Running safely

Running safely 
Dave Saunders

Violence is an unfortunate reality of our world–even in our relatively peaceful community. Recently, there have been several incidents that have pointed to the need for local runners to have a little more information about how to deal with potential violence while out training. The following is some information to help you avoid dangerous situations and help you handle such situations if you cannot avoid them. This information is not just for women. After being a cop for the last 18 years, I can tell you that anyone can become a victim of violence–regardless of your gender, age, race, sexual orientation, or strength.

Planning your training runs:
  Plan your route ahead of time–particularly trail runs.
  If you’re going to do a trail run, it’s always a good idea to run with someone else. If you choose not to, at least stick to well-traveled trails and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be home.
  If you train on a regular route, try to loop the route through neighborhoods where you have friends or family or at least know which stores and businesses are open, especially at night.
  It’s also a good idea to alter your route from time to time so that your actions are not predictable.
  At night stick to well-lit streets
  Carry enough change for a telephone call.
  Carrying a $20 bill and a whistle are also good ideas.

Some techniques to use when training on the roads:
  Be alert to your surroundings and to the people around you. If you think something is not right, chances are you’re correct, and the sharper your intuition, the sooner you can act and avoid harm.
  Make eye contact with others.
  Run facing traffic.
  Run around groups of people, not through them.
  If you are followed by someone, cross the street or get to a place where there are other people. If the person following you is in a car, turn around and run in the opposite direction. Try to get a good description of the person following you (height, weight, age, hair color, marks, scars, tattoos, vehicle description). If they continue to follow you, run toward other people, or go to a house that appears to be occupied (e.g., cars in the driveway, lights on at night). Your goal is to find safety and call for help. In such situations, you are often better off finding safety and calling for help than running straight home.

If you are confronted by a potential attacker when training, the following are some suggestions:
  Never turn your back on a potential attacker, even if he is only talking to you.
  If you feel you about to be attacked, respond immediately, loudly, and assertively. If you demonstrate immediately that you will not be an easy victim, chances are the attacker will give up.

If you are attacked, you must decide whether to fight or comply with the demands of the attacker. Both are valid options; in either case, law enforcement studies show that knowing how you are going to react to a given situation ahead of time dramatically increases your chance of success. If you decide to fight, here are some considerations:

  Women are very capable of defending themselves.
  A little self-defense training goes a long way.
  Most self-defense techniques do not depend on physical strength.
  Kicking can be a good strategy.
  Adrenaline can give you extra physical strength.
  The goal is not to overpower your attacker but to escape and survive.
  When in a fight, use your intuition and never give up. Your will to survive will often carry you through.

For those interested in taking a self-defense class, the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center offers them regularly (for women). There are many other options in town as well.

— 28 October 2004

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