Solo Running Safety 101
The feeling of running on your own is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Solo running is my 'me time' and I am very grateful for it. Don't get me wrong, running with people is also fun and motivating, but sometimes I just need to pound the pavement and be alone with my thoughts. After a particularly great running session, I usually feel invigorated and ready to tackle on the day.
Despite this, solo running also has its downfalls, especially for women (I wish this wasn't the case, but the double standard does exist). When I read about the abductions of the three women that were out on their regular runs this past summer, a rush of emotions came to me. I felt angered and disgusted at first; the main question running through my mind was "Who in their right mind would do such an unforgivable thing?!" After this sad information settled, I also felt thankful that such a horrendous event hasn't happened to me. Feelings of cautiousness also came to me since I credit much of my safety precautions to my dad and previous cross country coaches. I have developed these precautions over the years and would like to share them with you. What may come as common sense to myself and others might not translate the same to other runners. Below are my eight safety tips when it comes to running alone:
Tell your family/friends your running route: This may be a given, but I'll admit that there are some days where I forget to tell my parents exactly where I'll be running. If you're like me and don't like to plan out our run exactly, tell your family or friends the general vicinity in which you will most likely be. This information could prove to be very helpful, in the event that something does happen.
Run without music: I am very aware that this is controversial and I sometimes run with music (very rare for me), but you are just more aware about your surroundings when your mind is free from distractions. Some may even justify running with music by turning the volume to the lowest setting or even running with one earbud in, but only part of your attention is geared towards your surroundings. Plus, running without music also allows you to focus on perfecting your running form which in turn makes you look like a hard-core running veteran ( and who doesn't love that?!).
Run facing on coming traffic: This is one of the precautions I learned from running cross country in high school. The logic behind this is that seeing on coming cars/cyclists gives the runner more time to prepare themselves, if a car/human interaction were to happen. I personally think it's more important for me to see the cars than it is for the cars to see me.
Avoid vacant alleyways: Or any path that is empty and poorly lit. Pretty self explanatory, but doing this makes you less vulnerable in having an unwanted encounter with potential attackers. Run in places where there is enough people to witness/hear an attack.
Be cautious of your surroundings: Again, self explanatory but always look around your surroundings for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians. When you are about to cross a street at an intersection, make eye contact with drivers so they know to stop and let you run pass. Not all drivers honor that the "pedestrian has the right of way" rule, so make sure to do everything on your side to ensure you get yourself across the street safely.
Run with purpose: By this, I mean run like you know where you are going. Run with your game face on. Do anything that'll make you look that much more confident, that way other people will be intimidate by you and not approach you. It's a win-win situation really: the person won't get an earful of angry rants from you and you are free to continue your run in peace. I apply this to everyday life as well; I make it a point to walk like I know where I am going, especially when I am by myself walking back to my car at night. Also, ladies, if a car honks at you or obnoxious drivers vocally degrade you (it happens and it's unwanted. Drivers please STOP doing this), ignore them and do not instigate the situation further. Those people don't deserve your attention anyway!
Carry discreet self defense weapons while you run: This is a bit controversial and maybe even deemed unnecessary, but if carrying these makes you feel safer, then by all means go for it! You can never be too cautious! The only self defense weapon I own is handheld pepper spray and I don run with it on occasion. Most of the time I run with my house key and that's enough of a safety precaution for me. I slip the key ring onto my finger and tuck the key in between my index and middle finger so it looks like I have a small pocket knife.
Don't run the same route twice: In other words, vary your running routes. To take this step even further, run at different times of the day. This makes it harder for potential attackers to track you. This is also beneficial to you, the runner, since the varied routes will keep you on your toes and provide a small sense of adventure.
Those are my main eight points of safety advice for runners that run alone. These tips aren't exclusive to gender and in fact should be embraced by all. For my readers that do run, what do you do that makes you feel safe when running alone? Let me know in the comments! I hope my safety advice helps you in gaining more confidence in solo running!
Run happy and run true!