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Do you like to exercise? Love taking walks especially early in the morning? Read my story and learn. There's a risk and an underbelly to this laudable focus...

I loved to walk. It had been my favourite form of exercise for as far back as I could remember. The morning time, 5am most days, was my chosen time. Like clockwork, my alarm would go off and up I'd jump, looking ahead immediately to inhaling the clean, untouched morning air, the quiet, the promise of a new day, that sense of possibility and of being one with the world around me... It was also my quiet time, my planning time for the day ahead of me. I'd marshall out in my mind, like clockwork, how I'd spend each hour. It also helped me think ahead especially on days I had important meetings. Those morning walks centered me and I hated missing them.

My husband had complained several times about my timing. He didn't mind the fact that I loved my walks, no. It was just the timing, he said. 'It's too early, Ajijola, he'd complain. It's dangerous. You're in Lagos, you know. The whole street is still dark and people don't start moving around till at least 5.30am here.' Our estate was quiet and comprised mostly young, trendy entrepreneurs who took their time to rouse from home, so I knew what he meant. 'I'm not comfortable with all these uncompleted buildings housing different characters around us. You know testosterone runs highest in men first thing in the morning', he'd add with a smile. I'd laugh. 'Yep, I know. And you'd rather have me attending to your high testosterone levels that time instead of going on my walk, Raymond', I'd say with a wink. 'Let me get back and you'll see how well I will handle that', I'd giggle and walk out the door with a bounce in my step. How silly I was. How naive...

It was a cool, calm morning. It had rained the previous night and I could smell the aftermath of the rains in the air. It was so cool, so lovely. I inhaled as deeply as I could and started quickening my steps. I usually start off with a slow walk and then graduate them to faster ones. At the height, I'm almost running but not. I turned our street corner and got on the side street. From there, I hit the link road preceding our estate main road. Faster and faster I got, inhaling the awesomely fresh air. I started to plan my day in my mind. Get the school run done, check on Mrs Coker, the retired old woman I'd befriended on our street - I popped in on her from time to time to be sure she was fine - sort out dinner ingredients for my househelp to work on while I was away at work, get to the office... On and on my thoughts went.

I was quite engrossed in my deliberations. Everywhere was really quiet and the best air of the day was assailing my nostrils. All was right with my world.

Not for long. The sharp breaking of a twig broke into my thoughts and brought me back to my surroundings. I could see the main road of the estate just a little ahead. Then, everything changed. Horribly. I felt a huge, hairy hand on my shoulder. 'Sharrap', a gruff voice said very quietly and ominously. I tried to twist round to confront this entity and at the same time opened my mouth for a really loud yell.. A huge hand hit my mouth with such force, I was sure some teeth had flown out. It covered my mouth and I heard that same gruff voice again - 'If you shout, you die'. Almost simultaneously I felt a sharp object starting to pierce the skin of my lower back. I went still in absolute horror. Bile rose up my throat as my mind tried to piece together what was going on. It wasn't running fast enough or it was refusing to comprehend the situation, whatever it was, I was rooted to the spot in terror. This 'thing' pushed me forwards hard. It dragged me into the dilapidated compound of an old uncompleted building by the side of the road I'd happily been strutting on just minutes before.

He pushed me to the floor and I could hear the rustling of clothes behind me. I realized in horror he was removing his trousers! Something about that sound jerked my mind back to action. Or perhaps it was the prayers of my husband at home who would be having his morning devotion by now. I started to twist and struggle and must have caught him off guard because suddenly I had one hand free! My brain, now back in gear, suddenly remembered my small canister of pepper spray attached to my exercise belt and went for it. My husband had bought me the can of mace some months back, attached it to my walking belt and warned me strictly never to remove it. It was shaped like a key holder and colored bright pink, so it looked as harmless as harmless could be.... but it was my saving grace that morning.

I yanked off my spray from its hold, held it over my shoulder and sprayed hard!id actually shocked myself with how quickly I moved. I closed my eyes, twisted my back hard to try and shake off this vermin and hoped like mad for the best..
'Yeeeee!! Chemica'! Chemica'!!' I heard behind me. 'E don spray me chemica' for face ooo!!!' I felt the hands move off me very quickly, felt the grip go off my mouth and simultaneously heard commotion behind me. I wasted no time. Got up in an instant and started running, yelling and shouting as hard as I could at the same time. Help! Help!! I yelled, scrambling out of the compound. Weeds snapped at my feet, wood bits pierced my skin and I could hear some small animals scampering about as I moved. Nothing would stop me, though. I burst onto the street and increased my pace. I could see in the distance.... People!! 'Help!! Help!!!' I screamed at them. I could make out in the distance they were in running clothes, two men. 'Help me!! Help me!!! I yelled. Attack! Attacker!!' I went on incoherently. They were beside me in a jiffy. 'What? Where? I know this woman, she walks too every day', I could hear them saying. I babbled incoherently, pointing towards the uncompleted building. 'Rapist, attempt, attacker, tried to rape', I kept saying over and over again.

I didn't have to babble for long. In the short distance between where we were and the entrance to the uncompleted building, we could see someone suddenly burst on to the road, holding his face, yelling 'Chemica'!! E don pour me chemica' oo!!'
My two helpers looked at me and pointed at him. 'Him?' 'Yes!!' I nodded vigorously. 'Stay here, madam', one of them said. They ran off towards my attacker while I stayed where I was in trepidation, so scared and afraid. 'You wan rape woman?' I heard one of them shout and suddenly lunge at him. The I saw a spark and the rapist was flat on the floor. 'Call security, call security!!' I heard the first man shout to the other. 'We are here!! We are here!! What's going on?!' I turned back and saw our estate uniformed guards, three of them advancing towards us, shouting back. 'Come and arrest this thug!!', my new friends said. 'He just tried to rape this woman!' I now found my voice. 'Call my husband, please', I pleaded. I was now overwhelmed. With relief and the shock of realization of what I'd just escaped. I started to shake and tears ran began to course down my cheeks. 'Just call my husband', I said, giving my phone to the first man. 'His number is on speed dial'.

Raymond was with me in what seemed an eternity, but was really just five minutes. He held me, told me to just keep quiet and rushed me to the car, all the while saying 'shhhh, I'm here now, I'm here now, no one is going to hurt you...'
He started the car and switched on the ac, then went back to the security men, who by this time had bound and gagged my attacker. I heard them say some things about the police station and then my husband came back. 'I'll meet up with you there', I heard him say. 'I'll call you both later, thank you over and over and over again', he said, turning to my two 'Knights in shining armour' . 'Let me get her home and call our Doctor. Did he....? ' he asked anxiously. 'Thank God he didn't succeed', I heard the men quickly respond. 'Idiot had his trousers half way down his legs, the fool'. I heard my husband's sharp hiss of relief. 'Thank God', I heard him whisper with fervor.

That's when I turned round to see the perpetrator of such horror. I froze in shock. It was our security guard. The very same one who'd opened the gate for me to leave the house!!!