City vs. Country
Many runners think they're totally safe in rural
areas. Not so. "Runners love country roads and wooded trails because
they're so peaceful," says Kathy Wright, a runner, self-defense
instructor, and former policewoman. "But in these secluded areas,
you have less access to help." A city street, on the other hand, is
more populated. Back roads are often narrow and don't always come with
sidewalks, which puts you too close to traffic. Back roads don't provide
the best visibility either, thanks to sharp curves and poor lighting, so
it can be difficult for drivers to spot you. Another factor: City dogs
tend to be leashed, whereas their country cousins often are not. Our
point here: Country running presents its own set of hazards, so always be
Are Men at Risk
Fact is, you don't have to wear a sports bra to be
a crime victim. Because women are more likely to be attacked, men
sometimes think they're immune, according to Sheila Cavanagh of the
Dallas Police Department. Granted, physical attacks are less likely for
men, but other forms of crime are not.
"Male runners don't think they'll be
confronted, so they're less cautious," she says. "They do
things such as put their wallets in the glove compartment or under the
seat. You should put your valuables in the trunk, then take your keys
with you." Robberies are common in the parking lots of popular
running locations, says Cavanagh. "Don't assume that because a guy
is stretching that he's another runner. He could be trying to blend in,
waiting for a chance to break into your car."
As a runner, chances are pretty good you're slimmer,
stronger, happier, and more confident than your sedentary peers. True?
Glad to hear it. All good so far.
Unfortunately, plenty of runners take this
confidence thing too far--with potentially dangerous results. In effect,
some runners suffer from what could be called the Invincibility Complex.
You're strong, you're capable, so you think you can run anywhere,
anytime, and no one is going to hurt you. Even on a deserted trail or street.
At night. Alone.
We know this is true, because we just asked you
about it. The results of a recent Runner's World online poll revealed
that many of you routinely ignore the basic safety rules of running. For
example, less than half of you said you wear reflective clothing when you
run at night. Only 23 percent have taken a self-defense class. And a
measly 6 percent always run with a partner.
Why is this? Because of the aforementioned
Invincibility Complex, for one. But also because:
We're dedicated--sometimes to
a fault. Often, nothing keeps us from our running. Which can lead to
trouble, says Sheila Cavanagh, a runner and community relations officer
with the Dallas Police Department. "Runners tend to put their
training ahead of their own personal safety," says Cavanagh, who
conducts safety programs for runners. "They aren't willing to cut a
run short or change a route even if their gut instinct tells them danger
We love our running. And as
with anything we love, we're very protective of it. "Runners don't
want anything to interfere with something they enjoy so much," says
Cavanagh. "They put blinders on because they don't want their
running to be associated with anything negative or dangerous."
We feel safe. We've run the
same route for years with no problems. The other runners on our route are
friendly. So we feel safe. But it's important not to confuse feeling safe
with being safe, says Kathy Wright, runner, self-defense instructor with
RAD (Rape Aggression Defense), and former policewoman. "Criminals
know no barriers. You need to always be aware that something could
So what's a runner to do? Quite simply, you want
to drastically decrease the chances of getting into trouble in the first
place. After all, says Wright, risk reduction is 90 percent of
To that end, integrate the following strategies
into your routine. And don't worry, before long they'll be just that:
routine. At which point your running will be safer and more enjoyable
Plan ahead: Know exactly what route you're
taking before you head out. Evaluate it for potential danger spots
(unpopulated or poor visibility areas), and have a plan of where you'll
go and what you'll do if you run into trouble. Cavanagh recommends having
"safe houses" along your route (places to go if you need help),
and suggests that you play out possible scenarios in your head. Ask
yourself: "What if this happened? How would I react?" This way,
you'll be ready if trouble comes.
Use the buddy system: Visit the Road
Runners Club of America's Web site (rrca.org) for a clubful of potential training partners
in your area. Or check into group training runs at local running stores.
Dogs love exercise even more than we do, and they're great at deterring
criminals. Visit dogbreedinfo.com for suggestions on active breeds.
Tell a friend: Your running partner can't
meet you for a run? Bummer, but you can still call. Call her (or someone)
before you leave, tell her where you're going, and what time you'll be
back. Check in with her again when you return. Have her do the same when
she goes for her run.