For women, running alone has its risks, but that’s not news to those who do it.
A recent Runner’s World survey reported that 43% of women said they experience harassment at least sometimes during a run, and the number increases to 58% for women under 30 — compared with 4% of all men. And the fatal attack on Mollie Tibbetts — an Iowa woman out on her daily run — was an extreme, headline-making example of the danger women can face while out running on their own.
Bethany Mavis, managing editor for San Diego-based Women’s Running magazine, said women shouldn’t cower in fear of going for a solo run, which can be a great mental health strategy. “Women runners don’t want that taken away from them. A lot of women need that freedom and the clarity that comes from running outside alone.”
Her advice? “You can be careful,” Mavis said, “without being fearful, and you can take certain precautions.”
She encourages everyone — not just runners, not just women — to follow some common-sense safety rules. Here are a few of those rules from Mavis, and from the Road Runners Club of America:
1. Save the headphones for the gym, or in similarly well-populated situations. Headphones can be a distraction, and make us less aware of our surroundings. But if you can’t resist, there are many new headphones on the market that are not worn inside the ear.
2. If you’re running solo, consider choosing a busier route where help is more readily available, over a more isolated scenic one.
3. Let someone know where you’re going, and when you will be back.
4. Consider wearing a device or using an app that can keep track of your whereabouts, and granting someone else the ability to access the information. Mavis likes a GPS-enabled Garmin watch with a live tracking feature. There are many free simple apps, such as Life360, that can let someone keep track of your progress on a solo run.
5. Consider carrying a whistle or alarm, or pepper spray — and learn how to safely use it.
6. The buddy system never hurts. While running solo can be a joy, consider partnering up with a friend or a dog for safety.
7. Carry a fully charged cellphone in case you need to call for help.
8. Run clear of parked cars and bushes.
9. Trust your intuition. Don’t worry about embarrassing yourself, or being polite.
Learning to protect yourself
Self-defense training teaches students how to detect potential problems in their surroundings, and how to stay calm and deflect and respond to a variety of attack scenarios. While many places charge for their services, you may find that some employers, universities, police departments, city council offices and other organizations offer free self-defense workshops in your community — scout around online too.
Here are just a few of the many places to seek empowerment in Southern California:
Shield Women’s Self-Defense
Teaches women how to fight back against a much stronger opponent. Classes held in Culver City, starting at $325. shieldselfdefense.com
Coaches women through a variety of scenarios, helping them to “turn fear into power.” Workshops held at venues throughout Southern California. Classes start at $475. modelmugging.org
Teaching women the confidence they need to be “strategically smarter” than an attacker. Classes held in Santa Monica. Four-hour workshops starting at $70, bring a friend for an additional $35. ConsciousDefense.com
Peace over Violence
Hosts a variety of self-defense workshops in Pasadena and DTLA. Empowerment Self-Defense training suggested donation, $50. (Payment is flexible, no one will be turned away, organizers say.) peaceoverviolence.org