Ask ten different runners why they run and you are likely to get ten different reasons. Some run to improve their physical health or to maintain weight. Some might be training for a marathon or endurance race. For others, running brings peace and serenity, alleviating stress after a long day at work. Whatever the reason, runners simply have to run; and like the mailman, nothing can stop them—not rain, snow, sleet or hail nor darkness or even threat to personal safety.
The compulsion to run, however, puts runners at a greater risk of personal harm, says Peter Chen, Founder of SOS Safety Siren.
“This past summer, the running community and the public were shocked by the daytime murders of three female runners in three different states within nine days of each other. Whether this is a new trend or one that was previously overlooked, it spooked runners—maybe not enough to curb their enthusiasm for the sport, but definitely enough reconsider their personal safety,” says Chen.
Exact statistics are hard to come by, as no national database on runner safety exists and those who try to extract stats specially for runners from national data for all victims of assault, pedestrian homicide and the like, are merely “best guesses.”
Still, common sense dictates that shorter days put runners at a greater risk to be targets of violent crime or accidents. For people working traditional 9-5 hours, running when there is sufficient daylight is not likely possible. All respondents to a recent study said they change their routine during the winter months, when daylight is at a minimum, by either engaging in these outdoor activities only during the day, moving their workouts indoors or working out for shorter periods of time.
Multiple sources indicate female runners are more fearful than their male counterparts. The same study revealed that 34% of the 1,000 female respondents fear for their safety when running biking, walking or hiking alone. A Washington Post article showed that women were “more than twice as likely as men to say they were afraid to walk in their neighborhoods at night alone.”
Staying safe is paramount to preserving the holistic benefits we receive from running. Below, Peter Chen offers some guidelines to help find the balance:
This is an oft-repeated suggestion that still far too many runners ignore. Yes, music can be the motivator that keeps you going and immersing yourself in it can be the greatest way to “escape” from the sounds of everyday life around you. No one is telling you to stop listening to music while running, but be smart about it. Maybe you could use one ear-bud instead of two. Or drape your headphones around your neck and turn up the volume full blast so you can hear the sound without your ears being covered. At the very least, consider removing one or both ear-buds when the potential for harm is greater, such as running in an isolated area, at night, in woods where wild animals live or on trails shared with cyclists.
Safety in numbers
For some runners, being part of a club or running with a friend makes exercising that much more enjoyable. Others, however, relish the solitude and the ability to proceed at their own pace in a location of their own choosing. If you don’t mind running with a companion, do so whenever possible. But during those times when you prefer to run alone, try to do so where there are other people. For example, sidewalks are always bustling in urban areas, but perhaps you could pick a less busy side street where there are fewer people to dodge, but enough in the event of an emergency. Parks are often vast enough to provide the separateness some runners crave, but try picking a more popular area where you can run “alone” but still be within shouting distance of other park visitors. Run during times when you are more likely to encounter other runners: weekends, the hours immediately before/after work or during lunch breaks.
Advances in Running Technology
A personal safety device can provide an extra level of security to runners who like the peace and serenity of running alone. In the previously mentioned study, 34% of respondents said they take extra precautions such as carrying a personal safety device, especially when running on trails and in parks and other areas that are sparsely populated during the winter months when fewer people are outdoors. SOS Safety Siren, for example, is a battery-operated bracelet alarm that emits a 120+ decibel sound, the loudest allowed by law and ten decibels higher than the average human pain threshold. The extremely loud alarm startles and disorients would-be human or animal attackers and alerts anyone in the vicinity of distress.
Wear it well
The right running gear can make all the difference in warding off an accident or assault. Fluorescent, reflective clothing and LED light gear makes runners visible during the darkest hours. These accessories can come in the form of clothing, vests, arm and leg bands, shoe cuffs, headlamps or handheld torches. And don’t forget identification in the event an accident does occur. Many runners have found themselves in the hospital needing medical care, but having no ID on them. Our Velocity Running Shorts have a front interior pocket and large back zip pocket to hold ID, nutrition gels, cash or personal protection devices such as pepper spray or mace. AND they have reflective trims like the logo label and reflective YKK zipper.
Criminals most often look for the most vulnerable targets. Even if your dog is the most gentle and loving creature on the planet, the mere presence of an animal (especially big dogs) will often serve as a crime deterrent. To further intimidate would-be attackers, whenever you feel as though you might be in danger, act as if you are calming your dog down to give the impression that Daisy really doesn’t take kindly to strangers. Uttering a few German commands could give an attacker pause to wonder if Charley has been professional trained as a guard dog.