Wednesday, May 28, 2014

WWU - Safety

A little over two weeks ago, a female runner in my town was attacked - a man came at her from behind, got her in a headlock, wrestled her to the ground, and threatened to shoot her if she wasn't quiet.  She fought and screamed and managed to get away from him.  I heard about this several hours later on the same day, when an APB was put out on the man and the car he was driving.  He was caught, but not before attacking another woman (who also fought and screamed and eventually got away from him).  This man was on the hunt to hurt women, plain and simple - these women just happened to cross his path at the worst possible moment.  I'm very relieved that they were able to get away from him, and very happy that the police apprehended him before anything worse happened.

This incident highlights one of my fears that comes with running.  I know that chances of anything really awful happening to me are slim, but obviously, things do happen.  I try to put myself in as safe of a situation as I can.  Over time I stopped feeling comfortable running by myself - even in my own, very safe neighborhood - so I changed it up to always have a buddy with me.  I don't run scared, but I think having a bit of a healthy fear about your situation is a good thing, if that makes sense.  My added bonus is having someone to share the experience and adventure of the run...you all know that I love my running buddies.

Another thing that I've done is to trust my instinct when I'm out running - or trust my running buddy's instinct.  For example, Jenny and I almost always run in the same park, and have done so for years.  We're very familiar and comfortable with it...except for when we're not.  There is one section where, although we are on a paved path, it's pretty dense with brush on either side, and a bit isolated.  We've run through that section countless times, but I'll never forget the time when, as we ran, Jenny quietly said "let's turn around" and we did, without discussion or hesitation.  Once we were back in the main park, she said she just had a gut feeling that we needed to not be there.  Fine by me - I truly believe that listening to your instincts probably saves you more than you realize.

I will be the first to admit that I'm a bit of a scaredy cat.  I don't like scary movies, or even suspenseful ones for that matter...my family has experienced my jumping/shrieking while watching movies more times than any of us would like.  So I'm fine with my level of (healthy) fear when I run.  It doesn't stop me from getting out there and doing what I want to do; rather, I'm just doing it in a way that feels comfortable for me.

I'm curious what your safety comfort level is with outdoor exercising, and I'd like to hear what you do to make yourself feel secure as you get your sweat on.  Please share in the comments...

48 comments:

  1. You are certainly right to be fearful. I often run by myself and there are parts on my path that are a little more secluded than others and that scares me. If I listen to music I have it turned down very low cus I have a fear of someone coming up behind me. When I do shorter runs I sometimes take my Labrador and although she makes me feel a bit safer, I can't really run comfortably while she is along!

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    1. It's the secluded areas that get me, too - we tend to run faster to get through them!

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  2. I too workout outside sometimes and by myself I might add in a park right behind my house. Heres what I do to feel safer I try not to keep a predicatable schedule, I wear a belly bag that has my cell phone in it along with my key chain which can be used as a weapon to make someone turn lose of you or gouge their eyes out! I usually carry a can of mace in their as well. Over the last 7 years I've only felt scared a couple of times and only pulled out my stuff once and when he saw it and that I was prepared to fight he turned away and left the park. Above all I think your right about your instincts listening to them don't take changes. Better to be safe than hurt. I am glad they got the creep in your town!

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    1. I forgot about the not-predictable schedule - you are quite right with that! As for carrying mace, I've thought about it, but a few years ago one of the runners in our club accidentally maced herself and I have a feeling that would be me as well.

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  3. oakland is SOOOO MUCH less safe than austin.
    quite frankly Ive done the wimpy thing and limited my activities

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    1. That's too bad - but accepting the reality of your area is very important.

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  4. I'm skittish about walking/biking in deserted areas by myself. These days I'm more concerned about dog attacks than human ones. :(

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    1. I've been lucky in that I haven't come across a dog that worried me - do you walk with a (big) stick?

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  5. That is scary Shelley, it would scare me if that happened in my town.

    Nothing like this ever has happened in my town and I'm not really scared when I go for a run but to be on the safe side: I always stay in the village with street lights when it's dark (i.e. during Winter).

    When I'm out walking in my village and on organized walks through forest I'm never scared. But I can be a bit scared on the walks I do on my own, it's more the unknown that scares me or that I get lost.

    The 1 thing I always bring on a run or a walk is my phone and use an app for tracking. Might something happen they can always follow my tracks through my phone. And if I do a walk on my own in an area I don't know, I leave a note on the table for R. where I will park my car and where I will start and finish.

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    1. Good idea about the phone tracking, and leaving a note. I've texted Jeff when I went out for a solo walk with my starting point, but that still made me uneasy. You always walk with your guard dog, right? That probably helps deter any weirdos from approaching you, I'll bet. :)

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  6. As you know I generally run alone quite early in the morning. The main thing I do is to NOT listen to music. I want and need to be quite aware of my surroundings so no iPod for me. Additionally, I try to stay in areas that are well traveled - the main strip where our Dunkin' Donuts, McDonalds, Subway, Burger King, etc. is located, is well lit and patrolled by police. There is a Cross Fit gym along there too. Otherwise I run in neighborhoods where at any given moment I could get help, although in neighborhoods there is much more of a chance of a loose dog coming after me.

    I agree that you have to trust your gut and there have been a few times where I couldn't shake discomfort and just went home and got on the treadmill. But I think overall, being aware of your surroundings is the best thing you can do for yourself.

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    1. I do worry about you running alone - glad you keep to more populated areas (and is it wrong that I giggled a bit at the Dunkin' Donuts/police connection?).

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  7. Wow, that is so very creepy about that guy, especially that he had killed his girlfriend and got off with parole…

    Well, I am a scaredy cat too. I don't think I've walked much in my adult life without a big dog by my side. That makes me feel very safe. I'll never forget one day walking up a hill, and Noah became VERY concerned. We turned around and went the other way.

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    1. Yeah, not to mention the killing of the other girl...that guy needs to never see freedom again.

      I'm glad you walk with the big dogs! And if Noah got concerned, Ida freaked out as well and zipped it back home.

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  8. I am glad that those ladies were able to get away. I do have a habit of hiking alone and to feel safe I use trekking poles (good to beat the crap out of an assailant) and I keep my cell phone close. I also do not listen to music when I hike. When I am out biking, I stick to well populated biking paths. I also look everyone I pass in the face. I just think if you look at someone straight on they become a little weary of bothering you compared to being shy and timid.

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    1. I like your weapon of choice - and you make an excellent point about looking at everyone in the face. Definitely shows an attitude that says "don't mess with me" - I either smile and wave, or look down...now I need to figure out when I'm doing that, and why - I should not be giving up any semblance of dominance, and I think that when I look down, I am. Hmmm. Something to ponder.

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  9. I think it's definitely good to be alert and aware of your surroundings, and there have certainly been incidents on the same paths that I run, but I don't run in fear - I just make sure that when I do run by myself, I'm smart about it. If I'm going for a short run during the day, I go by schools, parks (which are always full of kids and parents/nannies), and businesses that I know are open. My neighborhood is fairly safe, but still I'm never more than a block from a busy main street. If I take a longer run, I drive down to the lake and run on the path there, since it's always full of other runners. I do listen to music, but I keep it pretty low so I can hear what's going on around me.

    And like Fran, I use a tracking app if I'm going to be out for a while, and I'll send a link to Bob (and always let him know when/where I'm going and how long I should be gone). Even if he's at work, he can keep an eye on me.

    Another thing that I think has helped me feel comfortable running alone is that I've taken self-defense. I took a full semester in college, and have taken a few refreshers since then. God forbid I'd ever have to use those skills, but I'm glad that I know it.

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    1. I guess there's a big population difference with us, because unless it's a race, there's never a lot of runners out here. I'm extremely jealous of your lake path for running - it looks so nice!

      Taking a self-defense class is an excellent idea. We are looking into putting one together for the women of our running club, once we start up again.

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    2. Yeah, that's both a good and bad thing about living in a big city - there's ALWAYS other runners!

      I did take a self-defense class geared at women runners a couple months back, I learned so much from that. I hope you can set that up, I think it's info that every runner needs to know (I did share some tips with Bob, since he runs alone in the dark, which makes me a little nervous).

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  10. Aaand this is why I work out at home. Either on the treadmill or with dvds in the living room.

    Once in college, my roommate was unavailable for our evening walk so I decided to go alone and go on a different route (stupid stupid stupid). About halfway through, I got a weird feeling and turned off my music (NEVER listen to music when you are alone!!), turned around and noticed a car following me very slowly with two guys in it. Just then a police car turned the corner and came up behind the other car and stopped them. I didn't stick around to see what happened - to say I took off like a bat out of hell would be an understatement. I ran all the way back to my apartment, and once there I just couldn't shake the feeling that I had escaped what could have been a very bad situation. I don't think it was a coincidence that the police showed up when they did - I believe that a good Samaritan saw the car following me and called the cops.

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  11. When I walk (or when I used to run) it is pretty much either at the track or in the neighborhood, which is well populated and very safe. When I bike, I definitely go where it is more isolated and I am so watchful for my safety - not only from attackers, but wildlife (rabid foxes, etc). When I go out by myself - I let someone know my general route and about how long I will be gone.

    I took a self defense class years ago and the one thing that stuck out was that the instructor said that you don't ever want to have to use the moves he taught. He said your best defense is to scream and run - as fast and as loud as you can.

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    1. Screaming I can do - running fast? I would just hope adrenaline kicks in!

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  12. I run in the early morning, like Helen, but just around my neighborhood. I try to be very vigilant and not get in my own head too far that I don't take notice of what's happening around me. I've thought about mace and/or bear repellent, though I've only seen a bear once and was thankfully in my car at the time! Like you, I'm afraid I'd be more likely to dose myself :-(

    My weekend long run is on our local trail, and it is busy enough that I never feel that I'm out there alone - lots of families and folks with dogs. That's where I do my long solo bike rides as well, so I feel pretty safe, though always vigilant.

    I should look into that tracking app for the phone. I do make it a point to always be sure Princess or DH know exactly which route I'll be taking, but if something should happen and I'm not where I'm supposed to be, I'd feel better knowing they could find me.

    Scary topic, but it is good to think about what kind of precautions we have in place. Thanks for this, Shelley!

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    1. I run in my neighborhood - what? Doesn't everybody have bear encounters on their street? LOL I am east of Seattle, just about in the Cascade foothills, so we have lots of deer (who I unsuccessfully keep trying to sell on the idea of dandelions as delicacy), the occasional bear and some bonus cougar sightings. Pets are definitely best kept indoors where I live :-(

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  13. I run with my German shepherd and my cell phone. My son wanted me to get some mace but I would probably shoot myself in the eye :)
    I'm the same way with scary movies. I don't watch them, I'm paranoid enough already.

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    1. I'd say you're pretty good with the German shepherd...doubtful anyone would want to approach you with that sized dog nearby.

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  14. Oh man. I am so happy they found that dude! WTF!!!

    It's interesting you post this today cause I just read a post from a local-ish blogger who said she doesn't feel safe on a trail system, yet I totally do. I like to run with someone, if it's dark out, but I am often alone. I always bring my phone and rarely listen to music. If something seems wrong I will turn around as your friend recommended you do... but mostly, I am a bit too adventuresome.

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    1. Oh, and as other mentioned, when I run solo I sent a tracking app link to my husband or a friend. :)

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    2. Several of you have mentioned the tracking app - any specific one?

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  15. I actually haven't really given it a thought if something could happen to me, but that's my personality - I wonder if I should walk with pepper spray since I am always by myself. Scary shit!

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    1. It wouldn't hurt - but don't spray yourself!

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  16. I just got a bia sport watch just because it has an SOS alert that will immediately send a message to authorities as well as loved ones with your gps. It may not be perfect but it is something and it makes me feel better. http://bia-sport.com/

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    1. Interesting - I've never heard of this watch. Thanks for the info!

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  17. I'm the same as you - I have a healthy fear and I like to keep myself in safe situations.

    Intuition has saved many folks - I listen to mine.

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  18. Wait - I just read the links you posted....this guy was on probation for negligent homicide? His ass needed to be in jail.

    AND - I used to live on Coachlight - only one street over from Vienna!

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    1. Brings it home when you know the area, right? I agree with you about where he belongs.

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  19. That is scary! I run and walk at lot when it is dark…either early morning before work or late at night after kids are settled in. I live in what I think is a super safe area, but things can happen anywhere. I always have my phone, vary my route almost daily, and always tell my husband about when I should be back. Also, while I love running with my music I try to keep it one headphone so I can hear and be aware of what is going on around me!

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    1. That's exactly it - things CAN happen anywhere. Good that you are aware of your surroundings. I'm a vampire runner, too.

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  20. We have had more than a handful of attacks on female runners within the last year. I recently bought mace & whenever I run or bike by myself I carry it on me. Luckily I co-lead an all ladies running club in my area & we always have a few weekly group runs. It makes me sad & angry that you can't even go outside nowadays without feeling vulnerable.

    BTW- long time reader & first time commenting. Love you blog :)

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Suzanne! Very cool that you lead a running club and I love that you do group runs, but yeah, I totally get the frustration of feeling so vulnerable.

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  21. Instinct is an amazing thing, and can absolutely be trusted. Stay safe Shelley!!!!!!

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  22. Currently I am only walking/jogging up and down my own street - all these tips are great and I will think on them before I eventually go out of my comfort zone to run

    Keep safe and do what ever feels right to you for your own safety -

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  23. I watch way too much Criminal Minds episodes to be comfortable walking on the path by myself. I don't mind walking the neighbourhood on my own, but the path scares me on my own, even when busy.

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    1. LOL, I cannot watch those types of TV shows - my creaky house starts to scare me!

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  24. Great post! I usually walk during daytime on a fairly busy walking path in a well-populated area, but I always bring my cell phone just in case (mostly in case I have an asthma attack), and I never listen to music when walking outside. When I occasionally walk at night, I always bring either my husband or my very protective dog, who routinely snarls at anyone who even looks at me wrong.

    I think trusting your instinct is very important as well. It has saved me from potential run-ins with questionable characters at least three times in my life. Once, years ago, it was at night on a deserted sidewalk on the way back to my college dorm, and I noticed that I was being followed. I suddenly went from a casual walk into an all-out sprint (back when I could actually still do that). He started running after me, but I got back to my dorm and behind my locked door before he could catch up.

    The second time was after work one night when I was parked in my usual spot in a now-deserted and dark parking lot. There was an unfamiliar car near mine and a man standing next to my car, looking in my direction like he was waiting for me. I ducked into the coffee shop next door where several nice young men worked, and asked one of them to walk me to my car. As soon as we stepped out and started in the direction of my car, the strange man went back over to his own car and drove away. I never parked in that lot again and switched to a highly visible and well-lit spot instead.

    The third time was in Vegas. My husband and I were there on vacation, walking everywhere, and we took a shortcut through some back streets. We noticed a couple of guys loitering on the sidewalk about half a block ahead of us, and they seemed to suddenly perk up and start watching us as we walked in their direction. They reminded me of cats getting ready to pounce. Tim and I looked at each other, and immediately turned around and started walking briskly in the opposite direction. Fortunately they didn't seem inclined to follow, but we were ready to run if necessary.

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