For many of us with jobs, kids, and daytime responsibilities (um, isn’t that just about everyone?), running in the evenings or early in the mornings is our only option. So, if we must run at 5AM what safety measures can we take?
Awareness is the most important way to stay safe.
Being aware of your surroundings allows you to see danger before it is upon you, whether that danger be a car running a stop sign, an aggressive dog off his leash, or someone following you. Awareness means you are relaxed but alert to anything unusual. Your head is up, and your eyes are calmly scanning the area around you. You’re listening to noises and can pick up on any abnormal sounds, like footsteps too close to you.
It’s always a good idea to let someone know where you plan to run.
Develop a check-in protocol with a close friend or relative whenever you go running. Let your friend know where you are going and how long you will be gone. Then, set up a plan if your friend doesn’t hear from you or can’t reach you. Should they start looking for you? Call the police?
Just as importantly, think now about how you might respond to a safety threat. I tell my self-defense students: “The body can’t go where the mind has never been.” By practicing, even just in your head, your response time and actions will improve. Being mentally prepared allows you to respond with fight or flight, not freeze.
Try to deter the situation using noise.
Wear a loud audible alarm that can make the noise for you. Attacks can be lightning fast, so make sure your personal alarm is accessible, that it immediately triggers the alarm without the need to pull out a pin, or hold down a button for a series of seconds, and can connect with your smartphone to send alerts to loved ones of your location.
When something does happen, or you just get the feeling it might, get out of there.
Sounds obvious, but it isn’t always that easy—and not just because there can be something physical stopping you. Running away from a situation you’re not comfortable with can feel rude or offensive, which is something many people are conditioned to avoid. Think now about what might make you run away and then do it if a situation makes you feel unsafe.
However, what if you encounter someone intent on harming you. How do you respond to this?
Fighting should always be a last resort, but it might be necessary.
In studying attacks on women, we’ve learned that those who fight back aggressively and loudly are more likely to get away safely.
Try training in martial arts or fighting: Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, kickboxing, etc. All of these are great at teaching you how to attack and defend. Plus, they are all good workouts that improve cardiovascular endurance, mobility, flexibility, hand-eye coordination, and balance. However, since a fighting sport isn’t the same as a real fight, take a self-defense class to develop some real-life skills and practice.
If you take the time to train in self-defense—even if it is only a course or two—you better prepare your body and mind for the real thing. This will increase your chances of getting away safely.
Julie Morrill is the owner of Roar Training, a personal safety and emergency preparedness consulting company. Julie Morrill lives in Virginia but travels the world to assist clients in emergency preparedness and personal safety. She conducts safety workshops for women and girls around the world. Her teaching is based in Krav Maga, an Israeli form of hand-to-hand combat and self-defense in which she has been training since 2004 and teaching since 2010. She applies her worldwide travels and professional experience to her teaching of self-defense and trains her students in real-world scenarios.