Being a lady runner has so many positives; amazing running groups, friends who have the best purse snacks, and a valid reason to spend multiple days in athleisure wear. Unfortunately, we also face some unique challenges, especially when it comes staying safe on our runs. We all know that there is increased safety in numbers, but we also know that having a running buddy available isn’t always an option.
Especially in the middle of a pandemic, it’s important that all of us know how to minimize our risks. Staying safe while running solo shouldn’t be about running in fear, but taking steps to empower ourselves to feel confident enough to run alone and know that we can protect ourselves. So here’s some steps I’ve taken to equip myself, and some things that I hope other women runners out there consider adopting.
Staying Safe While Running Solo
Plan Your Run
One of the best ways to stay safe in any situation is to be prepared, and that means putting some time into planning. When you’re mapping out your training calendar, take some time to make sure you aren’t running the same routes on the same days consistently. Take different roads or tails on different days or at different times to prevent someone from being able to pick up on your patterns. We don’t want to believe that someone dangerous might be watching us, but it is possible.
So don’t make a creeps job any easier. In addition to keeping your routine slightly unpredictable, you should also really think about who can see where you’ve been running online. Are you posting maps that show your favorite routes? That might not be the safest option, especially if you’re posting publicly. I recommend that my clients keep their maps private on Garmin/Strava, or make sure that they only share with trusted friends they know in real life.
And finally, be aware of your area. If you’re traveling for work or vacation, maybe don’t head out for your usual pre-dawn run. Make sure you have a good understanding of the roads or trails you plan to run on, and use situational awareness. Make sure you can see and hear around you, and stay aware of your surroundings, no matter how familiar you might be.
We’re lucky enough to live in a time where there are so many different options for personal safety. Do your research, and decide which option makes the most sense for you. Some runners feel comfortable with a handheld knife, while others might opt for something like an alarm or whistle. You have to be honest with what type of protection you will be most comfortable deploying if you need to.
For runners who choose something like pepperspray or a taser, make sure you know how to use it effectively. Practice to increase your own confidence with your protective device. And for the love of chocolate, don’t carry it somewhere that is difficult to reach. Like the back of a hydration vest. Ideally, pick something you can carry in your hands or a pocket that is easy to access.
Predators aren’t the only danger runners face, especially in the early or late hours of the day. There’s also distracted (or just bad) drivers. Make sure you are as visible as possible with a combination of wearable lights and reflective gear. Luckily, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to reflective gear. Check out a reflective armbands, gloves, or hat.
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Just because you are running alone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share your information with someone else. If you are running solo, it’s actually more important that you communicate with someone else. If you live with a partner or roommate, let them know that you’re heading out, when you should be back, and what route you plan on taking. If you don’t live with others, make sure you have a friend or family member that you either text or call with the same information.
I’ve shared my location on my cell phone with a couple of running buddies in the past, and I keep my location shared with my husband. I know there’s pro’s and cons to sharing your location, and some may not be comfortable with it, but for me I feel like it’s an added layer of protection. If it’s been more than 10-15 minutes after I’m expected back home, it also gives my husband some peace of mind to be able to see that little dot moving in the right area.
Technology has come a long way since I started running 10 years ago. Today, most GPS watches come with safety features that you should take advantage of. My Garmin 245 has an alert setting that detects any time I come to a sudden stop and sends me an option to notify contacts that I have saved, and local police. There’s been a couple of times that I’ve actually face planted on the trails, and was not unhappy that my watch offered to notify my husband. Had I been really hurt, it would have definitely come in handy.
If your watch doesn’t have that kind of technology, there are plenty of apps that you can look into. Bsafe is one of my top recommendations. It allows you select contacts to notify if you press the red SOS button when you open the app. Once the notification is activated, your contact will be able to see your location, and have access to your camera to see what is going on. You can also program the app to go through your safety protocol through voice activation, so you don’t have to rely on being able to open the app. Pretty cool!
One final note is that you should be mindful about listening to music or a podcast, especially if you are running in the dark or in remote areas. Being able to hear someone (or something, like an animal) can help you to react and respond faster. If you just can’t bear to run without listening to a good true crime podcast (guilty), make sure to use earbuds like Aftershokz that allow you to hear what is going on around you.
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Way back in college, I worked at a gym and had the opportunity to take a couple of self-defense classes. I learned so many useful things, and honestly it made me so much more aware of things I could do to take more ownership of my personal safety. Things that I use while I’m running, and just living life. I really recommend that all women take at least one self-defense class. I’ve seen so many offers on GroupOn, Facebook Groups, and at gyms. Several running groups that I am a part of will organize group classes that runners can sign up for. If you haven’t seen one offered, reach out to your group admin to ask if it’s something that can be explored.
TRUST YOUR GUT
One of the absolute, most important safety tips I know of. Women often have a sixth sense when it comes to picking up weird vibes from people or places. And all too often, we have been conditioned to ignore those feelings. When you’re running, don’t. If your stomach starts to hurt because the sun is setting in a less than familiar part of town, get the hell out of there. If someone is giving you the creeps, don’t be afraid to make a scene.
Your job is not to make other people comfortable, it’s to keep yourself safe. When I first started running in college, I had an experience where a man tried to stop me to “ask for directions.” It felt uncomfortable and off to me, so instead of being polite and saying “I don’t know,” I made a scene. I yelled (he was only a few feet in front of me), “I don’t know you, I don’t want to talk to you, get away from me.” And he left in a hurry.
Maybe he actually needed directions, but you know what? That’s what cell phones and gas stations are for. I don’t need to ignore my intuition, or be polite. Did I embarrass him? Yes. Do I feel bad? No. I trusted my gut, and I got loud, and I’ll never know what his true intentions were, but I know I did what I felt I needed to do to keep myself safe. You do the same.
The unfortunate reality is that women are targeted. And because runners are often out in the world in remote area’s and at irregular hours, we have an increased risk. But you don’t need to approach running from a place of fear, especially if you take steps to keep yourself safe. What are some things you’ve done to make sure you’re staying safe while running solo?