It’s a new age for runners. Am I the only one who thinks running has become more dangerous over the past few years? Not only do we hear about countless runner injuries and deaths due to roadside pedestrian v. vehicle accidents, it seems like runners are now more vulnerable to being victims of violent criminal acts. Maybe it’s partly been due to the focus of media coverage and the stats haven’t changed (I don’t know), but I feel like I can’t go more than a few weeks without learning of a new running-related tragedy.
I have been on especially high alert following two recent local crimes against runners – a murder and a sexual assault. These unthinkable crimes occurred on the same roads and paths where my friends and I run and play with our children regularly. Both victims were females running alone on our popular bike path, the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. The path is busy with bikers, runners, and walkers of all ages.
Last November, a fellow mom and runner was found stabbed to death on a road along the bike path right next to our neighborhood playground during the evening hours. The murder investigation is ongoing and the violent criminal is still at large. Only months later, on a different area of the same bike trail, a woman was dragged from the path into the woods and sexually assaulted while running at noon. Police have identified and arrested a suspect in that case.
This has been a frightening wake-up call for me and our local running community. I’m afraid I’ve been overly trusting of people in the past and mistakenly thought the bike path and back roads in my rural New England town are safe to run alone. While I won’t let anything keep me from running my miles, I am being smarter about my choices. Regardless of what we may have thought, we are not safe in our own neighborhoods. It is not 100% safe to run alone…period.
There are things you can do to reduce the risk of being injured or targeted for a crime while running. I’ve made some changes to my race training this year to try to keep myself safe, and I encourage you to consider adapting your habits if you haven’t already.
Buddy up. I will no longer run at night by myself. Previously, I thought running alone with reflective gear in a well-lit part of my town was safe, but I now know that this is not the case. Always bring a running buddy….or 2 (the more the merrier) when running after dark. I also will not run on the bike path or any secluded area by myself anymore even in the daylight. If you don’t have many friends who run, join a running club or just ask people you meet if they run. I found my newest running buddy at my daughter’s softball practice!
Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. I used to set out for a run without a real plan and may or may not have told my husband where I was going or when I would be back, but now I always make sure somebody knows my intended running route and when I plan to return.
Carry your phone. There was a time when I would leave my phone at home if I wasn’t tracking my pace or listening to music. Now, I do not run without a phone.
Keep headphones on low volume or skip music altogether. If I wear my headphones, I keep the volume very low. I used to enjoy loud music to help keep motivation and energy up but it is so much safer to be aware of your surroundings while running.
Keep on running but stay safe!
Originally published August 4, 2015
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