The sport of running has become more and more popular with not just elite athletes but exercisers of all kinds.  Even people who would have never dreamed of completing a 5K to a 50K are now running.  But, unfortunately, most of us live in a world full of people who are taking unfair, cruel, and terrible advantage of this sport. Running with a group is best and provides not only safety but needed social interaction.  However, sometimes there is no choice but to run by yourself due to your schedule, need to complete necessary training, and those times when you just need a break.  Here are some tips that will help you as you safely go solo:

Try to run before 6:30 p.m.   If you can run during the day when others are out, that is best.  I run usually in the morning and have had few problems.  Stay on well-traveled and well-lighted roads. Don’t take shortcuts through woods, poorly lit areas, or other potentially dangerous places.  Run against the traffic and briefly look behind you if you pass someone to make sure that they are not following you. Look, stay aware, and try not to zone out. 

Look all people in the eye.  Say good morning if you want to.  I personally do and look at them from head to toe.  That is a way of saying that you are confident and aware of anyone you meet.  Briefly look at cars and their drivers.  Show confidence and run with purpose.  Demonstrate good posture. This also establishes a personal contact with the other person and they are less likely to attack, if that is on their mind.  Chi Running posture allows you to run straight and safely.

When coming upon someone new, it is important to remember that you do not have to respond to a stranger’s greeting or question, particularly if it does not feel right.  Trust your gut feeling.  I truly believe as a Christian that I must listen to that inner wisdom or gut feeling that tells me at times to go another way.  So if someone looks or acts shady, go the other way.  Draw attention to yourself.  It is better to wake up a neighbor if someone gives you the creeps.  They will forgive you later. 

Don’t feel bad to not give directions.  Most people have smartphones with GPS that will lead them to landmarks. Someone alone does not have to give directions to ordinary places.   It is okay to be rude and not indulge in long conversations.  Most people are good and they will quickly forgive you because they realize that you are just keeping safe on the trail. So run with your phone and GPS.  Make sure you avoid choke points and blind spots.   Make sure you run where you can’t be grabbed, where cars are frequently passing by you on the road or people are passing on the sidewalk.  Avoid running in areas not easily viewable to the public. Going solo, avoid trees and woods.

Plan for an emergency ahead of time.  When using a route, think of places you could escape to.  If grabbed, drop your weight and use your fingers to knock out vulnerable areas like eyes, nose, and feet. Take self-defense classes and think about what you would feel comfortable doing in an emergency. Prepare in your mind ahead of time what you would do in an emergency.  As much as possible, say a prayer, don’t struggle, and don’t waste your energy.  Pick a time to attack and resist going to another location. 

Choose routes carefully.  Know your neighborhood or parks.  Drive them ahead of time to safely scout them out.  Avoid parks before and after the sun goes down. Ignore offensive comments and don’t react to them. Just keep running. Don’t wear anything that will make you a target, e.g., expensive jewelry.  Avoid ponytails, belts that cannot come easily off, or jewelry that could be used as a weapon against you.  Big or hoop earrings should be avoided.  It is better to lose a piece of earring––even your ear or jewelry––instead of your life. 

If you are going for a long run, wear a fuel/water belt, have someone meet you at certain stops along the way so you can refuel, plant water bottles along your course, or run where there are water fountains. You may want to carry some cash with you. You never know when it might come in handy.

Take a picture of yourself on every run and send it to someone you know before every run. That will be important if you ever come up missing.  Provide a tentative time you will return, how many miles you are doing, and your approximate route.  Don’t do your usual route every day the same way or at the same time.  Let your friends track you on an app but don’t post on social media specifically where you are.  Set your GPS routes to “private” for only a few friends.   For safety one of my friends does not post her after-race run pictures until she is safely home. There are apps and self-defense weapons.  Pepper spray, uneven keys, and a flashlight work well in an emergency.  In the dark wear reflective clothing, vest, and lights.  The more lights in front and back of you work well.  Text or plan your itinerary with a note.  Text back when you return.

As a general safety rule, don’t run with earbuds. But if you do, turn the volume on your device very low, with only one bud in your ear.  When you are running on the roads, even during daylight hours, it is imperative that you are able to hear vehicles approaching. Run opposite to traffic so that vehicles can see you.

Always wear a road ID or other identification such as a license or a medical bracelet in case you are in trouble.  If someone approaches you, make sure they are aware that someone is waiting for you, such as a roommate or spouse.  Never have just one running route. Mix it up. Go different ways and directions each day that you run.  But plan it with the above tips in mind. By doing these things, you will minimize the opportunities for someone to make your next run your last one.  Be safe and have fun!

Christina Chapan

Christina Chapan

Christina Lee Steele Chapan is a certified personal trainer with four certifications from ISSA ACE, AFAA and SCW. She specializes with fitness for children and those adults and children with special needs. In addition to attaining her certifications, she is also a certified elementary and special education school teacher with a B.S. in Elementary Education, a minor in Biblical Studies from North Central University, an endorsement in Special Education, and an M.A. in Curriculum and Development from Governors State University. Her passion is for training the future of tomorrow. She is available for training, speaking and writing.
Christina Chapan

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