Samantha MacIntyre was more than familiar with her running path — she'd spent the last several months training for her second marathon and documenting the process on TikTok — but shortly after hitting mile five, she noticed something new: a strange car that seemed to be following her.
The 24-year-old began what was meant to be an eight-mile run like any other day. She opened her phone to record segments of the training as inspiration for others interested in running, but had no idea the clip — which has now been viewed over 8.8 million times — would soon turn into an announcement of her location and a description of the man who appeared to be following her.
In the now-viral video, Samantha is seen happily ticking off mile after mile while sharing playlist ideas and updates on her body under the pressure of the run. However, the video quickly takes a turn from charming to harrowing when the camera angle shifts and Samantha notes, "There's a guy in a red car that's driven by me twice. And every time he drives by me, he has his arm out the window and he's, like, looking behind when he's driving by. It's making me really nervous."
"I don't know if I'm being paranoid, or what," she continues while peeking over her shoulder. "Just documenting this just in case."
Though 10 minutes have passed since last seeing him, Samantha begins listing identifying characteristics like the car's apparent make and year. Then, she sees the car again, but this time it's parked ahead of her. It's a tense moment, one where you can feel her unease through the screen. "I do not feel good about this," Samantha says. "I have to run by this car to get back to my car, though. There's literally no other way around."
"It's just one of those things where you don't think it's going to happen to you until it happens to you," she continues while pointing the camera at the car looming ahead. "I don't want to risk anything."
Instead of running by the car, Samantha decided to approach a nearby homeowner who she'd often seen doing yard work or playing with his children outside while out on her runs. "There's this guy who keeps driving by and parking — do you mind if I just stay in your yard? My mom is going to come pick me up," viewers can hear her explaining to the man as the camera pans downward toward her shifting feet. "I'm just really worried that he's going to do something."
The man offers an affirmative, inviting Samantha to safety behind his yard's fence before the video switches to a conversation between her, her mom, and a police officer.
Finally safe and back in her car, Samantha addresses the camera directly, saying, "Obviously that run did not go as planned. ... Just please be aware of your surroundings when you are going on runs. Carry protection with you. Just be safe. If you have a gut feeling that something doesn't feel right, please go with that gut feeling."
"You'd rather be safe than sorry," she says. "I'm glad I called the police, I'm glad I called my parents to come pick me up."
Commenters applauded Samantha's quick thinking in such a stressful situation...
...including her impulse to document the events, just in case.
And Samantha holds no regrets. When thinking back on the situation, she told BuzzFeed, "When he drove by the first time, I felt uncomfortable because he had looked back at me multiple times, and when he drove by me the second time, I felt the need to start documenting what happened. ... If I wasn’t able to get ahold of someone and something happened to me, that footage would have been backed up to my iCloud account and it would be clear what had happened to me, and there would be a clear description of the person."
With the recording in progress, deciding to approach the homeowner felt like her most logical course of action. "I had run by the gentleman’s house multiple times and always had seen him doing yard work," she said. "He had young children, so I felt safe asking him to stay in his yard. I felt it was the best course of action in that moment to feel safe until help came."
While waiting for her mother and authorities to arrive, Samantha said that the homeowner talked to her about news in the area, including that of another young woman who had gone missing while on a run nearby.
Once police arrived, the officer "mentioned that some sprays are hard to use to defend yourself because it’s easy for the spray to come back at you. He said that gel pepper spray would work better, but also recommended that I carry a weapon in order to keep myself safe," Samantha said.
According to SafeWise, if you believe someone is following you, there are six steps you can follow. First, try to remain calm. Then, pay close attention to your surroundings. If you can, try changing course and seeing if the person is still pursuing you, but be sure to remain — or go to — where other people are. Finally, they suggest taking out your phone to utilize a safety-oriented app or call loved ones you trust, then police.