Not every runner has access to brightly lit trails or routes, and it is a grim reality for many that not every runner will feel safe during their workout. Many of us can attest to moments where we've felt uncomfortable during an early morning or evening run, and feeling vulnerable while attempting to keep your routine up is not an excellent experience for anyone.
You may be here because you've felt the same and have frequently wondered, "What should I do? How can I protect myself? What do I do if something happens?"
Of course, you're probably already making intelligent choices about where you run, what time of day, who you go with, and perhaps even wearing the proper clothing to remain visible. But there are numerous other means to ensure your safety and peace of mind as you lace up and head out.
Today, we'd like to cover a few of our favorite products, tips, and advice to ensure a safer, more enjoyable run.
Self-Defense Products: What to Use?
In a perfect world where classes are affordable and accessible, you'd take self-defense classes for runners to learn key moves to disarm an attacker. Hence, you can run away. Local YMCAs, gyms, and even local police departments may offer these classes, and a quick search online can help too.
However, you may not be near a facility that offers it, a class may be full, or circumstances may keep you from taking one. If that's the case, what sort of products can you use to keep you protected?
1. Pepper spray
Running with pepper spray is always a good idea, so long as you understand how to use it properly. During an attack, you don't get the time to dig out your pepper spray, fidget with it, and figure out how to use it during the heat of the moment. Before using pepper spray, read the user's manual and practice what you would do during an attack until you don't need to think about the motion and it becomes smooth.
2. Go Guarded ring
Created and founded by a female runner, who often felt uncomfortable and vulnerable during her runs, the Go Guarded ring is geared toward female athletes. The ring can be worn on any finger and features a heavy-duty, serrated-edge weapon. Unlike some self-defense products, you don't need to carry it in a pocket, running pack, or fanny pack either, and it is far more challenging to have it knocked out of your hand.
3. Animal Deterrent Spray
Threats aren't always on two legs. Living near wildlife and heavily wooded areas might be fantastic for views, but animals live there, too. Bears, snakes, Mountain lions, alligators, skunks, Elk, Moose, Bison—the list goes on. The animal deterrent spray distracts and confuses animals with powerful scents, like citronella, halting aggressive critters in their tracks. And unlike pepper spray, there are no adverse side effects for you or the animal.
Even in the city or rural areas, there's the risk of a dog off-leash or, in some cases, reactive dogs.
4. Cell Phone
You probably already know how powerful a tool your cell phone is. In addition to being able to give you directions, keep track of your run, call someone, text, and take videos in case of an attack or even an emergency call, there are countless reliable safety apps now available for your cell phone. You can use your phone to:
- Download an app that allows friends and family to monitor your location while you run like Share My Run, Road iD, Run Buddy, or Unplugged Adventurer.
- If you feel like you are being followed or are suddenly uncomfortable, you can call someone (or pretend to.) Tell them where you are and start a conversation. Many harassers seek out victims who are alone or seem alone, which can disrupt a criminal's ideal environment when on the phone.
- Check your phone's emergency features. Many of them these days come with built-in safety options. Familiarizing yourself and how to use them will ensure you won't fumble during a state of emergency. For example, an iPhone has Emergency SOS, which will, after a countdown, automatically call local authorities as well as text any of your emergency contacts. The process for Android phones is just as easy as it comes with Emergency SOS.
- The safest time to run is during the day when people are around. Typically you'll note more people about after work during the weekdays and late morning or afternoon on the weekends.
- Run with other people as much as possible. (Especially if it is dusk or dark.)
- Don't listen to music or run with only one earbud in so you can hear what is happening around you.
- Stay vigilant. Constantly scan the area and be aware of your surroundings.
- Make eye contact with others so they know you have seen them.
- Cross the road or turn around if you see something or someone that makes you uncomfortable.
Quick Defense for an Attack
There are three fundamental self-defense moves for runners in case of an attack:
- Eye gouge. If someone is coming at you, leave your non-dominant open hand at 45 degrees and strike towards their face. No matter where your hand lands, it will easily slide toward and into the eye. When blinded, create pain and run.
- Hammer Strike. If they are still attempting to come at you, use your dominant hand to thrust down on the attacker's face as if you are hammering something. Ideally, it would help if you were holding something sharp, such as keys or perhaps a Go Guarded ring.
- The next step if unable to run is a groin strike. Point your toes downward, and aim for the A-frame between the legs. You don't need perfect aim; your foot will likely slide upward and hit them in the groin. This can paralyze your attacker and allow you to RUN.
While most of us assume we will fight or flight, most of us will actually freeze as our brains cannot comprehend what is happening fast enough. The best way to combat freeze is to practice with your self-defense items so that using them becomes second nature or practicing any self-defense moves you learn until they become instinct.
Knowing what to carry, how to use it, and what to do could save your life. We understand that this can be a heavy topic for runners. Still, we hope that we've been able to assist you to feel safer, more confident, and more prepared to handle the difficult moments of vulnerability to make running better for all.