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Tips on Running Safety For Women

Posted on September 11 2014

Running Pepper Sprayby Austin Bonds

I’ve come to the realization that running safety can be easily neglected in the middle of a great run. The weather feels fantastic, the feet are moving swiftly across the sidewalk, and the beat of a favorite song is pulsing through the ears. We run and we return home – it should be as simple as that. Sadly, this is not always the case.

As a resident of Georgia, I recently read about Tina Waddell, a runner who was brutally beaten on the Silver Comet Trail (which runs from Georgia to Alabama). As of this writing, the suspect has not been located; no motive is known either. This is sickening and saddening to me as a runner and as a human being. Being married to someone who sporadically runs, this post is for my wife and for all female runners and walkers.

The solution to avoid being attacked, or so it would seem, is to not run alone. Unfortunately, finding a running partner each time you step out the door is unlikely – and probably unrealistic for most. In fact, many runners prefer to exercise alone. The decision to go solo, be it made out of of necessity or choice, should not be hindered by fear though; it should instead be bolstered by a sense of awareness.

In light of today’s society where people simply feel less safe than days of yesteryear, along with the fact that summer will be ending in a matter of months and shorter daylight hours will be upon us, I’d like for this post to serve as both a reminder and an encouragement for running safety. Here are a few helpful thoughts to keep in mind when you prepare for the day’s run.

1. Avoid running alone when possible. Take your dog for extra company – provided he or she is large enough to protect you. Call a friend and see if she can join you. If you do run alone, make eye contact with everyone you pass.

2. Seek out group runs. Visit your local specialty running store and find out if they host a weekly group run; if not, ask them to consider starting one. Many cities have running organizations or clubs (e.g. the Atlanta Track Club) that you can join for an annual fee, though some are no charge. Group runs give strength to the truth that there’s safety in numbers.

3. Mix up the music with some meditation. Music is a great way to power through hard workouts or long runs, but avoid letting it become a distraction for what’s going on around you. Keep one earbud in if needed. Be open to leaving the music at home from time to time as well. As an alternative to tunes, listen to how your body is feeling that day and enjoy the scenery. Use this time to gather your thoughts and mentally prepare for the day.

4. Revise your routes. As creatures of habit, we like the familiar, and this is no less true for running. For the sake of running safety though, familiarity should be periodically discarded. In other words, keep changing your runs. Run a familiar route in reverse; go to a local park or school track (where others are present too); run on different days of the week. This approach will lower the likelihood of your paths being picked up by a less than honorable person who might do you harm.

5. Use your phone for more than status updates. Social media based apps are a great way to share the days accomplishment from a particular run (e.g. a new personal record for distance or time). Though this is a fun activity, be sure to check the app settings and the phone settings that can potentially display the exact location of your run for the world to see. Speaking of location, a recent Runner’s World article lists four apps that highlight safety by sending notifications to contacts of your choosing after periods of inactivity.

Needless to say these are but a handful of the many running safety tips I could share. Many, many more exist. In summary, I suppose that the best defense is a good offense. Run smart. Use your eyes to take in the surroundings. Turn the volume down. Let someone know where you are going and how long you plan to be gone. Run in different spots. Run with your phone or with some pepper spray (you local run shop may carry this) – or both. Run with others. Download a running safety app.

Though I’ve written this post with female runners in mind, I believe that men should heed the importance of running safety too. Though they are less likely to be followed and attacked while out for a run, men can be equally vulnerable too. Hard runs and long runs lower the physical strength and tire out the mind for all runners – men and women alike. Stay sharp and stay aware. Here’s to returning home safe and sound.

What are some of the ways you stay safe during a run? What tips would you add to this list?

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