With each breaking news story of a runner attacked, I watch the fear begin to rise within our community. After a few of you reached out asking if I had any specific tips for running safely alone since I do it in so many cities and countries around the world, I thought it was time to put together a full article.
I’ve talked about all the benefits of running alone, but I can tell there’s been a wavering of confidence in many runners.
First, I want to address the overall issue: should we be afraid to run alone?
No. But we should be smart.
Below I’ll share running safety tips, but before that there are some ways we can boost our confidence.
And in this case confidence doesn’t mean ignoring the issue, it means running from a place of strength that allows you to react if needed and not to be scared away from doing something you love.
- The unknown can be scary, so the more you do it, the more comfortable it becomes.
- Talk with other local runners to see the good experiences they’ve had.
- Maintain perspective about how often these things truly happen. They’re high profile and splashed across the news, but thousands of runners go out everyday unharmed.
If you’re still concerned then honestly, you’ve got two options: the treadmill or running with a group.
The most obvious tip is to run with a friend or with a group, as you’re less likely to be approached and surrounded by people who could help defend if something happened. I’ve written before about getting over your fear of group runs or how to create a group if there isn’t one.
However, many of you like me cherish those solo runs.
So let’s dive in to things that can help us continue enjoying those miles.
Tips for Running Alone
Let’s be honest, some of these are no brainers and things we’ve all heard before, but I had to include them in an effort to be thorough and because when the days are getting shorter or hotter more of us are spending our runs in the dark, these reminders are always good!
One of the reasons we enjoy our solo runs is because it’s a chance to disconnect and get lost in our thoughts. On the whole, that’s just fine. But it doesn’t mean losing track of what’s happening around you.
- On the trails, I’ll use a turn in a corner to check behind me for anyone who might be coming (helps to avoid mountain bikers running me over too).
- On paved paths, I’m aware of who’s stopping, who’s heading towards me and anyone that honestly looks a little out of place.
I’ve run through many downtown areas with homeless people, it was simply a fact of Miami and Orlando living. I did NOT fear them, but I did remain aware of their presence and tried not to run through those areas when dark or where there were large groups.
Be Picky About Headphones
Safety experts will tell you to ditch them all together, but I know that means many people will just stop running.
Instead, we’re very lucky to live in a time where we have other options, particularly with wireless running headphones.
- Aftershokz are a great bone conducting headphone, which allow you to keep your ears totally free to hear surrounding sounds, while still enjoying your podcast or music.
- Run with one headphone. A better option for hearing your surroundings. I’ve found this to work really well with the Jaybird Vista which blocks out more sound.
- Save the music for daylight hours or heavily trafficked paths. I notice we often turn it up louder than say an audiobook or podcast.
Be Choosy About Time and Place
Pick a safe place, well duh!! But as the many incident show, unfortunate incidents can happen anywhere.
Which means there are a few other things to consider:
- start by running alone when you know more people will be out in your neighborhood so you feel safer
- choose locations that are well lit, again this will increase your comfort starting out
- when traveling ask local runners about the best options (you’ll see lots of the same places mentioned over and over on Facebook groups)
- on the trails opt for staying a bit closer to the trail head and going when more runners are out
- run against traffic – especially if on the road you should be running towards cars, that gives you more control
Best Running Safety Gear
I’ve seen a lot of recommendations to carry mace, but I admit for me that doesn’t feel right. I’m nearly positive that having it out of the case and ready to use, would lead to my injury before anyone else’s. Hence the reason below you’ll see I really like a new pepper gel spray when I’m running a new area.
Whether you’re looking for a running safety light or reflective gear, these pieces have you covered.
✅ This is the running safety device I recommend the most.
The Sabre Personal Safety Alarm attaches easily to your hydration pack or your shorts. And can quickly be grabbed to signal to those around you that assistance is needed. It’s a cheap solution to add a lot of peace of mind.
Bonus points because that option has a blinking light on it too, so it serves as a general safety device too.
A few other safety gear options:
Carry pepper gel spray
I LOVE this idea from Sabre because when you spray it sticks, so rather than coming back on you, there’s a confidence it’s going where you want. Also I like the lock on it, so I’m not worried about accidentally spraying.
AND extra bonus you can get a pack that has a practice can! That allows you to get comfortable with the action you need to take.
Truthfully, I know many of us ladies have placed a key between our fingers to feel like we have some kind of weapon walking through a dark parking garage and at least it’s something, but I think having these alarms or easy to grab sprays might provide even more mental relief.
- Wear a RoadID – make yourself easy to identify and easy to find your emergency contacts should something happen.
- Carry your phone and know how to use the autodial 911 feature
- Whistles (these come on many hydration packs for bears, but they’re great for safety in general)
- Defend Six is a new tool that can alert you through your headphones if someone is approaching you from behind.
I do have friends that choose to run with a gun where it’s legal, but again…I would feel less comfortable not more doing that. So you have to figure out what’s best for you.
Reflective Running Gear
Beyond ways to protect yourself, it’s also really important to ensure that you’re visible and easily noticed by drivers or anyone else out in the neighborhood. This is not a time to blend in.
- Reflective Beanie – A great option in the winter because you’re likely already wearing one! (this one has a ponytail slot, so it’s my go to)
- Reflective Running Gloves: Again I’m wearing these for a good half the year running, so why not find something that’s going to help me be more visible in the early mornings.
- Nathan’s Reflective Vest: I like that this actually sits close to the body and is much smaller than a full vest
- Heel lights: kind of like the light up shoes kids have!
- Pyr Reflective running clothes – I have the total reflective jacket and it’s pretty cool! (Here are my best running jackets.)
- Rechargeable Headlamp : Ensuring that you can see everything around you and yup once again more people can see you.
Learn Basic Runner Self Defense
I think many of us shy away from self-defense classes because subconsciously if we don’t think about the threat of attack it’s not real. Instead, we need to feel strong and empowered, the same way running makes us feel.
Doing Krav Maga in Israel definitely made me realize how much more confident women are there because they’ve all be trained!
Finding a class near you is often easier than you think. I was surprised to find our local park rangers hosting them, as well as many other groups. Checkout the Sabre Self-Defense program to see if there’s one near you.
Here are a few of the key moves to feel confident performing:
We’re so used to being quiet that when we actually need to scream it may not happen so easily. This might have been one of the best things I learned in taking a recent self defense class…it was weird to yell and scream. That can’t be the case if you’re trying to save yourself.
AND don’t yell “help”.
Instead, stay things like “I don’t know you, get away from me.” This is more likely to get the attention of anyone nearby.
Heel of Palm to Nose
If they’ve grabbed your arm and you can break one free, then flatten your palm, straighten your arm and snap your help in to their nose. This swift strike hurts, without requiring you to know anything about punching, and the blood will usually distract them for you to get away.
Knee to Groin
If they’re close to you, then grab them by the shoulders and put your weight in to throwing that knee. Don’t worry about hurting yourself or them, just GO FOR IT.
Move in to them
If someone grabs you from behind, don’t try to run away, instead throw your weight backwards in to them. This throws them off balance because they expect you to be pulling away and are braced for that.
Just reviewing these again reminds me that I need to take a class. Practicing these things helps them become more automatic if ever needed.
Runner Safety Apps
There are a few different options in terms of using either an app, or tools you might already have.
A great tip I learned from a friend during Ragnar is that you can actually share your location with another iPhone use for a set period of time! So if you don’t want to be tracked all the time, share it when you leave for your run.
Many of the new Garmin GPS watches now have a safety feature which would notify an emergency contact by default if you stop moving for a long period of time. Or they have easy to hit buttons which would also signal your emergency contact.
The one drawback is those features ONLY work if you have the Garmin Connect app open on your phone.
Another option is the app Red Panic Button, it allows you to send a distress message to a preset list of emergency contacts revealing GPS location.
Any safety tips you’d add to the list?
Do you get nervous to run alone?
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