I really hate when things get blown out of proportion in the media. But when I read this story about recent muggings around Seneca Park, one of my favorite places to run (and the first park I ever ran ALONE in), I started to think more about safety for myself AND for my running friends. One of the major reasons I wanted to get involved with #TrailsRoc was because as a woman who had recently discovered my love for trail running, I wanted to find some groups to run with so that I felt safer. After years of trail running both with groups and alone, I feel pretty confident in most situations on the trail. Nothing that I do is “new”…it’s all the same old rules, but it never hurts to have a reminder of what you should be doing to protect yourself.
1. Try to run in groups. I enjoy solitary runs, so this one pains me to say. But the truth is there’s safety in numbers. If nothing else, go with someone and run slightly ahead or behind. If you really need to run alone, make sure others know where you’re going and when you should be expected to be back.
2. Be alert. I used to need music to run, so I get the attraction of ear buds and an ipod. I do. But it’s not safe. It makes you less aware of your surroundings and makes it difficult if not impossible to hear someone approaching you. Eric and I ran Saturday morning at Seneca and on the way home, we counted at least 5 women running in and around the park with headphones on. I’ll bet most of them don’t even know that there have been some recent muggings in the area. Leave the headphones at home and just tune into your body and your surroundings.
3. Carry pepper spray. When I first started running trails alone, I’d always carry mine. I stopped as I got more comfortable on the trails, but Saturday I brought it with me again, just in case. Go figure–the little pocket in my capris that is seemingly useless for carrying anything important (either too small or too insecure to put anything important inside) fits the pepper spray perfectly. Guess what I’ll be carrying with me?
4. Know where you are. It’s really important to have a good general idea of where you are and where you are going when you’re out on the trails. Watch for trail markings on the trees and have a basic idea of where in a park you may be. If you need to call for help, this information could be really important, not just if you feel threatened by a person, but also if you are injured, lost or need other help.
5. Trust your gut. If you sense something is unsafe, stop. Don’t worry about getting miles in. Don’t worry about deviating from your plan. Just worry about being safe.
I still think I’m safer on trails than I am on roads (no cars, no crazy drivers, no pounding from the pavement).
I still think that I’m more at risk on the trails of encountering a mean dog or falling and hurting myself than I am of a bad guy trying to kidnap me.
But it’s always good to remember basic safety tips. Come join us for any of our group runs to learn more about safely running trails and of course see some amazing sights and make some awesome friends in the process.
Sunday Slow and Steady runs (see our Facebook page for more details)