Tips to stay safe when running outdoors

men running down graffiti alley
Source: Kyle Kranz Unsplash

Despite the fact it’s (kind of) summer, you must always keep your personal safety in mind when running outdoors. It’s not just you and the treadmill anymore, you’re running in the big wide world and you never know what kind of horrible humans are out to harm you.

This may sound a little dark for a blog, but I haven’t come across any articles that discuss the importance of safe running but it’s something that massively affects runners, especially us females, so it’s a topic I want to discuss*. 

Two months ago a young woman was attacked while running around Fog Lane Park in Manchester, the attacker knocked her to the ground, banged her head against a tree and tried to strangle her with her own headphones. What makes this attack even more disgusting is that she was running at 3pm on a sunny Saturday afternoon!

As runners it’s easy to focus completely on the run, you pay attention to your breathing, your form, keeping your head up and pacing yourself; but you need to be aware of the dangers around you as well.

It’s frustrating that runners have to change THEIR behaviour, rather than the sick people who actually do the attacking. I wish I could write a post for those wrong-uns on how to be a normal human (FYI the main point would be DO NOT ATTACK OR ASSAULT ANYONE) but unfortunately that’s not the world we live in.

So instead here’s a load of rules for runners to follow to make sure horrible events like this don’t happen. Can I also just stress that I don’t want to be patronising and bad stuff may still happen when you’re running however safe you are being.

Don’t wear skimpy running clothes

HAHAAA just kidding guys, that was a joke. Wear whatever you like. If a messed up person wants to attack you then they will attack you regardless of your appearance. Nobody deserves to be attacked or harmed but it randomly happens. Maybe don’t wear an Ipad on a necklace though.

Back to the real list…

Run with other people

Running in a group reduces your chances of getting attacked because no one wants to take on a gang, plus it is useful if you become injured. If you can’t find a running buddy then aim to run in a busy public area where there are lots of people around.

Don’t run late at night

Telling people they shouldn’t run at night is a bit silly, as most of us go running after work which is obviously at night. If you do decide to pound the pavement in the dark, try and go as early as possible and stick to well-lit areas where there are people around.

Know your route

Ever strayed from the map and found yourself in an unfamiliar alley? This can be dangerous especially if you are on your own. A tired runner who doesn’t know the area very well is a prime target for someone looking to mug you so always stick to a pre approved route and tell someone where you’re going and what time you’ll be back.

Turn your music down

Road safety is very important as a runner. There have been so many times that  I’ve been in the zone and headed straight first into a road, bumped into someone on the pavement or haven’t heard a car coming behind me.

An obvious way to avoid this is to pay more attention and keep your eyes peeled for incoming traffic, but also to turn your music down. It feels amazing to have loud music in your ears, but it affects your reactions and if you can’t hear properly it’s just not safe.

Keep your valuables hidden

Before I had an armband/mini bumbag, I used to carry my phone in my hand while I was running so I could listen to music. How easy would it be for someone to just grab it out of my sweaty hand if I stopped? Or trip me up while running and take it?

The answer is very easy, so don’t be as foolish as me by keeping it secure/hidden in an armband or pouch. If you have an expensive fitness wearable/tracker, there is no reason why you can’t wear it, but try and conceal it so it doesn’t draw too much attention from the wrong people.

Wear hi-vis

There’s a reason why hi-vis is a thing; it lets everyone see you from a distance! Even if you’re running in daylight, it’s good to be in a bright colour so drivers and other pedestrians can see you. Plus you can dress like a skittle!

Source: Martins Zemlickis Unsplash
Source: Martins Zemlickis Unsplash

Don’t get too tired

Running releases adrenaline, which puts your body in fight or flight mode, and who would attack someone in FIGHT mode? Newsflash: loads of people!!

By the time you’re getting to the end of your long run you could barely bat off a fly, let alone take on an angry mugger. Much like a lion and a sickly wildebeest, if you look noticeably tired people might be more inclined to get you because you won’t be able to give a good fight back.

Take money

You don’t want to be stuck without money if you need to get home quickly. I always take my card out with me as it’s lighter than carrying change, but you could always take a few pounds in your arm band/pouch. Or take your phone, there’s always uber if you’re stuck in a pickle!

Don’t take short cuts

You’re on a run so you shouldn’t be taking short cuts anyway, but stay away from that alley or car park! It may slice 5 minutes off your route, but it could also slice 5 fingers off your hand!

Stay away from water

Manchester has loads of canals which are lovely to run alongside in the summer time. However, that screams danger all over! You might think you have great control, but all it takes is one rouge pebble and you’re sleeping with the fishes.

Run with a group of people who know the canal route and only go when it’s dry and sunny to avoid slipping. You can still run through puddles, puddles are fine.

Learn basic self defensive

This may sound extreme, but learning how to defend yourself is a sensible option because you never know what could happen. You could also carry pepper spray, a whistle or a rape alarm.

So there you have it, my crucial crew of outdoor running safety tips. Hopefully this post wasn’t too morbid, I just want everyone to be safe and enjoy the pleasure that is running outdoors. Just think of me as your nagging mother who wants you to wear your bicycle helmet in the car.

Please let me know if I’ve missed any in the comments or hit me up on twitter @hannahgetshench

*In the last few months this seems to have turned into a running blog, which is fine but hey that’s not going to make me hench, so I promise this will be my last running-themed post for a while.