker, who happened to be a 35-year-old accountant with three kids.

Bowen often listens to music while running but makes sure it doesn't drown out outside noises.

Besides being aware, Bowen says that if attacked, fight and scream, as she did in June 2012.

"I've never taken self-defense, but I knew if I kept making noise and kept kicking, someone was going to see this and help me. ... There was no way in hell he was going to drag me off."

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.