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Growing up my parents would always say to me—it’s not YOU we don’t trust—it’s other people.
I’ve often reflected on this statement as a mother and as a runner. When it comes to being safe out on the roads, I’m not worried about myself; I’m worried about what other people will or won’t do and how their decisions may affect my safety. I believe that as a runner—especially a female runner—I must not let my guard down when running at times of the day that are less safe than others. It’s when we get comfortable that we are most susceptible to being attacked. It’s when we are in a comfort zone that we are more likely to not pay attention to drivers or other such hazards.
I personally have had run-ins with crazy people in cars. I’ve had people swerve towards me while I was pushing my kids in the running stroller, and sadly I saw a woman who died from being hit and dragged by a trash truck not 15 feet from the front door of my townhouse. These incidents have kept me on my toes while running, so to say. I know that keeping myself safe is my priority. I can’t rely on others to see me or for people to act in a manner that they should.
Here are some of my tips for staying safe on early morning runs—though many of these tips work for other times as well!
Let someone that you know when you are going for a run.
In the early morning hours, it’s important for someone to know what time you left your house and around how many miles you plan on running. Heaven forbid, if you didn’t come back home, you want someone to be able to establish a timeline for when you went missing. Telling them how many miles you planned on running or about how long you plan on being out there keeps your loved one or friend from worrying about you too soon. If you don’t have anyone in your life you can text or tell, then leave a note at your house for someone to find later should you go missing.
Don’t be a predictable target.
I don’t post on social media before I am about to go for a run. I leave for my runs at a different time each day and I never run the same route two days in a row if I am running when it’s dark and early. I don’t want to have a routine that someone else could memorize. I certainly don’t want to give anyone I don’t know a heads up when I am leaving for a run. In the past I would post on my blog my weekly training log. I do not do this anymore for safety reason.
Mix up your pace.
This is along the same lines of don’t be a predictable target. Don’t run the same amount of mileage every day at the same pace. If someone is going to attack you and it’s a pre-meditated act, you don’t want them knowing that you do the same 6 miles at a 9 minute pace every day.
Do not carry mace.
Some of you are going to argue with me on this one but I think it’s very dangerous to carry this type of item in an early morning hour. There is a strong likelihood that someone attacking you is either stronger than you or is possibly on something from the night before. I think the chances of this item being turned and used against you is high. If something were to happen to you, you need your eyesight and all your senses functioning as well as possible.
Do not run with music.
I wish I didn’t even have to say this one but sadly, it needs to be said. I’ve been out running at 4:30 a.m. and seen women totally tuned in to their music who didn’t even notice me until I was right in front of them. I’ve seen women listening to music this early but running with their dog, assuming that the dog will keep them safe. Assume nothing. You need your senses to be functioning fully in the morning. Since you may not be able to see as well as you would during the middle of the day, consider your ears a gift. You need to hear what’s going on around you or who might be coming up behind you.
Make a wise decision about reflective gear.
As a runner and coach, I do not believe that you should wear reflective gear on every dark run. Based on where and when I run, I’ve made the decision to not wear this gear. I want to blend in as much as possible and not stick out for anyone who may be up to no good. There aren’t many cars out at the time I run, and I assume that every single one of them can’t see me. I get off of the road and hop on to a sidewalk if I see a car coming. I wait at cross walks till a car passes. I am proactive in my safety.
My ID of choice is a RoadID that I wear on my wrist. Make sure you have the numbers of people who can be reached when you are out running and make sure to include pertinent information. Quotes and such are cute but they aren’t going to help save your life.
Say hi to other runners.
A runner is more likely to remember seeing you and where they were when they saw you if you say hi. If something terrible were to happen, you would want people to be able to come forward with details that might help authorities. In the early morning hours of 4 am, you will likely only pass a few people. This tactic doesn’t work as well when you are running during periods of time where they are tons of runners out.
Carry your phone.
Once upon a time I thought this was ridiculous. I was proactive in my safety, I don’t typically stop on runs – so pictures were out, and I certainly wasn’t going to be talking on it or texting while running. So why would I need a phone? These days I carry it with me on most runs and I feel safer. I’ve gotten lost on a run before and fought back tears and tiredness as I ran 10+ more miles than planned. I have debated knocking on someone’s door and asking to use their phone to call my husband (I didn’t). If I had my cell phone with me, I would have been able to call and he wouldn’t have been at home worrying why it had been hours since he last saw me when I had told him I was only running 6-7 miles.
Don’t worry about being politically correct.
I realize by even putting this as a bullet some of you are going to gasp. It’s the truth. If you get a funny feeling in your stomach for whatever reason, do not worry about offending the person who is giving you the feeling. Your safety is more important than not turning around and running the other direction because a stranger made you feel funny. I’d rather offend someone I don’t know in the moment and be safe than to make a really bad decision and have it cost me my life. It may sound dramatic but the world isn’t always the safest place. Your safety lies in your own hands as a runner.