Thursday, August 18, 2016

Running Safely While Female

Big news this summer on the murders of three women runners in three different states over the course of nine days from July 30 to August 7. It's news because it's rare. Even so, the Internet is abuzz with asinine safety tips for women runners.

People sometimes ask if I'm afraid to run alone before dawn and what I do for safety. They blanch when I answer: I'm not afraid, and I don't take safety precautions against potential attackers.

I've been running for seven years now, primarily outside, usually before sunrise. So it's lonely and it's dark. It's the only part of the day I can stand Texas summer, and it's the only time I don't get cat-called, wolf-whistled, and honked at by passersby. Because there are no passersby. I rarely see another soul; only the neighborhood rabbits startle me when they dart suddenly in corners of my vision. (I don't wear my glasses to run either.)

Fact is, I've had more scary run-ins with dogs than I have with people, and only one of those dogs was ever aggressive—a little yappy one of course. All the off-leash big dogs and bully breeds only always want pats and to go run with me. The soundest piece of running safety advice I've ever received is from a police officer who told me that most dogs will respond if you stop, stand firm, and shout "NO!" That's what I did when the little yappy dog came after me, though I had to say it twice before its owner showed up.

A photo posted by Kayla Foster (@knfoster22) on

I do wear an ID band with an emergency contact in case I'm incapacitated such as if a car hit me. Drivers barely miss me on a regular basis, despite my neon hues in broad daylight when they're about and my presence in clearly marked crosswalks with the light in my favor. There's little I can do to protect against that sort of accident. I do use the Road ID app, which will alert my designated contacts if I stop moving for more than 5 minutes and send them a link to my location, but it's glitchy.

But muggers, rapists, and murderers? Nah. I have a mini-size, belt-clip pepper spray that I've never carried; I highly doubt my ability to unclip it quickly and use it effectively. They make collapsible poles for runners' protection and hiking, but I don't want to carry extra crap on top of my car key, water bottle, cell phone, GUs, lip balm, flashlight, and anti-chafe cream; so don't even suggest a gun either. I've taken a few self-defense courses here and there, and the main thing I've learned is that running away is always the best option. Realistically, how much time and money would it take for me to effectively train to protect myself in a combat situation with someone bigger, stronger, and very probably armed?

I'm 5'3". If someone's determined to get me, they're gonna get me. Statistically speaking, though. I'm far more likely to be raped or murdered by an intimate partner.

And until then, I've got running to do.

A photo posted by BMW Dallas Marathon (@bmwdallasmarathon) on

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