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Jogging couple meets bear on Dick & Willie trail
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Herschel and Kathy Mickles shot this photograph of a bear they encountered on the Dick & Willie Passage trail Saturday morning. The bear got within about 100 feet of them before it slipped up the hill in the direction of the Clock Tower, Herschel Mickles said.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

A planned nine-mile run on the Dick & Willie Passage turned out to be about a half-mile longer for Herschel and Kathy Mickles on Saturday because they encountered a black bear.

Herschel Mickles said that about 9 a.m. he and his wife were about four miles into the run near the Commonwealth Boulevard overpass heading east toward Mulberry Creek when they saw, about 300 feet away, a westbound bear running toward them on the trail.

At first it appeared to be a large dog, he said in a phone interview and in an email.

“It did not take long to figure out the mass of fur loping down the trail was a bear,” Mickles wrote. “There was still a lot of distance between us, so my wife and I turned around and tried to continue our run in the other direction. Looking over my shoulder it appeared that we had captured the attention of the bear and he was now running much faster toward us.”

“Knowing we could not out-run a bear, I told my wife to keep going, and I turned around and threw my arms in the air and started grunting and yelling in as deep a voice as I could muster. This stopped the bear in his tracks, and after continued antics on my part, he slipped up the hill in the direction of the Clock Tower,” Mickles wrote.

He added that the bear got within about 100 feet of him.

“I don’t think it weighed more than 200 pounds,” Mickles said, adding he had “no clue” whether the bear was male or female.

“It’s a little frightening being in the middle of nowhere and a bear running toward you,” he said. But he added the bear “seemed more curious than anything else.”

Herschel, 39, and Kathy, 40, are training for a half-marathon in Hampton this week. He has run full marathons in several states and “so many half-marathons I don’t even know.” His wife’s first half-marathon was in Martinsville this past spring, he said.

They both work for Southwestern Virginia Gas Co. He is director of information technology, and she is an accountant, he said.

The bear encounter “is not going to interfere with our plans in the future whatsoever,” Mickles said. He and Kathy run on the Dick & Willie Passage at least once a week, he said.

“I hope it won’t scare other people from going out there,” Mickles said of the bear encounter.

“I think everyone should get out and enjoy the Dick & Willie trail that my wife and I have come to love. Just don’t be too surprised if you encounter a jogging bear,” Mickles wrote.


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