Although very rare, it is a sad but unavoidable truth that female runners must consider their safety when out clocking up their weekly mileage. We present some very useful tips designed to minimize the already very low risk of being a victim of crime. And if you’re a guy, these tips are useful too.
Keep someone in the loop
Always tell someone where you are going to run, how long you intend to be out for and when you’ll be back. That way, if you are delayed for any reason at all, someone will notice your absence. Make sure this person knows what to do if you miss your deadline for getting back from your run. Also, tell them if your plans have changed so they don’t send out a search party when you simply decided to run a few extra miles.
Always carry your phone
Running provides the perfect way to have some alone time and enjoy peace and quiet. However, if you are incommunicado, you might run in to problems and not be able to raise help. Rather than go completely off radar, make sure you have your mobile phone on you with important numbers pre-programmed to speed dial.
If you are ever confronted by unwanted attention, simply getting your phone out and starting to dial for help is usually enough to prevent escalation of the problem. Likewise, if you suffer an injury and are unable to make the run home, having your mobile phone with you can be the difference between limping back to base or calling a friend for a pick up.
If you run at night, stick to well-lit areas, areas that are well-populated, and areas where there are open businesses. Also dress to be seen. The combination of being seen and having plenty of people around can significantly increase your safety when running at night.
Avoid running alone at night
Misery loves company or so the saying goes. Rather than run alone, especially at night, run with a friend. As well as acting as a training partner for each other, you can also act as a bodyguard and lookout and, as everyone knows, there is strength in numbers.
If you can’t recruit a willing human running partner, consider getting a canine one instead. Dogs make great running buddies and can also ward off unwanted attention.
Turn down the tunes
Turn your music right down or run with only one ear plug in. Though your safest option is to leave your music at home. Listening to music while you run can be very motivating and help prevent boredom on long runs, but while you are bopping along to … Marvin Gaye, you may be unable to hear approaching danger. Your ears are a sensitive early warning system, especially when darkness falls, so don’t purposely shut down one of your most important senses.
Be aware of your surroundings
As runners we want to get in the zone. It means we’re running well, we’re not fighting our body, we have flow. But it also tends to mean that our surroundings fall away and we’re not really looking or registering our environment as much. You need to be aware of what’s behind you, in front of you and around you – be it people, cars, or cyclists.
Don’t stop for strangers
While you are running, it’s pretty difficult for someone who is walking or stationary to make a nuisance of themselves. That all changes the moment you stop. Give strangers a wide birth and don’t stop running if someone calls out to you. You are fit and fast, so use those attributes to your advantage and keep moving to avoid trouble.
The sad truth is that passersby are often hesitant to get involved – especially if it’s something unpleasant, unlawful or things are turning ugly. So if you find yourself in need of help, make it clear to those around that this is an emergency situation. Self-defense instructors will often recommend to shout “fire” instead of “help”. Why? Because we use the word “help” in a variety of situations that aren’t life-threatening so when we hear it, it does not necessarily mean there’s an emergency. Fire is a guaranteed emergency, plus it motivates others into action because the situation could potentially affect them too.
So for complex reasons, shouting FIRE instead of HELP breaks down the barriers of passiveness and people are much more likely to come to your aid. Simply shouting at the top of your voice can be enough to put off any unwanted attention so don’t be a shrinking violet; be assertive, use your well-developed lungs and BELLOW like your life depends on it.
Change your Routes
If you always run the same routes, you are likely to attract attention and give people the unwanted opportunity to anticipate where you will be at a certain time. This means that you could be caught up in an unpleasant event simply because of your predictable running habits. Instead, run different routes on different days and, if possible, at different times.
Avoiding obvious patterns is a good way to make sure you are not going to run into trouble.
If you are unlucky enough to be involved in a road traffic accident or otherwise knocked unconscious, wearing some form if ID can make things much easier for the emergency responders. They can contact your next of kin and make sure any necessary treatment allows for medical conditions you may suffer from (such as asthma or diabetes).
Use an identity bracelet or pendant or put your details in a waterproof baggie and put it on your shoe.
Remember to SING
No, not an alternative to listening to music to alleviate running boredom ,but an acronym for helping you deal with physical confrontations. Although this should be a last resort, remember Solar plexus, Instep, Nose, Groin. Forcefully striking any of these vulnerable areas (see video) should stop a would-be assailant in their tracks. If grabbed from behind, for example, elbow your attacker in the stomach, stomp on their instep, turn and shove the heel of your hand up their nose, and then knee them in the groin. Better still, get some qualified self-defense instruction.
Trust your gut
Our body is truly remarkable. We can register the most minute of details, whether it’s an almost imperceptible change of tone in someone’s voice, the slightest of changes in expression in someone’s eyes, or a change in our surrounding’s we didn’t even know we perceived – a sound, a light breeze of air, a faint smell, a sudden stillness … Our body is noticing and registering changes of which our conscious mind for the most part isn’t even aware. So if you feel unsafe or feel something’s off, you’re probably right. Trust your gut. You may never find out that you were right to head home, but that’s the point.
Running really is a very safe activity but it pays to take precautions. Enjoy your running and don’t let this advice put you off your training, but pay heed to these safety tips and see your already low risk of suffering a mishap drop even further.