Running should be a joy – a way to zone out and forget about our worries and stresses, if only for a few miles. But unfortunately, this is not always possible in the world we live in, especially for those who run outside alone. So today, I’m sharing some running safety tips and suggestions in hopes to keep you safe and out of harm’s way.
Many of these tips are common sense-based and chances are, you’ve already read or heard them several times before. But there have been enough accounts of assaults and attacks on runners hitting the news, so we all can use a refresher course … myself included.
This content is also geared mostly toward women, seeing as how we are statistically more at risk. But guys, you are not immune to this conversation and need to take safety precautions as well, so I will keep a majority of these tips gender-neutral.
Run with a dog, friend, or group
There truly is safety in numbers since predators are mostly on the lookout for women who are alone and vulnerable. You can find out about group runs by visiting your local running store and asking around. Also, chances are good that there is a Moms Run This Town in your local area. By joining their Facebook group, you can meet other nearby runners and arrange joint runs.
Having a medium to large sized dog along for shorter runs is also great protection!
Run on a well-traveled path that is well-lit
This tips needs no explanation and falls into common sense territory … but it does not guarantee safety. My favorite local running trail is in a safe part of town and seems like the least-likely place for an attack … but in the past years, there have been three attempted abductions made against women.
One of which while I was running on the very same trail.
I didn’t know this until I had returned to the parking lot and two other gals asked if I was okay or if I had seen anything. Not gonna lie. Knowing that it could have easily been me shook me up. Hard. Enough where I avoided the trail and ran at home for months.
So yes. It is safer to stick with well-traveled paths that are well-lit but you can never be relaxed.
Be extra cautious near hedges, buildings or trees
You always want to be cautious of your surrounding and aware of potential bad situations. If you see someone sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle parked along the road, try to put as much distance between you as possible.
Always carry a phone
Most runners are doing this already, but sometimes you might be tempted to leave it at home if you’re only taking a quick trot around the neighborhood. Don’t.
Wear an ID bracelet or use a tracking app
Companies such as Road ID make awesome identification products: bracelets, ankle ID’s, shoe tags, necklaces, dog collars, and attachments you can put on your Garmin, Apple Watch, or Fitbit. They also have a free app that can allow others to track you, so somebody knows where you are at all times and if you pause for too long, they will get notification. I personally would not wear this when I am not running so others can’t see my information.
Some apps such as the Garmin Connect and RunKeeper have a LiveTrack feature that will inform others of where you are as well.
Tell someone the route you are taking
The old fashioned way of telling someone the route you plan on taking and how long you expect to be gone is also a good idea. I live right beside my mother and she is aware of my favorite running routes, so I always call her before leaving.
Problem is … sometimes I forget to call her when I return. She’s often called me later with a panicked, “Are you dead?”
Leave the headphones at home and wear only one earbud
Yes. Listening to tunes or podcasts can be an awesome way to stay motivated and make long runs feel shorter. Fancy headphones do improve audio quality and make you look pretty cool, but it also makes you looks like something else: a potential target.
By wearing headphones or spending too much time focusing on your phone, you are sending a message that you’re distracted, that you are more focused on your tunes and training than your surroundings.
Keep your dominant hand open
You always want to keep your dominant hand with the most punching power free and open, so if you carry your phone, keep it in your non-dominant hand. I know several of you are also fans of hand-held water bottles. It might be uncomfortable at first, but carry those as well in your non-dominant hand.
Always appear confident and aware
Run with a sense of purpose and keep your body language strong with shoulders back and eyes alert. If someone comes too close, look them in the eyes with defiance, telling them that you are a fighter.
Carry Pepper Spray
Carrying pepper spray is debated, with some people believing that it can do more harm than good if you fumble for the spray rather than use your hands to fight or accidentally get some in your own eyes.
My opinion is that by carrying one in a prominent location such as hooked to your running belt gives the impression to potential predators that you are aware, that you are someone who takes running safety very seriously, that you are on the defense rather than offense.
Carry an Alarm or whistle
If you saw my running tote tip video, you hear me talking about my new wrist alarm that I first saw on the Fairytales and Fitness blog. I have worn it and while it is awkward getting on, it’s quite comfortable and I didn’t notice it at all. And at only $15.00 from Amazon, (affiliate link,) it’s a great defensive tool since the trigger is easy to reach. Take note that it does arrive with a sticker over the battery so you will have to remove that before using it.
A rape whistle can also be a very effective tool as well as your own voice. Scream. Shout. Be as loud as possible.
Rethink that ponytail
Us gals do love our ponytails, but they can work as a weapon against you by giving a predator something to grab hold of. A bun or tucking your hair underneath a hat is a safer option.
For myself, I always wear either a high or low ponytail with my visor but I twist my hair and tuck it underneath the elastic of my visor, making it harder to grab a hold of.
Altar your route so you are not predictable
By following the same training path for each run, a potential stalker will learn your route and be able to plan the best way to attack. So take different routes or if you run from your home, occasionally drive to a well-used running trail or a high school track.
Think of a safety plan
This is not pleasant. But imagine yourself being attacked. Think about how you should react and then imagine yourself fighting and doing whatever it takes to get yourself out of that situation. By visualizing yourself making smart choices, of stopping the predator by hitting him in the most effective spots … we all remember S.I.N.G. from Miss Congeniality – solar plexus, instep, nose, groin. Some other effective places to hit are the eyes, groin, Adam’s apple, knee caps, and temples. Visualize yourself FIGHTING and FIGHTING HARD.
And then do it again.
But keep in mind that I am not a martial arts or self-defense expert. Which brings me to my next time that every woman should…
Take a self-defense class
By taking a self-defense class or intense martial arts like Krav Maga, you’ll learn how to protect yourself. You’ll learn how much power your punches have and you’ll develop a subconscious defensive edge that will linger in the back of your mind, ready to be put to use if necessary.
Plus it’s also a good workout.
Know that you DO NOT have to be nice
We are conditioned from an early age to be nice. To be helpful. To see the good in others. But if you are alone and placed in an uncomfortable situation, you DO NOT have to be nice. You do not have to give someone directions. You do not have to tell them what time it is. You do not have to engage in pleasant conversation and you most certainly do not have to say thank you to unwelcome catcalls.
Instead, keep boundaries. A man with good intentions will understand your need for boundaries. A man with good intentions will not expect you to interact with a stranger because he wouldn’t want his wife, daughter, sister, or friend to put themselves in harm’s way as well. A man with good intentions will use his own phone to get directions or the time rather than ask you.
So if you find yourself approached by someone who does have these expectations and view him as a man with bad intentions. If you’re wrong, then you’re wrong. No harm done.
Follow your intuition
During one of my training runs where I had to return the way I came, I noticed two men talking by a mailbox, shooting up a huge red flag in my mind. There was no way to avoid them, so I quickly pulled out my phone, called my husband, and spoke to him while passing them.
Of course, they didn’t even glance my way so most likely, I was overreacting … and completely freaking out my husband.
Still. Always, ALWAYS listen to those red flags regardless of how silly or paranoid it might feel. If you see a man lingering by a parked car that sets nerves on edge, turn around and run the other way. Don’t also hesitate to call the police and inform them because they are the professionals, they know how to act and this could save another woman from being harmed.
So there you go, my running safety tips that can help keep us all safe. Now what about you, did I miss anything? If so, please leave your suggestions in the comments below.
Until then, thanks for reading, have a joyful day, and be safe!