Last week, a couple of brave female runners from our community shared their stories of experiences they probably thought they would never have and how their lives have been impacted since. The aftermath of a traumatic event is something we probably do not often think about when we hear harrowing stories like the ones shared last week. As described by our two contributors, though, the mental, emotional, and even physical repercussions of such events last long past the initial insult.
As much as I would like to say that we should come up with some brilliant solution that will keep predators from preying and disrupting our day to day activities, that would probably be quite naïve. I cannot say that it isn’t still a dream, that as a woman I will be able to go out, day or night, light or dark, alone or with my peers, and participate in the things that bring me joy without feeling fear. However, I understand that until that day, we are the biggest weapon in the fight for our personal safety.
I don’t want to beat the proverbial dead horse by going over the basics, but we are always welcoming new members into our running community, and contrary to belief, some of the basics may not be things that “everyone knows”. In addition, I do not think it’s a bad thing for our male friends and counterparts to really get a feel for what women think about and prepare for nearly every time we lace up to go out and get some miles in.
First and foremost, the most important concept is that of “situational awareness”, essentially being aware of our environment and its potential impacts. We all practice some degree of situational awareness any time we go out for a run—monitoring for traffic, paying attention to weather conditions, ensuring access to proper hydration, etc. When it comes to being a female, especially out alone, it becomes even more vital to be situationally aware. Probably the number one rule of thumb that I am personally guilty of violating on a consistent basis is the use of headphones. I’m not saying not to plug in and listen to your favorite tunes or podcast, but keep volumes at a level where you can still hear your surroundings. This is also just a general safety rule. Headphones that accommodate ambient noise are a great tool, or only using one ear and keeping the other one open to the environment.
Secondly, be visible, especially if you are heading out before or after the sun. Again, while still a general rule of safety for running in the dark, the more visible you are, the more likely a predator will be deterred due to the conspicuousness of lights and reflectors. The same can be said by trying to stay in well-lit, well-traveled areas.
Third--I read an article once about how male predators don’t like it when women make eye contact. They are looking for someone unassuming, who seems to not be paying attention or won’t be able to identify them, so girl—MAKE EYE CONTACT. I have to admit I am not good about following my own general life advice, let alone safety strategies for running by myself, but you better believe I stare down every single person I encounter on a run. Honestly, I’ve probably scared some people myself, now that I think about it.
Lastly, if you DO end up in a situation where you are in physical danger, there are still ways to protect and defend yourself. Be LOUD. Yell, scream, make a scene...predators want an easy target that’s not going to fight back. Know the soft spots to go after-- eyes, nose, groin, fingers, and knees--use everything you’ve got to get those spots. You’ve got some decent built-in weapons to combat creeps, so bust out those claws, fists, teeth, and feet. I have also linked some handy self-defense tools that are easy to carry while running at the bottom of this blog post for you to check out and add to your arsenal that God gave you.
I struggled with writing this post because I can’t help but feel it puts the burden on us as women, who are doing nothing but being women, to protect and defend ourselves. I would be lying if I said the whole time I’m typing out these words that I wasn’t gritting my teeth and feeling like I’m betraying my fellow sole sisters and insinuating that our safety and wellbeing is our own responsibility, but the sad fact of the matter is, that it’s kind of the truth. Yes, we should be teaching our boys to respect women and to not harass or rape women, but the unfortunate reality is there are still those out there with an agenda that we won’t be able to change.
I would never tell a fellow female runner not to do something they love, in an environment they love, at a time they love. If you know me, you know I tend to loathe the sun and prefer runs that occur in the dark, so I’d never advocate for something I don’t believe in. However, as a community, we can all support one another by advocating for OURSELVES and our safety, and to continue to spread the word that we are not here for your garbage and we are not going to sit by and continue to let predators intimidate and scare us and keep us from doing the things we love for fear of becoming of a victim.
Common Self-Defense Tools
This blog post was submitted by contributors Maren Ernst and Carter Gronseth.
Maren Ernst has been a contributor to 605 Running Company for four years. When not working at the shop Maren enjoys riding her bike or motorcycle, painting, reading and spending quality time with her friends and family.
Carter Gronseth has been a contributor to 605 Running Company for three years. When she is not working at the shop Carter embraces a good lake day, spending quality time with family and friends and exploring new adventures.