I want to start running but as a female I have some safety concerns that are making me a little afraid to start on my own. Do you have any suggestions? Is there anything I can do to feel more comfortable if I go out to run on my own?
Safety is a concern for all runners, but it is of special importance for women runners. My first recommendation for you is to check out running clubs or training programs in your area and see if you can find a group that meets your needs. Contact your local running store or gym and see if they can help you in your search. A running group can provide not only safety, but some also offer coaching, support, and accountability. When talking to the running store or your local gym, ask them about safety issues, such as where other runners run in your area, have there been any problems, what areas of town are safe, etc.
Next, there is always the treadmill at the local gym if running outdoors is not a viable option. While the treadmill might not be considered ideal by some, it can be a great way to get started and provide you with a safe environment while establishing your initial conditioning. In the meantime, you can continue your search for a running group or a running partner. It is better to run indoors and be safe than not to run at all!
Here are some more safety tips that are easy to implement and should give you greater peace of mind so you can enjoy running outdoors.
UNPLUG Save your headphones and music for the gym – don’t use them on the road. When running or walking on the road, runners need to be aware of their surroundings at all times. You need to hear what is going on around you and be prepared to react quickly. It is also important not to appear distracted while running, so don’t make yourself an easy target by wearing headphones.
BUDDY UP Join a running group in your area or recruit a training partner to run with you. Another option might be to run with a big dog if you have one. There’s safety in numbers! Make sure your partner is reliable and that you are of similar pace and fitness levels so your partnership works for both of you. If you are running with a dog, consider his or her’s fitness level too. Dogs need to be conditioned gradually, just like us. Your local running store may be a great resource for helping you find a group or a running partner.
FACE TRAFFIC Run facing traffic so you can see cars coming towards you, which allows you to react quickly, if the need arises. Run on the footpath when you can. Be very cautious at intersections, especially when cars may be turning right onto the street where you are standing because they may not be able to see you! It’s best to get on the footpath at all intersections to avoid this scenario.
OBEY TRAFFIC SIGNALS Always assume drivers cannot see you. Also, remember that most drivers are distracted – they may be texting, talking, or dealing with kids in the back seat of the car – so be prepared to stop or jump out of the way even if you have the green light.
CARRY ID Carry an ID with your name, an emergency contact name and phone number, a doctor name and phone number, and any pertinent medical information like allergies or medications you may take. In the event of an emergency, it is essential to have this information on you, especially if you cannot speak for yourself.
CARRY A MOBILE PHONE Having the ability to call 000 at any moment is a great comfort and having your phone turned on allows someone to find you as well! Slip your mobile phone in a plastic bag if you are concerned about it getting wet and put it in a running belt. Make sure you can pull it out easily.
ALTER YOUR RUN ROUTE DAILY This is better for safety and for your fitness. Do not run the same route, at the same time, on the same day. Plan variety so your routine is not predictable. Altering your running route boosts your fitness too by changing it up. Include some hills and keep your routes interesting to keep you mentally engaged and physically challenged, as well as, unpredictable.
SEE AND BE SEEN As you plan your run routes, look for runs in well populated areas frequented by other runners. If you are running in the dark, whether early morning or in the evening, look for well-lit routes and wear reflective clothing. Do not run in isolated areas.
LEAVE YOUR ROUTE Text your running route to a friend before you leave and include the time of day you started and when you expect to finish. Text them immediately when you finish running to let them know you are ok. Also, set up a plan as to what you want them to do if they don’t hear from you by the designated time.
IGNORE, IGNORE, IGNORE! Ignore any verbal harassment. Just keep going and don’t engage in exchanging comments. If you feel threatened, have your mobile phone ready for 000.
DEFENSIVE MEASURES Some runners carry a loud noisemaker, like a whistle, with them on their runs. Taking a self-defense class is also a great option. Check with your local police department and see if they offer a self-defense class for women. Some classes are even offered at no charge. Just remember, that whatever you carry with you, you need to know how to use it and be able to use it quickly.
All the best to you!