Safety & Running
A safety expert of the Austrian police gives us tips on how to be safe when running.
It is not always possible to run during daylight hours, especially in winter when we need to run out into the dark. In general running is very safe for women and there are only few cases of assault, even if this is often portrayed differently by the media. Most assaults happen within the family or by friends and it is rarely strangers who are waiting in the streets for women. Still, we must put safety first! Women can influence their safety in many ways and we have gathered some tips for you. A security expert from the Austrian police spoke at our 261 Coaches refresher in Austria and here are some important points from what he had to say:
- Preparation is key: Prepare various running routes and choose a different route and a different time every time you run. This way, nobody can recognise a pattern when and where you run and wait for you in a dark corner.
- Inform your family and friends: You should inform someone you trust about where and when you are going to run. Your family then knows when you’ll be back home, and you don’t have to worry while you run.
- Take a phone with you: Save the police emergency number in your phone, so that you can call for help for yourself or for others. The police are there to help you, therefore don’t hesitate to call them!
- Be attentive: Don’t listen to music or talk on the phone while you are running. Only if you can perceive your surroundings can you recognize a possible danger and react accordingly. Especially at dawn or in complete darkness it is important to perceive your environment with all your senses - also to prevent falls and accidents on the road.
- Run with a buddy: It is always safer to run with another person or in a group. A great reason to join your local 261 Club!
- Light & safety: Run along well-lit routes, use a headlight and wear reflective clothing in order to be visible. This is important on roads to prevent accidents, but also in the woods to prevent falls.
- Use a pocket alarm: In case of an assault you can use a pocket alarm to draw attention to what is happening. The alarm easily fits into your pocket and can be triggered within seconds. The loud sound will deter the aggressor and draw other people’s attention to you. These pocket alarms are cheap and available in chemists and online.
- Self-defense: Unless you practice self-defense on a regular and ongoing basis, you will not be able to defend yourself in case of emergency and it will be useless. A kick between the legs will always be painful, though!
- Running with a dog: If you cannot motivate friends to come with you, you can always take your own or your friend’s dog with you. A dog deters aggressors and is sensitive to danger.
- Social media: Don't post when, where and how far you run on social media. There is nothing easier than waiting along your preferred route next time you run. Not everybody needs to know where you run!
- Don’t start conversations: Don’t allow strangers to start conversations with you along the way, just continue running and ignore them. If it still happens, try to keep distance and gesture wildly with your hands to prevent the person from grabbing you. If a car stops next to you, try to keep distance and continue running.
- Pepper spray: The use of pepper spray is not easy, you can hurt yourself with it. The pepper spray must be shaken every day in order to work properly and you must know how to apply it correctly without thinking or hesitating in order to use it safely in case of emergency. Additionally, you have to think of factors such as wind direction, otherwise the pepper will be blown into your own face.
- Self-confidence: Stand in an upright position and speak in a confident tone - that is dissuasive. If you are assaulted, scream as loud as you can to deter the aggressor and to call for help. It is advisable to shout “fire” instead of “help”, so that people come to you.
- Listen to your gut feeling: It is crucial to listen to your gut feeling. If you feel uncomfortable or think somebody is following you, call help, act as if you spoke on the phone and return back home. Most importantly: Call the police! The police can help you, even if nothing has happened yet. If you suspect something to happen, then this is already a reason to call the police - they are there to help you!
- Run away: If you are in dangerous situation, ignore the person and try to escape. It is advisable to run in the opposite direction as fast as you can and scream loudly.
- Assault on a different person: If you see that another person is being attacked, call for help! Keep distance, if possible, in order to avoid being hurt yourself. Throw stones at the aggressor but keep distance. If you can’t avoid it, then beat the aggressor with a stick. Don’t be the heroine!
- Running on the road: No matter if you run alone or in a group - sometimes it is inevitable that you will have to run on the road. In this case, please stay on side of the street where you can see cars approaching you.
- Aggressive dogs: It often happens that runners are not attacked by people, but by dogs. How do you react correctly in this situation?
- Look in the other direction and ignore the dog. Don’t look into its eyes, that is provocative for dogs.
- Stop running, stand still or walk slowly.
- Ignore the dog, even it comes close to you or sniffs you.
- Dogs can smell fear; therefore, you should try to breathe deeply and calm yourself.
Do you have any more tips? We'd love to hear from you - leave a comment below.