Before I can do any of that, I need to put on my serious hat and talk safety while running solo.
The story of mother runner Sherry Arnold's death was national news earlier this year. I won't go into details, but you can find out more here. I'll admit, it shook me. The day after I heard the news, I was spooked by every shadow on my run. For weeks after that, I was afraid to run alone. I came up with excuses why I couldn't go out in the mornings and asked friends to watch my girls so I could run in the middle of the day. It was awful. I hate being afraid. Eventually I grew back into my big-girl pants. I wouldn't say I'm scared to go out by myself, but I'm cautious--which isn't a bad thing.
Today, I read about another runner murder. This time, a woman from Kentucky. (Read the story here.) Sarah Hart, mother of three, pregnant with a fourth was killed because some a cowardly sorry excuse for a human being wanted her money. Seriously?! A man now has to raise his three small children alone because some asshole wanted drug money.
Is anyone else pissed off about this? I'm sure these are not the only two incidents this year and that makes me even more mad.
I think it's crap that this post is necessary; that women (and men) need to protect themselves while exercising, while doing what they love, but here we go. Let's discuss...
I run at the crack of dawn and I never have company. In the summer months, it's starting to get light out in the middle of my run. In winter months, it's dark for the entire run.
First let's talk visibility: I see very few cars while I'm out. I have to be home by 6am and not many people leave for work before then, but for the cars I do see, I need to make sure I'm visible so I don't get intimate with a windshield. Almost all of my running clothes have reflectors sewn in. I also wear a headlamp and a blinking taillight. The taillight has 6 different settings and I always set it on the most seizure-inducing blink. We runners have to assume that people leaving for work in the morning aren't really focused on the road. They're too busy making sure they have their cell phone, coffee, briefcase and that their shoes are the same color. We need to be as bright and visible as possible.
Are we all aware that, as pedestrians, we are supposed to walk against traffic? I thought everyone learned that in elementary school, but just this morning, I saw a male runner in my 'hood running with traffic; meaning cars would be coming up behind him (if there were any). Not cool.
OK, we're all bright and shiny so drivers see us and we're all running on the left side of the road.
Now let's talk safety from predators. I have no intention of leaving my sweet babies to grow up motherless and it's unfortunate that I have to protect myself from someone who may want to do just that, but that's reality.
- Don't think it can't happen to you. My neighborhood is pretty safe, but roads lead in and out. ANYONE can wander into my 'hood.
- Stay focused on your surroundings. I run with music, but the volume is turned way down. I can hear my breathing, I can hear my foot steps and I can hear foot steps around me. I hear screen doors and garage doors opening and closing. I've tried running without music and my mind wanders as I try to entertain myself. I'm much more focused with music in my ears blocking the random thoughts from entering my mind.
- Stay close to home. I don't leave my neighborhood alone in the dark.
- Make sure someone knows where you're going and when you'll be back.
- Carry pepper spray. And know how to use it.
- Carry your cell phone. It amazes me how many people run with just an ipod.
- Seek out safe havens. I pay careful attention to which houses have lights on in the bedrooms. Those people are awake and getting ready for work. They will hear the pounding on the door and get there fastest. I've also memorized which houses have dogs. I know how my own dogs react to the doorbell or a knock at the door. If I'm in distress, there's nothing that I want more than a barking dog.
- Trust your gut. If something or someone gives you the creeps, turn around and run in the other direction.
Be safe out there, people.
Do you have anything to add to my list?
Are you afraid to run alone in the dark?