I was a long distance runner for several years and thankfully, was always able to keep safe during my runs. I am appalled at the spate of murders which have left three joggers dead in the last fortnight. Here are some simple and practical safety tips for walkers, runners and joggers which we all know but perhaps get complacent about following until a crime takes place.
- Know the landscape. Vanessa Marcotte, 27, was visiting her mother in Princeton from New York. She went for a run about 1 pm and was found sexually assaulted and dead half a mile from her mother’s home at 8.30 pm. Avoid running outdoors in unfamiliar places.
- If on holiday, take it indoors or chill out. We all want to ensure our health and fitness do not suffer during a holiday. Runners especially find it hard to miss a run if they are training for an event. Learn to direct your body towards other activities, like a swim in the neighborhood pool or kick a ball in the backyard.
- Cross-train. Runners are prone to injuries due to over-training. Tight hamstrings, Achilles tendon injuries, shin splints, are all indicators of overuse. Vary your routine, cross train at a gym or at home, so a criminal cannot track your timetable and plan an attack.
- Ditch the music. Runners and walkers often have headphones to listen to music or catch up on the news. This is a dangerous habit as you can literally “tune out” and miss vital sounds like someone coming up from behind you. Be aware of your surroundings. Notice people, trees, bushes, wildlife, anything that keeps you focused and mindful.
- Invest in a treadmill. At one point in my life, I was juggling full-time work, postgraduate study and was training to run a marathon. On some days, the only time I had for my run was a hair-raising 10 or 11 at night. The deserted winter nights were the worst- they looked just right for a potential killer or rapist. For such times having a treadmill on stand-by is great. A foldable (and very affordable) treadmill might not give you the benefits of a hill run or the relaxation of an outdoor workout but will keep you safe.
- Safety in numbers. Runners and walkers are often creatures of habit. If you are out at the same time every day and see many familiar faces, approach them to form a walking or running club. This is great for safety and motivation.
- Be prepared. Always have a pepper spray can or a whistle where you can reach it quickly. If you suspect you are being followed, head towards a public area and as a rule, keep away from isolated tracks. Don’t be afraid to shout for help even if you are approached by a stranger. Don’t wait to be attacked!
- Use your legs. Runners and walkers have the strongest legs. If you are attacked, use your legs and knees to kick hard at any part of the assailant’s body, aiming especially for the face, groin or abdomen. Criminals do not expect to be fought back, so use the element of surprise to get away. Take a self-defense class to pick up some life-saving moves.
- Always remember, safety comes first. Think what a criminal would do so you can counter such a situation to prevent yourself from becoming the victim of crime.