Are you staying safe when you run? Do you feel safe? Yes, there is a difference, and the ability to feel safe when you are out running is just as important as the feeling of running in a new pair of comfy running shoes. Most articles you read about runner safety highlight the same common issues like who you run with, distractions such as music, and personal defense tools. The issue I have with most articles is that, although they may be right on, they are not always practical. My goal is to provide some practical advice to not only help you run safely but also help you to feel safe and increase the satisfaction of your workout.
First off let’s discuss where we run. Do you like to run on the pavement or do you like the trail? If you’re like me it depends on my mood and what shoes I put on that day. Let’s face it, running on the pavement in a well-lit area is probably “safer”. People can see you, you can see them, and you are less likely to encounter surprises. If someone does decide to attack you the chances of help coming to your aid when calling for help is much more likely. The problem I face is that I don’t like running on the street. Really I prefer running at night, by myself, on a trial. Just me, the stars, and some good tunes. Are there added risks? Maybe, but we can take some steps to lower them. First off, before you go out in the dark make sure you have seen the area in the daylight. Evaluate areas that may pose a potential risk. Look for areas not only where someone could hide, but also areas where the ground surface changes or large holes may cause injury. Next, look for avenues of escape or refuge if something bad were to happen. Going out in the daylight will help you spot paths in the tree line where you could exit, those same paths should also be noted for increasing your risk, if you can use them so can others.
Running without good music is just weird. I know some people can handle it, but not me, it provides a wonderful distraction and lets me pull away from life for a few minutes. However, I will also be the first to point out that I alter my listening habits depending on where I am running. If I am running in the subdivision, which has street lights on every corner and a wide open line of sight, the tunes will be cranked up. Hey, we don’t spend all that money on good wireless headphones for nothing, right? However, when it comes to running in more secluded places that needs to change. You need to be able to sense what is going on around you and your ability to hear plays a large role in staying vigilant. You should turn the volume down to a point you can hear your footsteps. For some, it may be easier to just use one earpiece, depending on your headphone design and comfort.
Now, the controversial topic of carrying tools that can be used for self-dense. I took a Facebook poll of what people are carrying and got the answers I expected. Some people will carry nothing, while others carry knives, guns, pepper spray, and even batons. First off let me say this, do what you are comfortable with. If you have not already made your mind up on using a specific tool then don’t carry it. If you’re not willing to hit someone don’t carry a baton, if you are not willing to shoot someone then don’t carry a gun. Recently I saw a new weapon you wear on your finger like a ring, if you get attacked you fold the top back and you are left with a knife-like tool you can use for stabbing. The largest issue with a lot of these weapons or tools is that they require you to have a close distance to your assailant and often lead to very intimate contact. Really what we want to look for are ways to help increase the distance between us and our attackers. When I run I don’t carry anything with me that requires me to close distance or create contact. Look at it this way, you have been running and your body gets tired. Even with some new found adrenaline, how long can you sustain in a fight? Tools such as pepper spray, tasers, and firearms all help create distance and help improve your chances of escape and stopping an attack. You also have to consider how to carry and secure safety tools. Personally, I wear a band designed by Pistolwear. It holds essential items and stays in place. It is worn around the waist line so it will not cause any balance or step issues.
In short, the simple answer is to know and pay attention to your surroundings. Make preparations that you are comfortable with and willing to follow through on. In law enforcement, we are told the more prepared you are to act the less likely you are to have the need. Carry yourself with confidence, take the necessary steps to be prepared, and don’t let yourself become a victim.
Rusty Rives is an 18 year veteran of law enforcement with over 20 years in public safety. He currently serves with the Joplin Missouri Police Department as a Sergeant and has a background in Fire Fighting and EMS.