As a runner of many years I have encountered many incidences of verbal abuse (usually quite harmful and often phrases such as “118” or “Run Forrest Run” ), I have been hopelessly lost (while on holiday and out running) and also managed to pick up an injury and end up walking miles home dehydrated and sore! Thankfully none of these experiences have ever put me off running but I thought it would be useful in this week’s blog to think about personal safety while out running.
Often people (especially women, according to research, who feel this is a barrier to participation) feel vulnerable while out running and this can force them to search out secluded areas, run early in the morning to be anonymous or simply think twice about going out of the door and instead head to the gym for a run on the treadmill.
One of the joys of running for me is the freedom it brings, the feeling of running outside with the wind in your face and being able to explore new uncharted territory. I run in most weathers and think nothing about running in any environment. However…..personal safety is something that we all need to think about.
Here are a few tips to help you out and stay safe….
1. When you head out of the door have a good idea of the route you are going to do. Think about the hazards you may encounter – road crossings, traffic, pedestrians and terrain. Also think about possible escape routes….what if you are feeling unwell or pick up an injury…how will you get home? Often If I am doing a long run I will choose a loop close to home that allows me to divert from my long run if necessary and not leave me stranded 10 miles from home.
2. If you do get lost don’t be afraid to ask for directions but look to a pedestrian rather than flag a car down. It’s often a good idea to tell your partner or someone close that you are going for a run, approximately how long you are going for and what route you are going on. I once got hopelessly lost while on an early morning run while on holiday…returning back to the family nobody blinked as they thought I was just on a long run!
3. If you can carry a mobile phone then consider doing so. Alternatively I sometimes carry a coin which can be used to make a call if needed. Even if your mobile is out of signal emergency services can still locate you using a triangulation system.
4. Don’t wear headphones while out running. Headphones make you more vulnerable as you cannot hear traffic, cyclists or generally make you less aware of your surroundings.
5. Clothing – consider investing in some reflective/Hi Viz kit. There is lots of good quality, nice kit available now. Bright yellow, orange, pink kit is widely available and often reflective strips are built into the clothing now for additional safety. This will make you more visible to cars, pedestrians, cyclists and is much more widely used now by runners than it used to be.
6. ICE – consider having an ICE number available. Some manufacturers are building in labels in running kit for runners to put an “In case of Emergency” number. Put ICE in your mobile phone directory and add your partners/Next of Kin number as an emergency contact. Or create a laminated card with the details on that you can put in your pocket. This is particularly important if you have any medical issues that people need to be aware of. You can also get a small implement to tie into your shoelaces which you can put your next of kin details in. On this point it is also worth noting that on the back of the race number for the Half Marathon you will see that there are sections for runners to fill in necessary next of kin details and any medical issues for the organisers to be aware of. Please do not ever give your race number away as this causes all sorts of issues for race directors if there is a medical emergency.
7. Run Routes – many people use the same route, run at the same time and on the same days. This can make you vulnerable if anybody is monitoring your movements and might act on it. Vary your routes, time of day running and if possible try and run with a group. Consider joining a running group where you will be welcomed, encouraged to run with a group and be supported as you develop. Clubs are not elitist in any way and there will be lots of support for new members.
Finally consider joining a self defence group and learning a bit more about what to do if you were in the unfortunate position of being attacked or challenged. Your new found fitness will also help you in situations such as this.
Quick Kit Tips:
Wear clothing suitable for the weather. A light thermal top, gloves and a thin outer layer will be suitable for most winter weathers combined with long or short leggings. A light rain jacket will provide additional protection from the wind and the rain. In summer less kit may be appropriate but consider Hi Viz all around to make you more visible. Don’t overdress as too many thick layers will make you feel too hot and you run the risk of over-heating.
Remember sunscreen, consider a cap or sun glasses in hot sunny weather
Use Vaseline or similar to avoid chafing in areas that may rub
Consider buying a light bum bag for long runs….mobile phone, gels, water bottle etc might come in handy if you are struggling.