Running outside is generally considered a safe sport. However, as with any activity that takes you out and about in the world, it definitely has its risks for predator assault. Women are especially vulnerable to assailants due to our strength and size. Women runners, therefore need to stay smart and balance personal safety practices with the way we love to run.
The convenience of simply dressing for the weather, throwing on the headphones and heading out to enjoy the freedom of a run has its allure. Sadly, that is why self-preservation practices are too often ignored. Your safety has to be your priority. You have to be responsible for yourself to insure that you have a better chance of making it back home from every run.
Ideally, following the rules of Never is the way to go. Never run alone. Never run after dark, never run with headphones on. Used together, I believe those 3 rules will extremely decrease you vulnerability of being attacked. Realistically, if you choose to veer from those practices you need to have a good plan for every run.
Commit to these practices for a safer run:
- Switch Up Your Running Routine: Do not get stuck on running at the same time of day, same days of the week and same areas. Because, you never know who is watching you. Stay within areas that you are familiar with, while navigating your routes with fresh interest. This will keep potential attackers from tracking you while keeping you runs interesting for you. It will also keep your body guessing by switching up your terrain.
- Let Someone Know Where And How Long You Plan to Run: Tell someone before you leave for a run. This can be your significant other, housemate or a friend, but let someone know to be alert if you do not return in that time frame and what area you may be found.
- Make Yourself Visible: Be very lit up and Obvious. Lights on your shoes and a headlamp for visibility are a couple of options. Wear reflective gear at dusk and at dark hours. A reflective vest that covers a large surface area is a great option. Not only will you be easier to witness, but worst case scenario, it will be be easier for search parties to locate you during the darker hours.
- Pepper Spray: Pepper spray can be used to create distance between you and any potential threat such as a dog or an assailant. Pepper Spray should be carried and ready to activate in your support hand leaving your strong hand free for more tactile weapons should you choose to carry them. Spray your potential attacker from ear to ear across the eyes. Avoid spraying into the wind.
- Leave Your Headphones at Home: If you believe that you need music for motivation, try just wearing one earbud. Keep the music low enough that you can hear your surroundings well.
- Avoid Running Alone: Make running social. Recruit a running partner for a second set of eyes and become a less vulnerable target. Join a running group or run with a medium sized or larger dog. Having companionship is also very motivational!
- Practice Situational Awareness: Be alert and aware of your surroundings and the people around you. The more you practice this, the less vulnerable you will be.
- Places to Avoid: Trust you instincts when your running route feels “off” for any reason. Be flexible enough to change your planned course. Even in a “safe” neighborhood, or in the middle of the day; statistically, attacks happen. You need to avoid areas that are secluded and poorly lit. Try running on trails at times that are heavily populated with other runners. Avoid shrubs, parked cars, and anyplace that a potential attacker can grab you from. It is also advisable not to have your hair in a ponytail that can easily be grabbed.
- Do Not Interact With Strangers: Run with a confident, strong stride and acknowledge people you pass with casual eye contact. Ignore people that try to ask you questions or verbally antagonize you. Do not respond to them. Just keep your distance and move along. Practice memorizing license plates and remembering facial features to strengthen your recall of events.
- Ready to Fight: What do you do if you are grabbed from behind? Chances are you may not be noticed, or ignored even with other people in the area or passing traffic. In this case you have to fight like hell scream as loud as you can, break free and run as fast as you can for safety.
Stay safe on every run. Never be tempted to risk your life to satisfy your curiosity of an unfamiliar destination. Your loved ones depend on you to return home safely. There will always be the right time and place for new adventures. I love this last verse of a poem by Robert Frost and hopefully you’ll keep in your thoughts while you’re running and stay safe!
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
but I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep.