Run Safely

This fall marks my 9th year of running. Over the years I've seen headlines, heard stories and been warned about safety concerns and running. But I've never worried about my safety on a run until today. And I'm angry.

I headed our on my typical 10 mile route this morning. I've run it too many times to count. It's enjoyable and takes me to a little nature preserve, so I get to pretend I don't live in the middle of the city for a blessed 1/2 mile loop.

Three miles in, on the sidewalk of a busy road, I felt a car pulling up behind me. It was rolling slowly, just outside my peripheral vision. At first I thought it was pulling over to stop, but it kept rolling and pulled alongside me. Window down, the driver was leaning toward the passenger seat, looking at me. I thought maybe he just wanted directions, but he didn't say anything. I ignored him and kept running. He kept slow rolling. I thought maybe he had car trouble and couldn't accelerate. Until other cars came, and he sped away. Odd, but I ran on. Then I felt it again. Same car. Same man, leaning and leering. This time, I popped my earbuds out and yelled at him: "WHAT DO YOU WANT?!" This time he began to speed up a little. "I'LL CALL 9-1-1!" And he drove away.

My turn into a quieter street was coming. I thought that I could make it before he could circle again. But would he turn down that smaller street to circle back? I didn't want to chance it. I altered my route to stick to main roads. And as I ran, I got mad. I had made the choice to leave my water at home because I would be running a route that carried me past a water stop. I now had no water and a new route that took me down very public streets. But I think I was most angry that he stole my peace.

How to Run Safely

Carry your phone. For the longest time (8 years), I didn't carry my phone. It wasn't a smart phone, so no camera for run finds and no playlist for music. I never saw the point in adding something extra to carry. Since getting my iPhone, I've been carrying it for shorter runs. Then my friend gave me a running belt, (which I love!) so I don't have to carry my phone. After today's incident, I will never run without a phone again. Make sure you also have an ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact. 

Tell someone your plan. By "someone," I mean a spouse, roommate, or close friend. DO NOT POST YOUR ROUTE ON A PUBLIC SITE. Just like you wouldn't tell the world you're traveling and leaving your house empty, don't tell the world you're about to hit the streets alone. Give your "someone" your route, time you're leaving and estimated time of return. (Just be sure you do the math right. I once accidentally shorted my estimated time by an hour. Oops.)  

Be aware. Listening to music? Fine. Just don't blast the tunes. Obviously, you want it loud enough to hear the music, but be sure you can hear everything around you, too. Or run with only one earbud in. Also, look for safe routes-- are there sidewalks? abandoned buildings? sketchy neighborhoods? 

Be seen. Run against traffic. I kinda thought this was a no brainer, but after today, realized that even on a sidewalk, I should be running against traffic. If you run towards traffic, you can see vehicles approaching. And if some creeper is lurking, it gives you time to cross the street to avoid a confrontation-- it takes much longer for him to turn around, across traffic to come get you than if you're running the same direction he's traveling. Wear bright colors, and if you're running in the dark, wear a headlamp or flashing light. Carry a flashlight, if you have to. Just make sure that people see you.
Arm yourself. It's becoming increasingly popular for people to get a permit and carry a concealed gun when running-- I've seen running shorts and bras now being made with pockets for sidearms. I'm not sure that you want to go that extreme. When I first began running before dawn, I would carry a bottle of pepper spray. At some point, it became an annoyance and hundreds of safe miles logged proved it wasn't necessary. I'm seriously reconsidering this now. 

The most important thing to arm yourself with is knowledge and awareness. Know your route and your surroundings. Don't be afraid to ask for help. And don't be afraid to speak up. I think my yelling at that driver let him know that I wouldn't go down without a fight. I only wished I'd taken a picture of his license plate so that I could report him. 
Night run = headlamp, bright colors, and Road ID.



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