Are Female Runners Safe?
Did you know that almost half of all women runners say that they have been harassed at some point while running? This is in comparison to just 9.2% of men.
This statistic is rather scary!
Most of us head out for a run to de-stress and get in our daily exercise. We expect to enjoy a nice run in the fresh air without feeling intimidated by strangers or worried about our safety.
Unfortunately, fewer women are able to experience this enjoyment during their runs because there is an increasing concern about the potentially dangerous people that are lurking outside.
It seems that year by year, there is an increasing amount of news headlines that are detailing horrific stories of women runners being harmed while out on their runs. Sadly, some of these stories involve rape or murder. In 2016, three young females were murdered in the United States within a short period of nine days. This not only shook the residents of the US, but it also deeply affected runners across the pond here in the UK.
The three unsuspecting women would head outside for a run like every other day. They were running in daylight hours near busy streets.
These awful incidents highlight the importance of running safety, especially for females who are more commonly targeted by attackers. The fact that these murders occurred so unexpectedly in broad daylight makes them even more terrifying.
The risk of being murdered while you’re out running alone is very low at just one in every 87,565. We’re more likely to die in a road traffic accident than we are while we’re out on a run. Yet, there’s something about running outside on your own that is extremely anxiety-provoking. And it’s no wonder when we are hearing more and more about horrific assaults and murders on women runners in the news headlines.
When the three horrific murders occurred in the US back in 2017, there was a stream of people offering up the same advice that we have all heard for years.
‘Don’t run with your headphones in.’
‘Don’t run at night time.’
‘Take a friend with you!’
While this is accurate and helpful advice for many, it’s not always practical. Some women runners can’t bear the thought of running without their favourite tunes. They’re working all day and can only squeeze in a run in the early mornings or late nights. They have no friends that enjoy running!
But, despite the inconvenience of following this type of advice, it’s important that every female runner takes it onboard. Although you may feel fine running on your own, you never know when there is a dangerous person waiting to attack somewhere nearby as you’re on a run.
How to Stay Safe Whilst Running as a Female
So, what advice should every woman be following in order to stay as safe as possible whilst running in public?
Here are some key steps that you must take every time you head out for a run to avoid running (literally) into trouble.
Leave the Headphones at Home
Although this is somewhat obvious advice, it’s something that many women runners still don’t do. Even though it might feel tedious and boring without your motivational tunes, running with no headphones is important to maximise your running safety.
When you leave your ears open to the environment around you, it enables you to listen out for potential danger. You’ll be able to hear the shuffling of somebody walking close behind you. You can hear a car driving slowly nearby.
Yes, it might feel less enjoyable without your headphones, but it’s worth running with a little less enjoyment if it could save your life!
Trust Your Instincts
Many times, your instincts are right. If you’re running and you suddenly get the feeling that somebody is watching you, stop running and find somewhere safe.
This may seem unnecessary and you might be rather annoyed that you have stopped your run for what seems like nothing. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry! When in doubt, you must prioritise your safety.
Switch Up Your Routes, but Keep Them Familiar
If you regularly run the same route, it can make you an easy target for attackers. They only have to watch you a few times to know that you run this particular route. This is especially the case if you run at the exact same time every day too.
To avoid attackers guessing where you’re going to be running, switch up your running route every week. You could also alternate between a few different routes in a random fashion. Make sure you mix up the time of day that you head out on your runs as well.
However, it’s important to note that you should not be running on completely unfamiliar routes by yourself. Choose routes that you know and trust so you don’t get lost or end up in the middle of a quiet area where you could be vulnerable.
If you’re struggling to find new routes, take a walk around your area with one of your friends in daylight hours so you can scope the area.
Carry a Personal Safety Alarm
Personal safety alarms can be hung around your neck. When they are activated, they connect to response teams. If you are out running and an attacker makes them move, you can immediately call for help using your alarm.
Within just a few minutes, response services and emergency medical teams can be at your location. This means that if used to staying in jimmies, your recovery time is likely to be much quicker.
Not only this, but if a potential attacker spots a safety alarm around your neck, they are much less likely to lay their hands on you because they know that help is very close by.
Take Your Dog with You
If you have a furry companion, why not get two things done at once and take them out with you on your run? This way, you both get some fresh air and exercise, and you get to spend some quality time together!
Bringing your dog along on your run also serves another purpose. It keeps you safer! Dogs provide security and companionship, and they can deter any potential attackers.
Even though running with your dog might feel like an inconvenience or a disruption to your alone time, they might be just what you need to maintain your running safety.
Make Yourself Visible
It’s important that you go out for a run during daylight hours only. This way, you are visible to others and you can easily see potentially harmful people nearby. Of course, there are also many more people around during the daytime compared to the night time hours.
If you are opening in the early morning or late evening when the Sun is down, make sure to wear bright and reflective clothing. Colours such as bright yellow, orange, green, or white will all be much more visible to others.
Most modern-day running gear has reflective material somewhere on the item. Trainers often have a small reflective strip on the sides and sports bras or leggings can also be partially reflective on the front and back.
This may sound counterintuitive. You may be thinking ‘why would I want to make myself even more visible to others? Surely I’m making myself more of a target for attackers if I’m easier to spot…’
Whilst this is a valid thought to have, remaining as visible as possible means that others can spot you if you come into danger.
If you want to add extra visibility, you may want to carry a small flashlight around with you on your runs so that any oncoming traffic can spot you.
Avoid running down any of the unlit streets or alleyways around your area in the dark.
Studying self-defence will not only maximise your running safety, but it will enable you to defend yourself in any potentially harmful situation you end up in.
There are specific courses and classes that you can take to learn the art of self-defence. In these lessons, you will learn general safety techniques so you can fight off unwanted strangers.
This will help you feel more confident running alone, but it’s still important that you follow all of the above steps as well!
It’s unfortunate that women runners are now having to completely switch up their routines and go out of their way to ensure they aren’t compromising their safety. We shouldn’t have to feel intimidated or worried when we head out for a quick jog, but many of us do.
By employing the techniques above, you can stay as safe as possible and reduce the risks of getting into trouble. But if you try them out and you still feel vulnerable or unsafe whilst you’re running outdoors, consider finding a running buddy or join a gym so you can exercise safely indoors.