In the Runner's World magazine we received this month there is an article titled "Running while Female." It gives all sorts of percentages and statistics such as 43% of the women who took their survey say they are harassed at least sometimes, and 30% of them have been followed by someone while running. I have to say, I was surprised, and while they also say your chances at being in an automobile accident are higher, the harassment some women and men (4% of those who took their survey) receive cause them to question whether they really need to run outside.
Yesterday morning I got my feet back on the pavement after a bit of a stretch. I have never been harassed and only followed once (story later) but I still walk out the door taking certain precautions. The reason being is that this is not a safe world, and there will always be evil people in it, and I would rather take precautions than complain about wishing I didn't have to. I'm going to share what I do, and there may be things you refuse to do, and some things you already do, but here is my statement beforehand: these are not only for running, but in your day to day life.
Use a single earbud.
I know the headphones are becoming popular again, but I suggest you leave those home and continue to wear the earbuds while you are running. And until they come up with a single earbud system, tuck one in your shirt while you receive the music in only one ear. The advantage to this is you can hear what's going on, whether it be a car following you, or people behind you. To be honest this saved me twice and helped me be aware countless times. The two saves were both dogs I heard peeling around corners coming towards me. Had I had music in both ears I would have been a sitting target for them. One of the times I was made aware was the one time I was followed. Not an ominous situation, it was a neighbor who was out for his walk and decided to tail me home and I heard his feet. But I knew he was there, and it was good to be able to keep that distance I wanted and not slow down until I got home.
Find your outside voice.
When the dogs came around the corner at me, two separate times, I was able to stop them in their tracks by yelling "no" strongly. Please know this was once not my reaction. But due to practice and thinking beforehand, I was able to not panic and tell them to stop and go home, and I used a commanding voice which they both obeyed. They looked confused, as much as a dog can look confused, but they obeyed and that was all that mattered. People will respond to a commanding voice in just the same way. It is perfectly acceptable and okay to tell someone to stop coming closer, and to keep their distance in a strong commanding voice if they make you feel uneasy in any way.
Keep you eyes open.
Sometimes we get so caught up on the road in front of us we don't look around. Pick your head up, look at the sky, the trees, the scenery, and mostly the people along the way. Someone who is a threat does not want to be noticed or seen at all, by you or others. Look people in the eye, greet them, see them when they come out of the house or around the corner. Captain didn't understand why so many women didn't respond when he wished them a good morning while he was out running and was surprised when I explained they were scared and trying to be invisible. But here's the thing, the bad people want to find someone else who is also trying to be invisible. That simply makes you a better target for them. Being friendly and welcoming and looking people in the eye actually repels those who might wish to do you harm.
Vary your pace and path.
If they can't figure it out, they can't prepare to attack. Most attacks are someone you know, but after that are the attacks of opportunity. If you vary your where, when, and how you run then you are more unpredictable and not as easy to take advantage of.
Carry a weapon.
I know people who run with a gun, stun gun, mace, and other hand held weapons. If you are not going to use it do not wear it, but these are great deterrents and helps if you need them. Be sure you are familiar with the weapon, know how to use it, and are comfortable. For example, if you decide to carry mace buy two so that you can stand in your back yard, wind to your back, and spray it so that you see how it sprays and how hard you need to pull it. I carry one of these weapons pictured below in my hand while I run, and you can pick it up at Century Martial Arts. I don't get anything for showing you or suggesting these. I just know they have come in handy for me before.
Remember, your odds on needing any of these or coming into a situation where these are necessary vary depending on where you live and where you run. But it's also true in our day to day life. These are simply ways to be more aware and to have a defense and improve your odds. And who doesn't want to improve their odds?
Do not live in fear. Statistics say your odds are greater to be in a vehicular accident and you get in a car all the time. But don't walk blindly either. It's a fine balance, so try not to live in the extremes.