I often get asked whether or not I run alone and the answer is yes for about 95% of my runs. I prefer running alone and it didn’t seem to matter when I was growing up. However, when I was 18, I moved to a city, Portland, OR, and I realized that if I wanted to continue to run alone throughout the city, some safety precautions needed to be taken. If I’m being honest it’s pretty disheartening that these safety tips are catered to women and non-binary individuals. But the truth is that 90 percent of adult rape and sexual assault victims are women. It’s pretty telling that when I went to college, I was given two cans of pepper spray and a knife from family members while my brother was given gift cards and room décor. I don’t share these facts to scare you and tell you that you should never run alone. But running alone, especially as a woman, can be dangerous and should not be taken lightly. I am by no means an expert but as someone who has run alone consistently for the past 8 years, using these tips have helped me feel safer out on the roads and trails.
BE WELL LIT OR WAIT UNTIL IT IS LIGHT: I love running in the morning, but during the fall and winter months it tends to stay dark until nearly 8 AM. If you choose to run when it is dark or dusk, be sure to be well lit; wear a reflective vest, a flashing light, and maybe a head lamp. When it is darker, many runners tend to stay on main roads that are well lit. And while I’ve seen fellow runners out on the trails with their headlamps on, there is no need to run in the dark if you do not feel comfortable doing so. Wait until the sun comes up or do whatever you need to in order to feel safe.
PEPPER SPRAY: I bring pepper spray on practically every run I go on. Some people might think that this is over dramatic but I am often out on the trails away from roads and houses. Be sure you know how to use your pepper spray and carry it in your hand or in your pack. If you live somewhere like I do where there are mountain lions/cougars, pepper spray can actually be helpful if you happen to encounter one.
NO MUSIC: I’ve never listened to music when I run but I know that there are many people who do. Not only do I enjoy the solitude of running without music, but doing so allows you to be safer. You are able to hear any noises, upcoming cars, fellow runners, or mountain bikers. If you’re not ready to give up your music try running with just one headphone or invest in a pair that allows some outside noise to come in so you can remain alert.
TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU ARE GOING: This may seem like a no brainer but always tell someone where you are running. This can also be helpful if you happen to get lost out on the trails. Something as simple as sending a text to a loved one so they know where you’ll be and when to expect you back.
BRING YOUR PHONE: If you don’t listen to music, it can be easy to forget your phone when you head out for a run. If I’m going for a longer run or headed to the trails, I make sure to bring my phone along with me in my running pack. God forbid something were to happen you could call for help. If you get turned around or lost on your run, your phone can often help you reorient yourself.
RUN WITH OTHERS: Pandemic permitting, run with others when you can. Join your local running group and make friends with fellow runners so you’ll always have someone to go for a run with. Not only can friends help keep you motivated to get out and run, but having someone else with you adds an additional layer of safety. Running is meant to be fun and carefree. And that’s exactly how it should be. But in the world, we live in there are added risks to running alone. It is entirely possible to be and feel safe while running and I never want anyone to feel like they can’t run alone. Be safe and run happy my friends!