TotR: Stay Safe Out There

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!):

  1. 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.  IMG_0866
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.  RoadID
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

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TotR: Stay Safe Out There — 32 Comments

    • Yeah, I find myself really getting in the zone sometimes which is fine in some areas/times and not so smart in other areas/times.

  1. Pingback: Running With Music Is It Safe?

  2. VERY well written April. If you don’t mind, I will be sharing this with my friends at Runner’s Gazette today.
    As you know, my sister is a Flight Attendant and she often goes for runs in whatever city she is over nighting in and she often goes alone. I keep telling her to make sure she tells someone where she is going or to even leave a note in her hotel room with the time she left and where she planned to run. I watch too many Dateline programs and it just scares me. I did get her a road ID, so I hope she wears it!
    Meranda@fairytalesandfitness recently posted…3 Alternative “Safe” Running RoutesMy Profile

    • Thanks! I’d love that. And I love that you are looking out for your sister! <3

    • I downloaded the app but haven’t used it yet. I really need to give it a try!

    • Thanks! Those are really geared towards women because many of us (not me apparently!) were taught not to fight dirty and not to cause a scene. It’s pretty deeply ingrained and you have to remind yourself to do whatever you need to to stay safe!

  3. I prefer to run alone. I prefer to run with music…I have issues. I just try to be as safe as possible, I run during the day on trails where there are people or in my neighborhood. The two main trails I run on, are well traveled but there are a couple spots that creep me out. I joined a group to train for the full so I didn’t have to worry about being alone.
    Julie @RunWalkFastpass recently posted…Running With Music: Is It Safe?My Profile

    • I figure we have to assess the risks and mitigate them in the ways that work for us. Sounds like you’ve done that. I really like running alone too and I love running alone on isolated wooded trails, but I’ve cut back some on that lately just because I don’t feel so safe!

  4. I always run alone, and I like to run with music–two bad habits, I know. I try to run in safe, populated areas and keep my wits about me. My husband and I use the “friend finder” app on iPhone so he can track where I am and if I’ve stopped unexpectedly.
    Allyson recently posted…August: Time to Pick up the PaceMy Profile

    • Oh, I’ll have to look into that friend finder app, that is a great idea!

    • I have to look into the running groups around here! I know they have all speeds, ages and sizes but I have to get over my social anxiety first!

    • Yeah, I never run (other than races) unless the sun’s up. We have some wildlife, but I worry more about dogs and crazy people and I at least want to be able to see them coming!

    • Good choices and I agree that it is really sad that we can’t just go and run without worrying about safety from attacks.

  5. Fantastic tips! I personally never run outdoors with headphones anymore due to the fact that is lowers my alert-ness. I even found a new running trail after I realized I felt really uncomfortable that I had to run at my old park for an entire mile along a line of trees where someone could easily be hiding and that park wasn’t busy enough for me to feel at ease. I am paranoid, but better than being hurt!
    Lauren @ Lauren’s Glass Slipper recently posted…Weekly Recap 7/28/14 – 8/3/14My Profile

    • I hate that we have to feel afraid, but I’d hate being hurt even more. I still makes some dumb choices but ever since my scary incident I have definitely made safer choices.

  6. Great tips! The story of Tina Waddell has scared the crap out of me. I have a road ID, use only one headphone, and run in my neighborhood where I feel relatively safe. I do run alone in my neighborhood though – and before my training group started I was running alone on my local trail. Once the half training is over I’ll be on my own again. I may just have to join a local running group in order to get those long runs in on the weekends.

    • Yeah, those pictures are just terrifying and it seems so senseless. I think the running group is the best protection!

  7. I get very nervous about running by myself anymore. I end up sticking really close to my home because of it… & I have a black belt in Kung Fu & taught it for years… but its the surprise attack that scares me. We all need to be aware. That’s for sure.
    Rebecca Jo recently posted…Ups & Downs… a day late…My Profile

    • Well, having a black belt in Kung Fu should be pretty helpful, but it’s better not to be in a bad situation to start with, right? I like that you know how to protect yourself but that you’re not letting it make you over confident!

  8. I run alone and with music, but I only use 1 ear bud. I typically run along very busy roads so hopefully if someone does try to grab me, I hope someone would help. Although when my long runs start up, I will end up running along quieter streets. I use the Road ID app. It is pretty nice to know that my husband can keep track of me in case something happens.
    Angie recently posted…The New House!My Profile

    • I do the one earbud thing when I run with music and try to stay in populated areas. I’ve been pretty guilty on long runs of hitting a fairly deserted trail which just isn’t smart! I need to give the Road ID app a try!

    • I’ve read that many women are victimized because we’re taught to be polite and not to offend, but you’ve got to trust your gut!

  9. #8 is such an important point. Motherhood is what finally broke me from the ‘need to be nice.’ We had a scary outbreak of whooping cough in my area and I was shocked at how many complete strangers thought it was ok to touch my child. Thanks for choosing such an important topic.
    Jennifer recently posted…The post without a catchy titleMy Profile

    • Yes, motherhood is a powerful thing for pushing past the need to be polite when you need to protect your kid!

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