The school isn’t in the greatest area, but I’ve never thought of it being in a particularly dangerous location either. While running down one street, I happened to pass what looked like two guys fighting. Something seemed off about it, more off than a typical argument or fist fight – both of them were on the ground by the sidewalk and immediately paused and looked at me. Something about their glance shook me up a bit, but I didn’t think much of it – I told myself it was daytime and I was being overly paranoid.
That is until I ran the loop again, got to that same street, and turned the corner to see several police in bullet proof vests with guns, the individuals from earlier being pat down and put in cop cars, and police searching cars and the house across the street. An ambulance took someone away, and another person was escorted out of the house with the police.
All this made me think about the importance of safety while exercising, particularly if you’re by yourself, if you’re in a somewhat dangerous area, or if you’re in unfamiliar surroundings. I was lucky that the police ended up intervening in this situation, but what if they hadn’t and I continued to run around this same loop, being tossed in the middle of whatever this crazy situation was?! So, here are some tips on staying safe while exercising:
Keep your headphones off or on low. I have a bad habit of blasting my music when I’m running to keep me motivated. This is fine on the treadmill or when I’m running loops at the track with lots of familiar faces. But when running in an unfamiliar area, running on mostly deserted roads or trails, running in the evenings, or running along roads with lots of intersections and car traffic – turn the music off or at least down low enough that you can hear people approaching you or cars coming.
Invest in a Road ID. I got this for Valentine’s Day and am so grateful my fiancé thought to get me one. Road IDs have essential emergency info and come in bracelet or anklet form, or they have ones that can attach to your shoe. When most of us are running, we probably aren’t carrying our identification or phones. If something were to ever happen while running, whether you pass out, experience an injury, or get caught up in an unsafe situation – it’ll be important for EMS professionals to know essential information if we’re unable to communicate. My Road ID includes my name, emergency contact numbers, a note that I have a heart arrhythmia, my medication allergies – and of course, a slogan at the bottom courtesy of my fiancé: “No whining!” (haha!) (*I have no affiliation with Road ID – I just think it’s a great product!)
Be visible. If you’re running at night, be sure to wear bright clothes with some reflective gear. This will help cars see you, especially if you’re running on roads without sidewalks (and on that note, avoid running on roads without sidewalks at night!).
Let someone know you’re going. If you’re going out for a long run or going in an unfamiliar area, let someone know where you’re going and about how long you’ll be running for. When visiting a friend in New York a few years ago, I planned out a route to go for a 7 or 8 mile run. I didn’t let my friends know how long I’d be gone for. Unfortunately, one of the roads I was supposed to turn on didn’t have a road sign so I missed it – and ended up in the next town over, asking for directions to the only road that I knew led back to their house. I finally made my way back, but I think I ended up with an 11 or 12 miler!
Run with a buddy. If you’re in a potentially dangerous or unfamiliar area, running with a buddy can provide some comfort. There’s safety in numbers.
Last but not least - be aware of your surroundings. Sometimes, we may shove off uncomfortable feelings because we think we’re being oversensitive. Intuition can tell us a lot though. If you feel uncomfortable somewhere, find somewhere else to exercise. Or at the very least, stay close to wherever you are ending your run (maybe it's your car, maybe it's your place of work, etc) so that if you need to cut your run short, you're quite close to your end point. Trust your gut!