I receive alerts from the Minneapolis police department on crime reports in my neighborhood. Last week, this report about a woman who was inappropriately grabbed and chased near Lake Harriet was one that hit close to home. It was a scary reminder that runners- male or female- are at risk, especially if running alone. I usually bring my “vicious” dog Matilda if I run alone, but not always, and I had become a little too careless this summer about not bringing my mace along on solo runs. This incident reminded me that my safety should be a top priority.
I thought this was as good a time as any to bring new life to a post that I shared two years ago about runner safety:
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 everyone can see me!” Nope, I mean wear reflective gear and a head lamp or knuckle lights. Road Runners Sports has a great variety of reflective vests, arm bands, etc, and they are all reasonably priced.
Most local running stores in Minneapolis also carry the basics for reflective gear. Check out Gear, Marathon Sports, or TC Running Company, and they can set you up with some helpful safety gear. I did a full post with tips and gear for running in the dark HERE.
MACE. I carry mace with me on solo 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. My iPhone has a really good “Track My Phone” app if someone at home is worried about you. Of course, it’s also a good idea to have your phone handy if you do have to call 911. My sister Erin also recommended an app called “RoadID.” Basically, you set up alerts to be sent to recipients of your choice when you start your run. Then, if you stop moving for more than 5 minutes, the app will send an emergency alert to those people. When you complete the run, you send a notification to the same recipients that you are home safe. Pretty slick, right? You can learn more about it and purchase it here.
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. 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 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.
Stay safe. 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.
Locally, there are a few trails I definitely avoid when it’s dark and I’m alone:
1. Minnehaha Parkway: It’s just too dark and secluded on a good portion of the running trail
2. Cedar Trail: I feel like both the Cedar Trail and Kennilworth Trail are not as busy or as well-lit as others, and the trails just aren’t as close to houses/residential areas in case of trouble. The neighborhoods are great, its just that the paths are a little less populated.
Of course, crime can happen anywhere and at any time, even during the light of day. However, you are decreasing your risk by being aware and making smart choices.