AUSTIN -- “I've never been so scared in my entire life,” said an Austin runner, who asked for her identity to remain anonymous.
She's still shaken after what was supposed to be a quick stop near Rainey Street on a 10-mile trail run early Monday morning.
“We stopped to get water at that water fountain right there,” she said, pointing to a public restroom and water fountain just off the Butler Hike and Bike Trail. “I was getting a drink of water, and I heard someone talking in the bathroom, and then he burst out of the bathroom screaming and running at us."
She was not alone. The runner and four other women in her group said they left as fast as they could.
“They kept running, but I slipped somewhere down around that curve,” she said, pointing to an area more than 100 feet away from the bathroom.
She said the man, who she thought to be homeless, chased her to where she had fallen.
"[He] stood over me and yelled at me and screamed in my face," she said. "I kicked him really hard to try and get away from him, but he didn't like that, so he started kicking me while I was lying on the ground. One of my friends turned around, and she saw him kicking me, and she came back and scared him off."
After that, the five women ran to get help and call 911.
Police said they believe the man may have been sleeping in the bathroom.
“They keep them unlocked just because some people get up and go running at 4:00 in the morning,” said APD Detective Kerry Stanley, referring to the public restrooms.
Since the attack, “[APD] have stepped up patrol in the area in order to assist with not allowing this to happen again,” Stanley said.
However, the victim said she wants other runners to know what happened so they can protect themselves.
“There were five of us. We felt totally safe. None of us had any idea that someone would run out at five people," she said.
She said that from now on, she will carry pepper spray, no matter how many people she's with.
“You always hear, 'You're fine in numbers,' and I’m not sure that's true. If someone really wants to hurt you, they’ll probably find a way to do it," she said.
Police are looking for what the victims described as a white male in his 20s or 30s, very thin with dark hair and a beard.
They said they believe they have a suspect, but officers are still working to confirm his identity.