I have a lot of faith in humanity and while I worry about things like cancer, car wrecks and meteors crashing on my head, I don’t usually worry about being hurt by other people on purpose. I truly believe that 99.9% of people in this world are good and don’t intentionally do harm to others. Unfortunately, there are a small number of people who are sick, hurt or just plain bad who will hurt others for personal gain, their own pleasure or out of mental illness. I had a pretty scary incident a few months ago (read about it here) that shook me up quite a bit.
As runners, we are often out in isolated areas (usually the most beautiful places) and often alone (a perfect running partner is hard to find) and sometimes in the pre-dawn, early morning or dusk hours. We’re also not likely to be carrying a lot of protective gear and can be wrapped up in our own heads, in the zone, listening to music, focusing on our run.
What that means is that, like it or not, we are vulnerable to being harmed. The news last week was full of the story of Tina Waddell who was brutally beaten while running in daylight hours on the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia. I don’t want to post the pictures here because they are just awful, but if you haven’t read her story, you can check it out here.
I don’t believe we should live our lives in fear, but we do need to be aware of the risks and do what we can do to mitigate them. Driving to work every day is one of the most dangerous things we do, but we mitigate the risks with car safety features, wearing seatbelts and smart driving techniques. We should apply the same risk mitigation approach to our running. Patty from My No-Guilt Life, and Erika from MCM Mama Runs and I chose Safety Tips for Runners as our Tuesdays on the Run topic this week to help spread the word! Check out the linked posts below to learn how you can stay safe.
Here are the tips I use to stay safe on the run (including a few I need to add!):
- Choose your route wisely. We all know the areas of our town that are generally safer and the areas that tend to have more crime. It’s not a guarantee of safety, but it is a good idea to run in an area that you are familiar with and that is not isolated. I like to run in my own neighborhood, even though it means running loops sometimes for longer distances and in well populated parks and trails. I also love running on isolated, wooded trails but I know that it is riskier and I should take other precautions if I choose those routes.
- Let someone know. You should always let someone know where you are going to run and when to expect you back. When I run at home I let my husband know and when I run at work, I let my co-workers know. So, if I don’t come back in the expected time, someone knows that I’m missing and where to look for me. RoadID has an app that can notify someone for you if you stop for an unexpected period. I’ve never tried it but it sounds like a great backup plan.
- Choose your time. I run in Florida and while a 3am run sounds like the best for heat and humidity avoidance, I just don’t feel safe running in the dark. So I always make sure to wait until the sun is up so I can at least see my surroundings.
- Be alert. I work with police officers for my job and this is one of their biggest points of advice for runners and for people just walking around in regular life. Most criminals are lazy and they want an easy target. If you look confident and alert, many will move on. This means that if you have to wear earbuds, only have one in and have your music quiet enough so you can hear someone coming up behind you. This means not zoning out so much that you don’t notice what is happening around you. This means making eye contact with people that you see.
- Be prepared. This is going to mean different things to different people. For me, it means I do not run without my pepper spray or my phone. For other runners it may mean bringing a stun gun, a gun or a dog. For all of us it should mean that we learn basic self defense techniques (I need to brush up on the karate I learned in middle school!).
- Don’t run alone. I am not good at this! I always run alone. I need to find a running group to join because truly there is a lot of safety in numbers. Even if you have no runner friends, having a friend pace you on a bike is a good option.
- RoadID. I have a Road ID bracelet with my name, contact phone numbers and medical information that I wear 24/7. If something were to happen to me, my family would be notified and emergency medical personnel would be able to access my medical history.
- Don’t be afraid to be rude. As women, we often are raised not to be rude, offensive and not to hurt people’s feelings. If you are feeling uncomfortable in a situation or if someone is acting in an inappropriate manner, speak up. Tell them “No!”. Tell them to back off. Tell them to leave you alone. Go into a building, a shop, up to another group of people to get away if that’s what your gut is telling you. When I was a kid, I was walking to the elementary school to play and some guys in a van tried to abduct me. I immediately ran up to a strange house and acted like I lived there and they drove off. Do what you need to do if you feel threatened.
- Call for help. If things are scary, don’t hesitate, call 911. They are there to help. Tell them where you are and who is threatening you.
- Fight back. I’m not a law enforcement professional, but my dad always taught me that if I’m attacked I should scream, bite, claw, hit, eye gouge, run. Do what you have to do. Don’t be squeamish, don’t hesitate. Don’t be afraid to fight dirty, use what you can and don’t be taken off the road/trail.
I already do most of these, but there some I need to improve on. I need to run in more populated areas (although my scary incident this year was in a very affluent, very populated area at 8am). I need to stay alert even on a double digit run. I need to find running partners or a running group. And I need to take self defense classes.
What do you do to stay safe? Link up to share your tips or leave them in the comments. Check out the other blogs linked below and find out what your fellow runners are doing to stay safe out there!