It's summer. That means warmer weather, more daylight, people out and about enjoying the sunshine—it has to be safer to run outdoors, right? Wrong.
Generally speaking, yes, it is safer to run when it's light out, as opposed to when it's dark, but there's something that happens to most of us during daylight—we feel invincible. And this is just as hazardous as running by ourselves at midnight on a poorly lit street.
According to a UNIFEM report, one in three American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her. If you find this shocking, it is.
If you're wondering what it has to do with running, I'll tell you that assailants are no longer waiting for the cover of night to strike. They will surprise you in the early hours of morning, during a midday trail run, or abduct you from the streets of your neighborhood. Just ask the five bay area women threatened while running a popular trail; or the woman who jumped over a cliff in Malibu to escape her attacker, or even Candice Moncayo who escaped Chelsea King's killer.
It can happen and we want you to be safe. Below are some of the best tried and true safety tips from police officers, EMT's, and other safety experts.
1) Do Not Run Alone
I know, it's so simple, but it works. Two people are harder to control than one, so attackers are less likely to strike and if they do, you've just doubled your chance of survival. If you don't have someone to run with, get a dog. Or borrow a dog. Not only does it make you a less attractive target, dogs can sometimes sense danger before we can.
Please note: the dog factor only works if your dog is bigger than a breadbox, otherwise, you might as well have a small child with you.
2) Do Not Run With Earphones
Again, this isn't rocket science. When you have loud music blaring in your ears, you can't hear a potential attacker come up behind you and it also slows your reaction time. Most of us runners have the bad habit of tuning out while we run. I do it—it's why most of us put our shoes on every day, and consistent loud music makes it easier to escape from the hyper-alertness of our everyday lives.
But when we dull our senses, we are less effective in the case of a surprise attack. If you must run with music, only use one earpiece, and switch ears during your run.
3) Alter Your Route
This tip is not only for those with crazy ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. When we run the same route, or the same two routes, day after day, it not only makes us easy targets for stalkers, we also have a tendency to zone out.
Altering your route makes you harder to track and keeps you more alert during your run because you are navigating unfamiliar terrain. The more alert you are, the more likely you are to escape an attack.
If mapping new routes is too time consuming, use websites like mapmyrun.com to find ready made runs in your area.
4) Run Against Traffic
It makes it harder for someone to abduct you in a vehicle if you see the coming, literally a mile away. This also helps prevent traffic related accidents, especially if you like to run in the early morning or at dusk.
Anyone who saw the charming Sandra Bullock movie, "Miss Congeniality," will remember her demonstration of self-defense at the beauty pageant talent show. "Remember to sing," is her line and it stands for four vulnerable parts of a person: solar plexis, instep, nose, groin.
If you are attacked from behind self-defense experts tell you to elbow your attacker in the stomach, stomp on their instep, turn and shove the heel of your hand up their nose, then knee their groin. This often sounds easier than it is, so try to take a self-defense class about every five years to keep the concepts fresh and your reaction time quick.
You can check in with your local community college or police department for available classes.
6) Carry Runner's Mace
I once heard an EMT say, "Of all the assault calls I've been on, not one of the victims was carrying mace."
This tip is conditional because mace and pepperspray are not legal in every state, but if it is legal for you to carry it, do. Runner's mace is a small can (3/4 oz) that has a velcro strap that fits easily around your hand or wrist. It is effective up to eight to 12 feet away—depending on aim—and one burst is usually enough to stop someone.
The 3/4 oz. canister has approximately 10 bursts. An ex-army trainer has one tip on using mace: buy more than one can and practice using it during your run and right afterwards. Physical exertion, especially intense physical exertion, takes a lot of blood away from our brain and thus has a detrimental effect on our ability to think and aim. If you are going to carry a weapon while you run—yes, mace is a weapon— then you should know how to use it effectively.
Know how a run affects your body and mind, and how to compensate for this.
Bottom line, don't be an easy target, be aware of your surroundings, listen to your instincts and know what to do in the case of an attack. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Listen to that squeamish sensation in your stomach, stop, look around and find the quickest exit towards civilization.
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