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“Nationals October 2019

Staying Safe On The Run

| November 18, 2010, 02:46 PM | 12 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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  1. Tom says:

    Good stuff. I’d add to that the obvious nightime running advice of wearing lights (headlamp and rearfacing red blinky). Bright people who attract attention (runners who are properly lit) are less likely to be targets for attackers.

    I think I am going to get one of these vests http://www.amazon.com/Nathan-Flash-L-E-D-Reflective-Vest/dp/B001L414LI for my nightime running. I looks much nicer than the dorky construction type vest I have now. Might even be nice enough for a teenager to wear.

  2. Deb says:

    For $7, you can get a skinny, easy-to-carry flashlight that doubles as a flare and has a whistle. They are super-easy to run with. I highly recommend them. Also, this may sound a little morbid, but when I go run on country roads, I run with a metal bottle, in case I run into a dog or human, and I need defense. Third, make sure she’s running with water and nutrition, period. If she gets hurt or stuck, she needs to be able to take care of herself until she can get help.

  3. Michael Willis says:

    It’s a sad commentary on the times, but I don’t think I could ever let my daughter run alone down around ‘Naptown. I guess the only real defense a regular runner might have is that she can probably outpace any would-be attacker. That is far better than thinking a water bottle, even a metal one, wielded by a typical woman would stop anybody who is animal enough to attack in the first place. There’s just no leverage like with a baton or a nightstick.

  4. Ann Brennan says:

    Micheal, I don’t know if you follow my writing anywhere else but I wrote an article a while back about not being afraid as a woman runner. http://www.annsrunningcommentary.com/?p=54 I do believe that while we can’t let fear guide our lives, we should also protect ourselves as much as we can. It is a balancing act.

  5. Deb says:

    I do agree with Ann. I think that you’re right. For anyone who really wants at me, a water bottle or a whistle won’t do much good. However, I refuse to be so afraid to die that I am afraid to live. I will take all necessary precautions to ensure my safety while I run. But I can no more ensure my safety while I run than I can ensure the my safety while I’m in a parking lot at night. It IS a balancing act, and running empowers me. I refuse to have that taken away. :)

  6. Heather says:

    Ditto all of the great tips in the article and comments about reflective gear and lights! I love my Firefly laces. Also never leave without my Road ID. Have been fortunate not to need it, but it gives me peace of mind knowing that the information to help me (contact and medical) is there.

  7. timos says:

    I use the LogYourRun iPhone app when I run. It has an auto tweet function which allows my wife to see where I am at in the world and it has an in case of emergency button which will instantly dial my wife if I need to.

  8. Tom says:

    Annapolis really has alot of roads that are very well lit and fine for a young person to run on at night. There’s a good stretch of Forest that has a nice sidewalk (and a little hills) an good bit of Spa and Hilltop the is sidewalked and lighted.

    If you’re going to run at night as long as the area is well lighted and you’re situationally aware (i.e. leaving the iPod home) I would feel fine letting my girls run at night (although they’re 9 and 7 right now so it’ll be a couple years before they’re old enough to be out at night by themselves.)

    The world is alot safer than we make it out to be. Common sense will keep most folks – our kids included – safe.

    That all being said, there are some places where it would be a BAD idea to run. The B&A after dark, certain ‘hood’s that we all know, and any road without a sidewalk (that’s just unsafe at night).

    Running’s great. Send your daughter out and let her love running!

  9. Deb says:

    TIMOS! GREAT IDEA on the iPhone app!

  10. Michelle says:

    Great tips and article. I have been running on a secluded trail that was very busy with XC runners, but is now desolate because the season is over. I struggle over whether to keep running the trails I love or move to the treadmill (ugh!). The tips mentioned in your article and comments will be very useful!

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