By Jess in Minneapolis
Yesterday morning, I joined my friend Kelly for a morning run. It’s quite dark in the mornings now, but she was carrying a knuckle light. We were running along easily, catching up on the weekend’s events, when out of the dark shadows a man popped out at us and said, “Help me, help me! I’ve lost my glasses!” His presence seriously startled Kelly and me, and I responded quickly with a “No, thanks!!!” and the two of us sprinted away as quickly as we could.
Where was my Minnesota nice? Why wasn’t I willing to stop and help this stranger in the dark find his glasses?
Safety first. The whole thing really freaked me out. It didn’t feel right. What was he doing lurking in the shadows? He wasn’t walking a dog, or going for a run. He was just there. Why didn’t he have a phone to use for a light, or something else to help him find his supposedly lost “glasses”? The whole thing did not feel right to me, nor to Kelly. We both were freaked out, so we sprinted off as quickly as we could. Was he a predator trying to get us to stop and come over to try to help him, and then what? I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but it was weird.
I was so thankful that I wasn’t running alone, or I would have been even more spooked. Sure, it all might have been innocent enough, but in the dark morning hours, I am unfortunately not going to stop to help a man in the dark.
With that said, I think this is as good a time as any other to write a post to remind us all about runner safety. I gathered some tips from friends and family, who also run in the dark and here they are.
- SEE AND BE SEEN! I don’t mean this in a social way, like “I only want to run around Calhoun because that’s where all the eye candy is!” Nope, I mean wear reflective gear and a head lamp or knuckle lights (you know that I prefer the knuckle lights). Road Runners Sports has a great variety of reflective vests, arm bands, etc, and they are all reasonably priced.
- MACE. I carry mace with me on runs. I found my handheld version on Road Runners Sports. You can buy a similar one for just $11.99 here. Fortunately, I have never actually had to use this, so it has lasted for many, many years. Just be careful not to accidentally spray yourself!
- NO MUSIC. Do not listen to headphones when running in the dark. You need to be aware of your surroundings.
- CARRY YOUR PHONE. iPhone has a really good “Track My Phone” app if someone at home is worried about you. And of course, it’s just a good idea to have your phone handy if you do have to call 911.
- RUN SAFE ROUTES. Try your best to run in busy, well-lit areas. I know this isn’t possible for some people. It might mean driving to a different area of town, but it’s worth it for your safety.
- BRING YOUR DOG: Let’s face it, Matilda is not very intimidating, but just having a dog with you might discourage the creepsters from approaching.
- DON’T OVERSHARE. Don’t post on social media what time you run or your route. This sort of thing was mentioned on my 10 Things Runners Need to Stop Posting About on Facebook. You don’t want to share all the details of when/where you’re running, as you never know who might somehow access that information. I am careful to be vague here on the blog about where and when I run. I switch up my routes quite frequently, and Dustin always knows where I’m going and when I should be back.
- Yet..DO OVERSHARE. Say what? Wasn’t tip #7 to not over-share? I am suggesting that you over-share your route, your expected pace, and what time you should be home with your roommate, your spouse, or even just text a friend so someone knows. Like I said, Dustin always knows where I’m going and when I should be back. If you’re out there running in the dark, you want someone to know when to start worrying about you if you aren’t back by an expected time. And if you are having a terrible run, hopefully you followed tip #4, and can call or text that friend so they know you’ll be a bit late…or maybe they can come give you a ride!
- LISTEN TO YOUR GUT. If it doesn’t feel right, you don’t have to stop to help someone. Predators take advantage of our tendency to want to stop to help. Yesterday morning, it just didn’t feel right to stop and help this guy. Who knows, maybe we did the wrong thing. Maybe this guy really needed our help….but again, why was he out walking so early in the morning if he was not capable of finding lost glasses? If he really lost his glasses, I guess he’ll just have to wait until the sun comes out to find them.
I hope that some of these tips will help you stay safe, but most of all, I am really hoping that none of you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation on a run. But if you do find yourself in a bad situation…
- Scream “FIRE”. People are more likely to help if you scream “FIRE” than “RAPE” or “HELP ME”. This is sad, but true.
- MACE- spray away.
- RUN! Just one more reason to be in shape.
Locally, there are a few trails I definitely avoid when it’s dark and I’m alone:
- Minnehaha Parkway: It’s just too dark and secluded on a good portion of the running trail
- Cedar Trail: Same here. I feel like both the Cedar Trail and Kennilworth Trail are not as busy or as well-lit as others, and the trails just arne’t as close to houses/residential areas in case of trouble.
**This post is focused on runner safety from predators, but there are other dangers that could affect runners: wild animals, rabid dogs, icy patches, distracted drivers, weather, etc. but I think some of my tips could be helpful against those dangers as well.
Stay safe out there runners!
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