New and seasoned runners alike worry about their safety on the road. Whether it be in the early morning or evening, on trails or suburban streets. Time goes into researching and talking to other runners about what the safety "musts" are.
Now this piece isn't going to be about ALL the safety necessities while out there - I will list a few - I also wanted to share possibly a "new" approach to some runners. First some of the general basics for our family:
1. Be seen!
Using reflective gear and a headlamp for those dark early morning runs or those later evening runs is a MUST. I must add that your light has to function more than a static illuminating source. Drivers need something blinking or moving with enough variation for it to catch their eye.
We use RoadID. Our entire family has identification, including the youngest. There are other companies out there such as 1BandID. Check them out - RoadID and 1BandID. Minimal cost for a huge piece of mind.
Ok now this isn't the same type of safety as the others, but it is pretty significant. Don't be fooled by temperature or season. Even in cold weather a runner can experience heat exhaustion. Hydration is key. I know not everyone wants to run with a water bottle but seriously think about taking something with you. If you are a "no way, I hate running with excess stuff" type of runner, think about either pre-planning and stashing water bottles along your route, enlisting a fabulous friend to be your traveling hydration station (offer to treat them to breakfast or coffee 😬☕️), or plan your route with fountains or coffee shops along the way. You would be surprised at how generous places will be when they see sweaty, panting runners come in asking for a cup of water.
We all can agree that there are plenty of safety articles to read out there. I am sure you must be thinking, "what possibly could they share that might be considered new or different?" I promise, to most of you this just might be a different or "new" idea or approach to something you might do already. First a little story about something that happened to me last summer.
About a year I set out on an easy run. I can't recall exactly how many miles I wanted to do, perhaps 4, maybe 5. I laced up and told Dave I was heading to the door and left. It was early evening and still warm. Summers in Sacramento mean warm to hot weather running no matter what time of day. I got to a major intersection stoplight, pushed the button and waited. At this point I was just over half a mile from home so my run just started. The light turned green and as I always do, I wave on the first car turning right so that I make sure the other cars see me. Yet tonight was different. I waved the guy on, he moved up, blocking the entire corner and cross walk with his car and stopped. Confused, I waved him on again and this time looked directly at him with a "GO!" face. It was then that I saw why he had stopped and that he was a disturbed young man. I have told less than a handful of people this story, I am embarrassed to even say, but this gentleman was exposing himself to me. I panicked and wasn't sure what to do. I looked away and frantically waved him on, other cars building up behind him. My mind froze. I just kept thinking I can't go forward, he has blocked my path and why are no other drivers honking?!?! I tried to cross, he moved his car to block me. He had a goal in mind and I didn't want to give him the satisfaction. Looking back, I regret that I didn't just turn and run home, that I didn't take my phone out that I always carry with me and take picture of his license plate or that I didn't yell to other drivers or those at the gas station for help. I froze. How does one prepare themselves for that situation of unwarranted sexual exposure and being "trapped"? You cannot. He finally left with seconds to spare on the walk light (this is a major intersection where pedestrians have nearly a minute to cross). Not enough time for me to cross. I called Dave, shaken and shaking. I told him I wanted to continue my run. I wasn't going to let this guy get to me. But I really couldn't recover. I was really shaken up and scared. Yes, I was beyond upset, I kept thinking he might bring his car back around to where I was running. At the next light I called David and told him I was turning around and coming home. He asked where I was and I gave him a general area. As I was running back down a street I saw Dave in the car with the boys and he told me to get in. I think I got 1.5 miles that night and when I finally got in the car Dave wanted to know what happened but I didn't want to talk about it. Hey, like other women I've been subjected to cat calls, whistling and honking (sometimes in front of my kids who are running with me). Vulgar things and somewhat "innocent" comments (nothing is really innocent about harassment). That night was different. It was an aggressive form of harassment. One that shook me and made me rethink what I do when I step out to run. I never paid attention to the other encounters. I was a grown woman who could take care of herself. But this one incident was an eye opener.
I started to think about who really knew where I was when I went running. Who knew my routes? Who knew when I was out running? How many people know that I run solo or with a stroller almost all the time? If you are a regular traveler down that busy intersection then you most likely knew all that about me, but scarily my family didn't know my routes that well. They knew some of it, but not enough details - so I came up with this idea of a running command center as a safety post for both myself, David and the boys. In our years of running in our neighborhood, we have run and created multiple routes of varying distances. I have printed out those routes and when either of us goes on a run we can select the route, write the time leaving, pace and projected finish. We can be aware of where someone is at a given time and when they should be home. Dave doesn't run with his phone so it is important for me to know this information. In case he is hurt or not doing well.
With this we try to enlist variation. Again, we have multiple routes and we rotate them. There is something great about routine but there is also something scary about predictability. If I run around the same time everyday, in the same location, jerks like the guy in the car above could easily predict where to see me. Not very safe. It's not safe for anyone, woman or man.
I know this takes away some spontaneity of going out for a run and letting a great time take you away, being free to run as far or as close as you want and exploring new paths. I'm not saying to never do that. I am saying always ensure there is a way people can find you, a way you can contact someone and a way to not be a target.
Consider my tips, maybe enlist your own running info center in your home. You might have a better way to do so, share it with us. We would love to hear about what you do to keep safe. The biggest message we can share is be aware and run safe everyone!