Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Being Safe When You Run

I've been intending to write about running safety for the last month. Our final speaker in the Women's Training Program was Adrienne Helms, a crime prevention specialist for the Manassas City Police Department. She gave an excellent talk on safety with many good tips. Here in Virginia, a runner was assaulted last week on a local trail, so safety is in the forefront of people's minds again.

Here are some tips from Adrienne:
  1. Risk Awareness - Bad things can happen to any one of us and the possibility of an assault goes up in warmer weather when there are more people out and about. Criminals prey on those who look most vulnerable, so make eye contact and look confident.
  2. Risk Reduction - Stay in witness-rich environments. Don't run to the point of exhaustion - you will be less aware of your surroundings and less able to react and get away quickly if you need to. Leave your earbuds out - you need to hear what is happening around you. If you must have your music, consider using a single earbud or a speaker, but keep the volume low. Vary your route, and don't post it on social media. Don't wear jewelry that might attract attention (flashy ring) or that could be used as a weapon against you (a necklace can be used to choke you). Some women choose to carry pepper spray, mace, even hair spray - however, these items can also be used as a weapon against you.
  3. Risk Recognition - Trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, get out. Know your limits, know the area, make a plan so you know how to escape (short cuts, open stores, etc.). Don't be afraid to call 911. Officers would rather help you get home safely than fill out an assault report later. You should always have your phone with you so you can make that call.
  4. Risk Avoidance - Run or walk during the day and in well-lit, witness-rich areas. Run with a group. Learn and practice self-defense.
If you are looking for a self-defense class, one great option is the Rape Aggression Defense System (RAD). You can locate programs across the nation at this link. Here is a quick video from a self defense class hosted by Potomac River Running last night. My favorite tip is to also yell someone's name when you are yelling for help, to suggest to the attacker that you are with someone who is likely to show up any moment.

And since this is a heavy, serious topic, here is a feel-good story about a group of runners that stopped a mugger. They were aware of their surroundings, familiar with the area, trusted their gut that something wasn't right, called 911. Now that's a group I'd like to run with! Stay safe out there.

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