Running can be fun, a great way to get or stay in shape, and a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors or explore your neighborhood. However, there are risks — especially for those of us who usually run solo — so it’s smart to take safety precautions. Don’t let the risks scare you off; the bad stuff rarely ever happens but it’s always good to be prepared.
1) Tell someone where you’re going.
I can’t emphasize this enough and I have a heartbreaking story of a friend’s brother who went missing and was found deceased days later as proof of why this is important. If you live alone, have a friend (maybe another runner) or neighbor who won’t mind you sending a quick text that you’re heading out on a run.
2) Vary your route.
To prevent potential stalkers from knowing when and where you’ll be running, vary your route and preferably also the time of day you run if possible.
3) Wear ID.
This is especially important if you have health issues that an EMT would need to know if you were unconscious. I like this one you can attach to your shoe. (Note: RoadID also makes a great non-jingling tag for your dog’s collar.)
4) Carry a phone.
This is so you can call for help if needed. If you’d rather not carry a phone, many smart watches have this capability as well.
5) Don’t wear headphones.
I know, I know. I love to run to my music but it’s imperative to be aware of your surroundings and you can’t do that if you’re jamming to your tunes while you run. If you DO choose to wear headphones, keep the volume down and make sure you can hear outside noise: people talking, dogs barking, cars driving, a bicycle bell dinging.
You may also want to try bone-conducting headphones that leave your ears open. I bought a pair — and promptly lost them when I set them down briefly for a photo after one of my half marathons and haven’t let myself get another pair. (Yet.)
6) Carry mace.
Honestly, I haven’t carried mace since taking evening classes back when I was in college, but depending on where you live, it may be a good idea. Consider this easy to carry mace or try wearing a wrist alarm like this. Note: if you live somewhere with an almost constant breeze, like here on the coast, the mace you spray could come back on you, so the wrist alarms may be a better bet.
7) Be prepared for dogs.
I love dogs but that doesn’t mean they’ll all love me. Watch for off-leash dogs and learn how to handle them.
If you are chased by a dog, slow down or stop because many dogs will stop chasing if it’s not fun anymore. Be as uninteresting as possible and don’t stare down the dog. Keep a strong posture and speak in a calm but firm voice.
If a dog actually attacks, yell for help (or use the wrist alarm) and ball up to protect your neck and belly. Some runners carry mace or a spray bottle of vinegar to deter attacking dogs, neither of which is permanently harmful.
8) Program your phone with ICE info.
It’s crucial to have In Case of Emergency info programmed into your phone. On an iPhone, open the health app then tap the Medical ID tab. Tap “edit” in the upper right corner, then tap “edit Medical ID.” Tap “Add Emergency Contacts” then select a person from your contact list.
The process on an Android phone is pretty much the same. If you have an old-school phone, you can still program in contacts with ICE before their name.
9) Wear bright and/or reflective clothing.
When you run, you want to make SURE drivers see you. As an added bonus, I always say the neon/bright colors of my running clothes make me feel fast even if I’m running slow.
If you run in the dark, make sure you wear lights to help you see and to help drivers see you. There are a bunch of options out there but my husband likes these clip on lights.
10) Take a self defense class.
Check with your local martial arts studio or your local police station. Our Sheriff’s department periodically offers free self-defense classes. If a class near you isn’t practical or available, watch this video of basic self defense moves. I hope none of us ever have to deal with this but if we ever do, we want this scenario: where this runner fought off her attacker and got the guy arrested.
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Do you have any tips to add? Drop them in the comments below.
See also: How to Run Safely in Hot Weather.