How to Protect Yourself from Weirdo-Creeps While Running Alone

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm a bit of a safety nut.

Even my dogs wear seat belts.

My dogs wear seat belts
JPeg (left) and Comet (right)

Shut up.

And with all my safety-nuttedness, I couldn't help making a video about a unique running safety product...

And for all you doubters, my husband had no idea that wake-up call was coming.


Anyway, when I surf the web looking for "runner safety," cuz that's the kind of stuff I surf the web for, I often see the exact same advice:

Don't. Run. Alone.

Ok. Sure -- no problem.

If I were a wildebeest.

These things took out Mufasa.

As much as I appreciate that advice, I am not fortunate enough to have a plethora of nearby running pals with a remotely similar wacky schedule or training plan.  

I used to have one of these friends, but then he packed up my safety dreams and moved away, leaving me alone to fend off random weirdos.

With my running buddy, Greg, during the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon (before he moved away - booo)
With my running buddy, Greg, during the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon (before he moved away - booo)

And we all know there are weirdos out there.

I once had a stalker who wrote letters to my dogs.

Which is much weirder than putting them in seat belts.


And then, there are all the terrifying stories you can find online -- like the murder of 17-year-old Chelsea King, who was attacked while running in a park near her home in San Diego.  Or the terrifying story of a woman who barely survived an attack while she was running in Hawaii. Washington DC even has a map that shows each place a runner has been attacked in the region -- there are dozens of orange markers over a simple 4-year period.

Not cool.

So what do us women runners do?  Heed absolute safety and never run alone?  Perhaps.  Though, if we all heeded absolute safety, then we really couldn't ever get into a car.  Or eat a donut.  Or pet a scorpion.

And then there's the gender equality part of me that gets a severe eye twitch when I'm told I can't do something because A. I'm a woman.  And B. Men won't let me.

Don't get me wrong -- Not all men are creepazoid attackers of women.  Most men out there would probably be more likely to rescue someone who was attacked, and I love them for it.  But the fact remains that when I'm out there running alone, I'm usually not keeping a cautious eye out for a Jennifer or a Brittany.

For me, the answer lies in balance.  I won't be a person who says you should or shouldn't ever run alone, but I will say that those of us who choose to do so, need to be smart about it.

And here's how.

How to protect yourself from weirdo-creeps while running alone

Run in Well-Populated Areas

If you can see multiple additional runners, walkers, drivers, or cyclists at any given time, you're probably on a pretty good path.  The chance of every person in sight being a weirdo-creep is pretty slim, so if one of them is one, having other people around may deter the punk from making any bad moves.  Not to mention you have a higher chance of getting help from others if something were to happen.

This path was not well-populated, unless you count the two hungry vultures sitting on the rail...

Running near vultures.

Mix up the Routine

Don't be predictable.  Try to run different locations on different days or during different hours.  If stalker-McGee doesn't know when you're going to run by the orange tree, he won't know when to go out and "pick oranges."

Bring Pepper Spray

Carry it with your thumb on the trigger.  I like to aim and shoot at random tree trunks for practice.

pepper spray for runners

Be Suspicious of Everyone

This probably sounds really pessimistic, but I think it's essential.  Whenever I'm running alone, I suspect every male I see to be a potential attacker.  I confidently make eye contact with each passing person, and make sure it's clear to them that I am not a passive runner. 

I'm a friendly runner, so I'll probably nod or smile at the same time, but I do it from a safe distance with an obvious finger on the trigger of my pepper spray.

Some guys really get the message and quickly reciprocate with an over-friendly anxious wave of surrender, as if to say, "I'm a good guy -- please don't spray that in my face."

It's similar to being a defensive driver.  To be prepared for that one idiot who gets behind the wheel after drinking a bucket of vodka, you need to assume that everyone around you could potentially be that person.  

Defensive running in action
Awkward below-chin angle of defensive running in action

Don't Blast the Music

If you wear headphones, try wearing them in one ear, or turn the volume down enough that you can still hear what's going on around you -- Whatever you need to do to be able to hear an approaching attacker.  

I listen to podcasts or audiobooks ('cuz I'm a nerd) in loosely-fitting wireless headphones, which allows me to easily hear the world around me.

Use GLYMPSE on Your Cell Phone

I know, I know.  My phone is the size of a Bible, too.  But it is totally worth bringing it along, not only to call for help if needs be, but because of this saweet app called...

Glympse GPS app for running

Using your phone's GPS, Glympse sends out a live map of where you are and how fast you're moving throughout your run, so people you trust can track you.  It is awesome.

Glympse app in action
Watching my brother run with Glympse

Every time I go running, I activate Glympse and send a notification to my husband and siblings to track me.

It is so detailed that my brother once noticed I was stopped in a random place, so he texted me to make sure I was ok.  Love that.

Stay Away from Possible Hiding Places

I steer clear of buildings (even bathrooms if they lack people traffic), bushes, trees, ditches, or anywhere Steven King could have hidden a creepy clown.  It lessens the chance of a surprise attack, as well as the chances of being dragged somewhere out of sight.

Ditches + bushes + no one in sight = scary

Run with a Dog Bigger Than a Hamster

He doesn't know it yet, but my eight-month-old whippet is four months away from being my new running buddy.  

Attackers are less likely to go after you if you have a canine companion by your side that is large enough to literally take a bite out of crime without being air launched by the flick of a finger.  Not to mention dogs can bark loudly and draw attention to a scene.

Psh, cat people.

Fight Back

If a nightmare attack does come, experts say that you need to fight back -- immediately and violently.  Aim for the eyes, throat, knees, stomach, groin -- anything that will debilitate the attacker for just enough time to allow you to escape.

Be prepared with a response in advance so that you instinctively take action should that terrifying moment come.

Other Safety Products

Just like the alarm I showed in the video review, there are other products created with the goal of making women safer while they're running alone.  

There's this "Go Guarded Self Defense Ring," which might need to be my next purchase...

Or the "Tigerlady Self-Defense Claw," which looks pretty bad-butt (that's Mormon-speak, but not really).

Whatever your choice, if you decide to run alone, just make sure you're prepared for the worst.  And then we'll hope it never happens.

Or just wear the Tigerlady because it'll make you feel like Catwoman.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, rude Greg. Just RUDE!

    You forgot one, don't run alone in the DARK! :D :D

    This is a great list! I like to use music in one ear only and always look behind me after passing people, and also on random occasions. I think it pays to be overly cautious and not take chances!


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