A blog by runners. For runners.

Spring running safety: a refresher


In the 12 or so years I’ve been running, I’ve encountered a variety of circumstances. Most of my runs go off without a hitch, and I plod along familiar paths without worry or hesitation. However, I have certainly experienced some of those roads less traveled. Roads I likely shouldn’t have gone down in the first place.

Running safety is one of those things we all have in the back of our minds on some level. As a woman, I’ve considered different scenarios, but never much at length. It’s only when I read stories like that of Sheri Ball-Garcia’s nightmare that I really stop to consider if something bad were to happen to me while I’m out innocently logging miles.

We have several safety tips on this blog already, but it’s always good to have a refresher course – especially as more of us head out of the gym and onto the pavement. Here are some simple things you can do today to make for safer running.

Stop running with music
Jogging along while distracted by your favorite tunes can be on the best ways to bust through motivation barriers. However, running with earbuds also blocks out one of the keenest senses for protection. Whether it’s a motorist buzzing by or something worse, consider running sans tunes for better safety.

Be alert when running at night (or early mornings)
There are many things you can do to make your runs in the dark safer. I’ll admit – I love running at night, but there’s also a healthy fear I have learned to employ. I definitely find myself on the defensive and stick to those spots where I run into the least issues during the day. For example, I stay away from dark parks, shady streets, and unfamiliar neighborhoods. I also try to stay closer to home (sometimes doing 1 to 2-mile loops around my house) and bring my phone.

Find a buddy (or tell somewhere where you’re running)
We’ve all heard there’s safety in groups or even pairs. So, running with a buddy is a simple way you can make yourself feel (and actually just BE) less vulnerable. At very minimum, if you’re going on a run or walk – it’s always a good idea that someone knows your plan. What route are you taking? When do you expect to be back? That way, someone else has your back if you get injured or have some other mishap. If you don’t live with anyone or nobody is around, ask a friend if he/she would be OK with you sharing this info just as a precaution.

Arm yourself
Unfortunately, we aren’t in control of our surroundings. Occasionally even the best planning might not be enough to ward off an attack (human, but don’t discount animals, too!). If you feel the need, it’s OK to carry pepper spray or some other defense device. I sometimes bring a key as a makeshift protection device just in case, if it makes any sense. (Just note that pepper spray, etc., might not be legal where you live. Here’s more information.)

Educate yourself
Along these same lines, you can also sign up for a self defense class to get some strategies in your mind if you ever run into trouble. Organizations like R.A.D. hold classes all over – but the best place to start might be in your local runners club. Our club actually hosted a self defense class recently and it was well attended! While you’re at it, be sure to always bring identification of some kind, whether it’s just your ID or a special wrist or ankle band.

Make a mental map
One of my favorite ways to stay safe is to run at a time when most stores and restaurants are open and to make a route that goes through those highly trafficked areas. That way, if I do get into some trouble, I can duck inside and avoid or get help if needed. I actually did have to use this strategy once when I was being followed by a truck of mean-spirited high school boys. They were yelling out all kinds of crude remarks and, well, following me for quite a while. So, I ran into a drug store and called the police.

What do you do to stay safe on the run? Any tips to share?

Written by  Ashley Marcin.