Runner safety and staying safe while out on a run should be one of our top priorities whenever we step out our front door. In this article I share 23 tips to help keep you safe on your next run.
According to a Runner’s World survey, 43 percent of women at least sometimes experience harassment on a run, compared with four percent of men.
According to the survey, 30 percent of women runners said they have been followed by a person in a vehicle, on a bicycle, or on foot.
Eighteen percent of women runners said they have been sexually propositioned, and three percent of women runners said they have been grabbed, groped, or otherwise physically assaulted.
Many of the tips mentioned on the show come from the RRCA (Road Runner’s Club of America) Running Safety Tip Guidelines as well as my thoughts and experience to add to that list. Here is our combined list:
- Avoid wearing headphones. Headphones make it hard for you to here others who may be approaching. If you do decide to wear headphones, I highly recommend AfterShokz Aeroplex Open-Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones as they do not sit in your ear, but rather just outside the ear, which allows you to listen to music or a podcast, yet, hear what is going on around you. These headphones are amazing!
- Run against traffic so you can observe approaching vehicles. This is a good rule in general, but this way someone can’t come up behind your and snatch you into a vehicle.
- Carry identification or write your name, contact info, medical information, blood type, etc inside the sole of your shoe. I recommend picking up a Road Id bracelet or shoe tag. The Road Id app even allows your family members to track you.
- Always stay alert and what is going on around you. This sounds like common sense, but I don’t think we are as always aware of our surroundings as we think we are.
- Carry a cell phone, and know locations of businesses that could be a safe place if you needed to seek safety. Be aware that when running in cold temperatures, your phone can freeze up rendering it useless. The same is true with extreme heat.
- Trust your intuition about a person or specific area. If something doesn’t feel right, it often isn’t. If you feel something is off, be extra vigilant.
- Alter or vary your running routes often. Don’t be a habitual runner.
- Get a map for your family and highlight your routes. Number your routes and let your family know before you leave what route you are running. You can usually get maps from your township or county in which you live. Then, use a highlighter and map out your most common routes. This is also helpful should law enforcement or emergency services need to look for you as well. If you say you will be running along a designated route, stay on that route so people can find you!
- If you are traveling or unfamiliar with an area, seek out a running club or local running store. Local running clubs and club contacts can be found on the rrca.org website. In most cases, they will be happy to have you visit or provide you additional information about the area.
- When possible run with a running partner or dog.
- Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets or overgrown, secluded trails. Look for areas that are well lit. I used to drive into town so I could run with the street lights and be in a more populated area. Avoid running past parked cars or grown bushes and vegetation.
- Avoid verbal harassment and getting into arguments with others. In almost all cases it is best to just leave the area and report it. Getting into an argument or ‘telling them off’ might feel good, but it could escalate the situation into one that turns dangerous.
- If in a public place, yell out that you are being harassed or need help. Arguing or yelling at someone looks just like that; an argument. People passing by may think it is just an argument and not help or call for help for fear of getting involved in what they perceive is a domestic situation. They are more likely to help if they know you are being harassed by a stranger. Be specific when calling out for help. Use a safety whistle or other form of noisemaker to draw attention. Blow it in loud bursts of three.
- Make eye contact. Making eye contact lets potential criminals you can recognize them and potential identify them later. It also lets them know that the element of surprise is gone.
- Practice memorizing license plates, clothing, and other human characteristics like height, weight, clothing, facial features, etc. Not only will it help you report problems more accurately, but it will also help keep your mind distracted on those long runs!
- Don’t hesitate to call the police if you feel uncomfortable or if something happened.
- Take self-defense classes but be sure to practice often. The best self-defense is to get away and not be there. However, if you can’t having some basic self-defense training can help. However, don’t assume that just because you took a self-defense class you will be proficient. Don’t let that give you a false sense of security. Learn it, but practice and always disengage from the situation if you can first.
- People under the influence of drugs may not respond to mace or other chemical self-protection products.
- Tiny keychain-like mace products only give you one shot, maybe two to hit the target before you run out. Be prepared to get it on you as well.
- Be hyper-vigilant at all times, especially when confronted with a situation that seems out of place to you.
- Men, be careful when you approach or pass women. Don’t come upon them unannounced or run too close. While you have no intention to attack someone, we don’t want to make women uncomfortable. Remember, they don’t know if you are a threat or not, and since we don’t live a day in their shoes, don’t assume they feel safe at all times. I know a few cases where I ran through some sketchy areas and I did not feel safe.
- If you are a guy, don’t assume you can’t be a victim. I had a close call when I was a teenager when 3 guys tried to jump me and my girlfriend when we were talking at a picnic table in a public park. Luckily we managed to get to our car before they attacked, but they did manage to smash my headlights out when I tried to get away.
- Look for personal monitoring apps or devices that you can use to track your location or summon help to you should you need it. The Road Id App, as well as devices like the Ripple 24/7 Personal Safety monitoring device might be an option.
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Steve Carmichael is a running coach, sports performance coach, nutrition coach and has been a recreational runner for over 18 years. Steve holds multiple certifications as a certified running coach through the RRCA and USA Track and Field as well as he is a NASM certified personal trainer, and PN1-L1 certified nutrition coach.
Steve has been coaching since 2010 and has helped thousands of runners online and in the Central Ohio area maximize performance and run injury-free.