A local girl was recently attacked in a neighbourhood near to where I live. It was around 10pm at night & she was walking home alone. She was jumped by a group of boys and attacked. Something like this got me thinking about what it will be like for runners, dog walkers, cyclists and pedestrians out there as winter comes along.
With the nights drawing in and the clocks stepping back an hour (British GMT), I know this will affect mine and most other runner’s training plans. I don’t know about anyone else, but the thought of running alone at night is quite a scary concept.
So, how many of us will be making sure our personal safety is paramount this winter? Through some research and speaking to some local charities, I’ve put together some top safety tips for making sure you and I are as safe as we can be in the next few months.
1. Tell someone where you’re going
I don’t know how many times I’ve flitted off to places and not told anyone where I was going and consequently been given an earache about being murdered, keeping safe and all that. If you’re heading off on a run alone, make sure to let a friend, family member, housemate or colleague know where you’ll be and what time you’re likely to get back. For example, if I’m aiming to run 6miles, I know it will take me about an hour to do a circuit and get home. Any longer than that and my housemate, boyfriend or Mother will be on the phone…
2. Wear reflective gear
In my slight running clothes obsessed manner, I spotted this fabulous neon pink garment this weekend and purchased wisely. If you’re looking for something not-too-pricey but good quality, this will work a treat. Available in 3 colours it was £17.99 from Sports Direct. I was concerned no one would see me in this if I was out running… My other half kindly pointed out ‘Who’s going to miss you in that?!’ … He’s got a point.
3. Take a mobile/personal alarm
Mobile phones are getting bulkier by the decade but they’re really handy to keep on you when you’re out and about exercising. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have yours on your arm and using it as an iPod too. When I’m doing long distances, I’m glad I have my phone on me in case I get into any trouble… Like needing a wee en route or being chased by a loon.
4. Have ID on you
These days we have to carry around our ID with us to prove who we are, who we’re not and if we’re old enough to drink alcohol (I’m nearly 27 & I still get asked the question). This is also useful when you’re running & god forbid anything should happen, you’ll be known.
5. Ditch the music
If you’re anything like me, I love to run to music. The beat inspires me to run faster, keep motivated and attempt to sing on my route around. However, if you’re running alone or at night, it’s always better to keep you eyes and ears open. We’re more vulnerable in the dark so our hearing is heightened and we become more aware of our surroundings. If ditching the tunes keep you safe, it’s a good trade in to make.
6. Run with friends or join a local running club
Although running on your own can be quite a therapeutic experience and lets you chill in your own head, running with a local club (safety in numbers), a friend, colleague or partner is safer. Plus, it’s a nice sociable thing to do! Joining a running club can be pretty scary, especially when you think you’ll be joining an array of local Olympic athletes. Turns out, it’s not actually that terrifying especially when everyone is supportive and sociable and happy for you to be there. So why not give it a go?
7. Mix up your running routes
With apps such as Strava, Map My Run and Nike + around, there are plenty of options that can help you to choose a route and record it accurately. Avoid posting to social media on a regular basis, especially if you’re doing your runs at night. You don’t want to be spotted getting into a routine and taking the same routes all the time on your own. If you’re with a group or friend, it’s a bit different. My Run Finder is a good place to start route planning and seeing what new places you could explore.
8. Run in well-lit areas
Common sense really. Avoid dark lanes, roads or off-road paths. These are stereotypically places that scare the living daylights out of me so I avoid at all costs. Running in well lit areas should not only keep you safe, but there’s also less chance of injury or getting lost.
9. Face oncoming traffic
By doing this, you can see what’s coming before they see you. You’ll be able to move efficiently and quickly and work out a better route if you run out of pavement or something is stopping you getting to where you want to be. You’ll also be more aware of curb crawling cars and make it more difficult for them to stop you.
10. Watch out for bikes and other runners
You’re all out there for the same common purpose. To continue your exercise regime safely. Make sure to remain courteous to other folk out there minding their own business and keep an extra eye out for cyclists or runners who are not wearing reflective clothing, listening to music and being un-courteous.
If you do ever find yourself in a situation and you need help, call the police. They will be able to help you.
A charity that works in close partnership with the police is Victim Support. They are a UK based charity who specialise in helping those who have been victims of crime or criminal intent. For more information, please visit https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/
Do you have any more useful tips for staying safe? Get in touch!