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Staying Safe On The Run

| November 18, 2010, 02:46 PM | 0 Comments

I have never been afraid for my safety while running.  For eighteen years I have run without giving a second thought to the chance I might be attacked while out of the roads or trails I have been lucky enough to run on.  Suddenly that has changed.  Until this year, my 13 year old daughter always ran with either me or my husband.  Now that she is out on the roads and trails by herself, I am afraid.

We are women and we are runners but we are not helpless.  I would never want my daughter to have to give up the joy she has found in running in order to stay safe.  So last night we sat down and talked about the steps we could take to give her a better chance of staying safe when running alone.

The first step is to try to avoid running alone as often as she can.  From now on, she will either take our big weimeraner with her or invite a friend along for the run.  Since this isn’t always possible, she will make a habit of letting someone know her exact route and the time she expects it to take her to get back.  In addition, she will vary her route, never developing a routine run on a routine day.  A victim with a routine allows a predator to stalk a victim and pick his attacking spot ahead of time.

When I told her that the most important thing to remember is not to talk to strangers, she laughed at me and said, “Mom, aren’t I too old for the ‘don’t talk to strangers’ bit.”  The sad truth is that nobody is too old for that.  Predators are not like the monsters we see in scary movies.  They don’t wear signs saying, “Look at me, I’m a bad guy.”  They blend in and often use the tactic of approaching their victim for help.  As a mom, it is my first instinct to help and I know it would be my daughter’s.  But it is important to remember that our safety comes first.  If someone looks hurt keep going and when you are a safe distance away call 911 for help.  If you are approached for directions, never step close to the car to give them.  None of these things means you have to be rude.  As a matter of fact it is believed that acknowledging a potential attacker with a greeting may keep them from approaching you.  If they know you have seen them and are bold enough to say hello, you will seem less like a victim.  So do greet runners and other people along the way but do it with caution.

It is also important to always be aware of your surroundings.  Don’t use headphones when running and pay attention to things around you.  If something looks out of place, avoid it.  Ed Hudson, running coach and retired police officer says to trust your instinct.  “Human beings are the only species who will actually disregard their ‘gut feeling’.  If you turn onto a street or trail and find that you are uncomfortable, even if you can’t put your finger on why, trust your gut and turn around and find a new path.  As mom always said, “It is better safe than sorry.”

For most runners, running becomes a way of life.  Without it we are not as healthy, but we are also not as happy.  The world is not always safe but we can take our personal safety into our own hands.  We are runners and we are strong.  With a little bit of caution, we can protect ourselves while still enjoying the roads and trails.

Ann is a freelance writer living near Annapolis, Maryland.  Her adventures in running are chronicled at her blog, Ann’s Running Commentary.  Between shuttling three children all over two states for soccer and cross country, she can be found running the streets and trails of Maryland in preparation for her latest marathon


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