Running is more than a hobby for me. It’s a way of life. I’ve been running for almost 11 years now, plus some scattered years in elementary school. I’ve won 10 conference medals in college. Meaning I either took first in a track event at the Conference Championships or I was top 12 in the Cross Country Conference Championships. My fastest 5K time is 18 minutes, 31 seconds. The medals in the picture above represent about 10% of the awards I’ve won for running. I’m not trying to brag (I honestly don’t think I am that fast), I’m just trying to tell you I know a thing or two about running.
Around 58 million Americans run. Every day they take to the streets, whether it’s to lose weight, maintain health, or because they need a mental break, you probably can name a few people in your life that run. Unfortunately, running outside comes with risks.
Recently two women were raped and murdered while out on their runs. First, Karina Vetrano was found strangled and possibly raped. She went for an evening run in a place that was known to be dangerous, especially for young women. Next was Vanessa Marcotte, who went out for an afternoon run and never came back. Her body was discovered about a half mile from her mother’s home. She was also possibly raped and her body was burned.
These are terrible reminders that while people are out enjoying their run, we also must be on the alert at all times. There are simple ways to prevent an attack. Running outside should not be a life threating activity. These are some of the things I do to stay out of bad situations while enjoying my run.
KNOW YOUR AREA:
This one is definitely at the top of the list. I’ve traveled around the country and to Italy. Every time I went for a run, I researched the area I was in. If I felt it was unsafe, I wouldn’t run there. Simple. It’s not too hard to find out what areas are dangerous. If you’re near a park, a simple internet search should let you know. If, for some reason, that doesn’t work, ask people you trust if the area is safe. I did this when I was in Rome. I had never been to a city that size before and the number of homeless people on the street made me a little nervous. So I asked my professors and our tour guide where it would be safe to run. The next morning, I was up and running through the streets of a respectful neighborhood where I felt safe. I ran throughout the trip, enjoying all the extra places in the city I was able to see because of my morning runs.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t always worked out like that for me but that’s why I do my research. Even in my home town, I know which areas not to go and I never break those ‘no-go zone’ rules.
SWITCH IT UP:
My dad told me at a young age to not run the same route every day. Running a similar route allows others to know your schedule, and where they could do the most harm to you. Don’t run the same route on the same day of every week, either. Running seven different routes, one for each day of the week, but running each one on the same day week after week isn’t helping you out.
Switching it up not only keeps you safer, it also gives you a better work out (in my opinion). I’ve found when I run a less used rout I tend to enjoy it more, making me go longer than I originally planned. There could be more hills or a softer surface on a new route you try that will give you an improved workout as well.
A TIME ZONE:
It’s recommended that you work out at the same time every day, and for some of us there is only a certain time of day we can work out. But, unless you feel completely safe, don’t run at night. I used to run after sunset every now and then until a woman was attacked in my home town while she was out for a night run. Luckily, she fought off her attacker and was okay but I don’t take the chance anymore. The place where the woman was attacked is one of my favorite places to run and during the day it is a bustling area. An attacker is less likely to strike during the day and when there are people around.
Now, I know evening runs can be fun and when I lived in a smaller town, I did go for a run after sunset a few times with my roommate. And I went at least twice a week before sunrise, again, with my friends. If you like running in the morning, I would recommend running as close to sunrise as possible and run along main streets. This will help prevent an attack.
THE BUDDY SYSTEM:
Running buddies are the best! They motivate you to go faster and longer and you can take the time to catch up with one another. When I was running with my friends every day, we would talk about everything, from our days to politics, nails, books, movies, and Sponge Bob (we really are adults). My closest friends are those who I ran with on a daily basis. Not only will your friendships grow, attackers are less likely to strike if you aren’t alone. So call up your friend and have a running date!
LET PEOPLE KNOW:
I always tell someone when I’m going for a run. Whether it is my friends, mom, dad, brother, or sisters, someone knows I’m on a run. If you can, tell someone what route you will be running and approximately how long you will be gone. If you’re like me and lose track of time easily, have a designated amount of time you could possibly run. My family knows that if I’m gone for more than two hours, something is up.
TURN THE VOLUME DOWN:
If you can run without music, that’s great! Running without music allows you to hear everything around you, including a potential attacker. Unfortunately, a lot of us need those beats to keep going. Don’t turn it up so loud that you drown everything out. Not only is that bad for your eardrums, you won’t be able to hear if someone is coming up behind you. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of breaking this rule. So many people have come up behind me, all just wanting to pass me, and I’ve screamed bloody murder because I didn’t hear them. I’ve also had many close encounters with cars. Learn from my stupidity: TURN THE VOLUME DOWN!
I’ve never been in a situation where I didn’t feel comfortable because I took these steps. Forward this to all your friends, stay safe, and have a great run!