With Winter in full swing and less daylight hours to squeeze in a run, it’s a timely reminder of the little things we can do to stay safe while we pound the pavement. Running in the dark can present some risks, not only due to the lower visibility, but for women especially, verbal abuse, harassment and even physical attacks from strangers can be a nagging concern. While we don’t want to scaremonger, we do want to encourage you to be safe and there are certain precautions you can take to ensure you don’t have a negative experience whilst out running. Research commissioned by England Athletics shows one in three women has been harassed while running alone, more than 60 percent say they feel anxious when running solo and almost half say they have fears for their personal safety. With these figures in mind, we’ve come up with a few easy solutions to feel safer when you’re out on your own.
Safety in numbers
The same research found that more than half of women surveyed said they would feel safer running in a group. And there’s good reason. If anything goes wrong there’s generally help at hand and your catcallers and harassers are less likely to harangue a group of women. Running with a partner or group also helps to keep you motivated and can help you to forge lifelong friendships.
Take your phone
Not everyone likes running with their phone, but when it’s dark and cold it can literally be a lifesaver. Even more important if you’re running in unfamiliar territory as you can quickly and easily navigate back to where you came from. It’s also your direct line to the Police or next of kin if you feel unsafe at any moment, or the GPS function can be used to find you in the event that you go missing. As the saying goes, better to have it and not use it then to need it and not have it.
Use your headphones wisely
Music or a podcast can really make a difference when you’ve set out on a tough run, but you also need to remain aware of your surroundings. Make sure you have your music at a volume that you can still hear traffic and voices nearby and always tread on the side of caution assuming that the drivers of cars and passing cyclists can’t see you, so you need to be out of their way.
Whether it’s lewd comments, wolf whistling or even physical harassment, none of us should be subjected to it and we need to work together to stamp it out. Exercise should make us feel good, flooding us with endorphins and lifting our self-esteem, not dragging us down and making us feel anxious about stepping outside in our lycra and running shoes. Fortunately, Police are moving towards treating such harassment in the same vein as hate crime, with policy aimed at increasing awareness of the issue and encouraging the reporting of such incidents. If you feel as though it’s serious enough, report it to Police making sure to detail when, where and who harassed you.
In these dark winter months, it’s safest to stick to well-lit, residential areas where possible. Or choose to wear a headlamp or reflective running kit. Not only will this help you to see where you’re going, but for others to see you too, which is particularly important if you’re running near roads or cycle paths.
Tell a friend
Before you head out the door, tell someone where you’re going and how long you expect to be gone. It could be a housemate, your boyfriend or husband, as long as someone knows. If you don’t come back through the door around the expected time then they can raise the alarm or send out the search party.
Tell us about your experiences and feel free to share your tips for staying safe while running.