Girls Run Wild

Running 101: Safety First

Posted on: May 18, 2011

I love sticking my ear buds in, tuning out, and going for long runs outside through city streets and city parks.  If I’m running at night I take precaution to make myself as visible as possible to cars – and anything else that could hit me – and I avoid areas where I know I could be putting myself into more danger than I should.  However, every now and again I’m reminded that running alone, especially as a female, is not always safe.

Last week this report appeared in the local news describing incidents of a man pulling down the pants of lone female joggers in Livermore, CA.  Last month, a woman running on her own near Crocker Amazon was sexually assaulted in the middle of a Friday afternoon.  And then there’s always the case of Chandra Levy, whose killer was convicted in February, 10 years after she was killed.

I know, I’ve totally freaked you out about running outside.  The point of bringing attention to these stories is not to turn you off but to keep you aware of the dangers that are possible, especially if you are not paying attention.  For female runners on their own it is especially important to make sure that you are alert and attentive to your surroundings and that you make good decisions on where to run so as to not heighten your risk level.  Although one can never prevent issues from arising 100%, one can take precautions so they are best avoided.  I know a lot of these suggestions are no brainers, but as I run around this city more and more I see some pretty dumb decisions being made (by other runners).

1. Be VISIBLE.  This is always important, but it is especially important at night.  If you are running in an area where cars and bicycles could possibly pass your path, you should not dress in dark colors.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  I was once driving through Golden Gate Park after dark, stopped at a stop sign, looked both ways, started to accelerate, when all of a sudden a runner zipped by in a black hooded sweatshirt and flipped me off.  In my opinion she was pretty stupid doing what she did.  If I’m running at night, I always sport a reflective vest.  2. Run in well-lit and populated areas.  Again, especially if you are running at night, it is important to stick to areas that are well-lit and where you’re surrounded by other people (either in their homes or on the street).  With that said, the trails within Golden Gate Park and the Presidio are not exactly your safest routes once the sun goes down.  If something should happen to you (for example, you come down the wrong way on your ankle and completely twist it), it’s much easier to call for help if people are around to hear you.  If you’re new to running outside, choose routes that are heavily populated with runners.  The Marina Green, Embarcadero, and the eastern half of Golden Gate Park (along JFK and MLK Jr. Drives) are good places to start.

3. Carry a cell phone and ID.  If for some reason you do find yourself in a pickle while out running, having a cell phone on you can be your savior.  And ID is important too.  If you’re worried about how to carry these items, you might want to invest in a running fanny pack or running jacket/vest with pockets (which can double too as a reflective night running vest).

4. Be aware of your surroundings.  It’s easy to tune out and ignore your surroundings, especially the further you run and the louder you play your music.  If you’re in an unfamiliar area, be sure to keep your music down and your eyes looking around you.  If you’re starting to feel unsafe, stop running, turn off your music, and head home.  If you’re running on a road, either don’t listen to music at all, or take one ear bud out and keep one ear on the sounds of the cars.  Also, make sure you know what the ground looks like beneath you.  This can help you avoid unnecessary ankle twisting and knee scrapings.

5. Run with a buddy.  Two is always better than one when it comes to running outside.

6. Obey the rules of the road.  Just because you’re a pedestrian doesn’t mean you can do stupid things – like run out into traffic without looking or run on red lights.  Just remember, you might have the right away, but a car can still kill you.  Running on red lights can be especially dangerous if you are at a three-way+ light.  At these intersections you may not know where oncoming traffic could be coming from.  Anyone who’s ever tried to get through the intersection of Sloat and Junipero Serra knows what I’m talking about.  San Francisco has a huge problem with pedestrian accidents.  Please try not to become another statistic.

7. Know where you’re going.  Running in a new area?  Try mapping out a route before you head out the door – www.walkjogrun.net is a great tool for this.  The last thing you want to do is take a wrong turn and get completely lost.  If you are lost though, this is when a cell phone can come in handy.  If you have a smart phone, use the map application to have the phone tell you where you are.

More safety rules and suggestions can be found here.  Got anything to say about this?  Feel free to leave a comment or email girlsrunwild@gmail.com.  Have fun running – just remember to be safe!

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