CHICAGO—Citing the sobering statistic that over 10,000 of the 12,800 slayings in the United States in 2006 were reported by joggers, a national coalition of fitness enthusiasts called upon government officials Tuesday to impose measures that would reduce the likelihood of runners discovering lifeless bodies.
"We joggers have lives outside of finding violent-crime victims," said jogger Elizabeth Riccardi, who recently stumbled upon the remains of a double-pickax homicide while jogging around the Bartlett Reservoir near Scottsdale. "We're willing to cooperate with law enforcement, but we don't all have the time to be consoled with a blanket and a cup of coffee while some cop asks us the same tedious questions."
Riccardi said that some joggers have become so fed up with the dead-body encounters that they've been forced to run only on busy sidewalks, to the chagrin of pedestrians.
"I don't run through Lincoln Park after 6 p.m. anymore, I steer clear of that alleyway by the liquor store, and I definitely do not jog by the river at all," Chicago resident Chaz Montgomery said. "But, without fail, every few months I make another gruesome, routine-disrupting discovery."
"I just want a good cardiovascular workout," Montgomery added. "I never asked for this, not during an intense incline push or even a slow cooldown."
Sacramento-based runner Keith Stafford said the problem has gotten so bad for him that after he happened upon his latest body, an unidentified newborn girl, he considered "leaving it there under the park bench for someone else to find for a change."
"Why must runners bear this burden?" Stafford said. "My brother's a baker, but he never opens his oven to find a severed head inside."
To help remedy the problem, the American Joggers Association has proposed creating special police jogging units in major metropolitan areas. The units, active chiefly during the early morning and late-evening hours, would patrol parks, beaches, docks, vacant lots, factory grounds, and other common dumping sites for grisly murders.
AJA President Nancy Staudenmeyer said that the problem now affects more than just recreational joggers. "[Kenyan marathoner] Evans Rutto would most likely have won last year's Boston Marathon had he not come across an execution-style murder during Mile 19, and been detained and questioned for over an hour," Staudenmeyer said. "And because the victim's hysterical mother barged in on his interrogation, Evans wasn't even able to finish the race."
The AJA has created a support network for corpse-finding runners, establishing a toll-free hotline and holding a series of 5K "fun runs," all held in sealed-off, freshly cleaned, well-lit gymnasiums. The AJA also produced a series of print and TV public service announcements depicting an exasperated jogger discovering the body of a mutilated prostitute and immediately text-messaging his congressman.
"The PSAs have been very effective for raising awareness," Staudenmeyer said. "There were a lot of joggers out there who thought they were the only ones finding bodies. Once they learn they're not alone, we can all work together to find a solution to this major inconvenience."
Still, many have given up running altogether, saying that the prospect of finding a naked body cut up with surgical precision has sapped whatever enjoyment they used to derive from the activity.
"I wanted to find something to replace running, so I took up fishing, " former St. Paul, MN jogger Derek Janowitz said. "That is, until my canoe bumped into that floating [strangling] victim."
"I finally just gave up and bought a Stairmaster," he added.
Public officials have not yet addressed joggers' concerns. Some privately admit that having joggers find dead bodies is a more effective and vastly more cost-efficient crime fighting alternative than using local law enforcement.