“While complete prevention is impossible, we can take steps to secure our own safety.”
But, since beginning to run again, I’ve been thinking a lot about running safety specifically this article. I’ve sat on this for several years, not sure when was the right time to post it. But now, as we go into the darker days, I think we could all do with a reminder!
I began running during my final year of university. It was a wonderful way to let go of the daily stressors of student life, and with a home to keep, it was a great way to get to and from my part-time job. At the time I lived in a highly populated built-up area in the city, and felt it was the perfect place to start running. Sadly, I was shortly proven wrong.
Like most women, I soon found myself to be the focus of harassment and threats. Not from fellow runners, but from men. I was aware of the reputation of the area. It was and remains a hive of sectarian and racist activity. But I assumed that because I am both white and was, at the time, of the ‘correct’ religion, I’d be safe. That and the added protection of only running during the daylight hours. My delusion was broken early one Saturday afternoon when I was followed and taunted by a group of young men. Each was holding a glass bottle of beer and shouting obscenities aimed at me.
The thought of being followed or harassed overpowered my want to run. And with good reason. I’ve known several women who have experienced far worse heckling than I, all of whom no longer run or have found a local running group for protection.
Running safety: What you can do to help yourself!
While we can’t eliminate the risks associated with solo running, we can reduce them. Risk aversion and running safety aren’t topics discussed very often, but they should be!
*It’s important to remember that these tips will not guarantee safety. That and it is not fair to assume that anyone who has been attacked or harassed could have prevented it if they had followed these tips. That’s considered victim blaming, something I neither condone nor tolerate.*
Forgo the earphones.
I find it extremely boring to run without a podcast or some heavy metal to egg me on. But I’ve come to learn that it’s not particularly the safest way to exercise. While I’m not suggesting you completely forgo the earbuds, I do think it’s important to highlight the issues with listening to music while we run. By removing one or both earbuds you’re increasing awareness of your surroundings. Not only is this ample advice for running safety (who hasn’t almost been hit by a motorist?), but it also means that you can be alerted to any unwanted attention.
It’s especially important to consider ditching the earbuds if you’re running at night. Your vision will already be impaired by darkness, so you must give your other senses a chance to pick up the pace.
Carry something you can use to fight back.
I’m not talking about a kitchen knife or baseball bat, those would be far too noticeable, and likely to get you arrested. Nor am I in any way condoning violence. But if you find yourself in a threatening situation, self-defence is acceptable and even encouraged. There are various products available to aid women (in particular) in their fight to stay safe on our streets. Get yourself something small like a self-defence key chain. Failing that you can always use the age-old ‘keys between the fingers’ technique that we were all made familiar with during high school. Yes, even back then young women were being taught what to do in case of an emergency.
Not sure how to use self-defence items? Take the time to teach yourself. It could save your life!
Take a self-defence class.
I have been meaning to enrol in a self-defence class for months now but with travel issues, it’s been difficult. With that being said please, please take advantage of any classes (both off and online) that you see advertised. Self-defence isn’t only useful for running safety, but even for those who find themselves working late at night or walking in secluded, country lanes.
While self-defence won’t reduce the chances of assault, it will help increase your chances of escaping an assault.
Run during daylight hours and in a populated area.
Sometimes it’s the simplest changes that can make the biggest impact. With the summer fast approaching there should be no lack of available daylight to make use of. Whether you’re a morning, afternoon or evening runner, there should be plenty of time to run while the sun is up.
Let someone know where you’re going & keep in touch.
This is so important and something I stand by whether there is someone home or not. I’ll always either let my husband know or text my local friends while I’m out for a run or a walk. Why? So that they know I’ve been out in the local area in case something goes wrong.
Be careful using apps like Strava and Snapchat.
While these sorts of apps can help pinpoint your location for friends and family, they can also let everyone else know where you are. This can be a very dangerous thing depending on how you look at it. Apps like Strava and Snapchat give you the ability to limit your viewing to friends only which shouldn’t be an issue. But when you share your route to places such as Facebook, it becomes public and therefore others start to see a pattern in your running routes.
Make sure you switch it up every so often. Don’t take the same route all the time. I have a few different routes that I alternate between depending on the time of day, the weather and my energy levels. However, if you have no option but to stick to the same route, then perhaps try taking that route backwards, or alternating your running schedule.
Join a running group.
While some of us prefer to run solo, sometimes it’s safer to go in pairs or as a pack. Especially if you run at night.
Look into local running books using Facebook or even ask around locally. Can’t find one? Why not start a local running group instead!? Be the leader to help start a local movement to empower women to run or even walk along with you. You can easily start a local running group by recruiting in your local shop and, if you live in a relatively small place like I do, you could find runners in your local community centre.