We all want to stay safe running, but the behavior of some men gives us, as women, pause. One of the pieces I’ve seen everywhere lately is Erin Bailey’s excellent post, What do we deserve? In it, she chronicles her own experiences being catcalled and harassed, an unfortunately all-too-common occurrence that every single woman who has ever walked on this planet has experienced. It doesn’t matter what we wear; some ill-behaved oafs are unable to use their brain-to-mouth filters and keep their thoughts to themselves.
I could go into a whole diatribe about this, but I won’t. I’ve experienced enough catcalling in my 38 years on this planet to write a book. In the hot Texas weather, I will still wear a sports bra and shorts on runs, because catcalling isn’t something that worries me (being overheated does). Yes, it’s annoying, but I’m much more worried about safety. The catcallers, especially those ensconced in their cars or on bikes, are physically harmless 99% of the time. They’re cowards speeding away thinking, “Man, I got her good!” They’re the seagulls of annoyance: they fly by, poop on you, and speed off.
What I’m actually worried about are the 1%, or the guys that might see a 5’1″ female and think, “easy prey.”
What I Do to Stay Safe Running
I take safety pretty seriously, and I take measures to stay safe running. I do have a running group, and while we run different paces, we do know the route we’ll be on and wait for each other to come back. In the real world, though, I’m not always running with someone – and I do like to run alone to clear my head (which is what annoys me about catcallers, because I could be working out a problem in my head, and it’s interrupted by a “hey baby” that derails what was a very productive train of thought).
I Arm Myself.
I have a friend who is always packing (I do live in Texas), but I am not that friend. I have a handheld can of pepper spray that is always on my person. I travel a lot for work, so the pepper spray can’t come with me on a plane. I get creative with my weaponry, though: a fistful of keys, a roll of quarters, or a can of Binaca all make good disabling defenses and won’t earn me special treatment from TSA.
I Know Where to Hit an Attacker.
I’ve taken a self-defense course, and I’ve learned enough to disable an attacker so I can get away. The idea isn’t to just cause pain; it’s to cripple the attacker so that I can run to safety. Eyes, nose, throat, little finger, kidney, groin: these are the areas you’ll want to hit. If you’re grabbed from behind, stomp on the attacker’s instep.
I Take Well-Traveled Routes.
Especially when I’m traveling, but in general, I pick populated areas where someone can hear me if I call for help or blow my whistle. I don’t run deserted trails in the dark (or even daylight). A big part of being able to stay safe running is keeping away from places where attackers might hide.
I Let Someone Know Where I’ll Be.
If I’m running alone, I always let my husband know my route, and I don’t deviate from it. When I’m traveling or running a new route, I use the Road ID eCrumbs app to text him a real-time map of where I am. He can follow along and know immediately if something’s not right.
I Carry My Phone.
I use my phone for music, for eCrumbs – and for safety reasons. After I disable my attacker and run like hell, or while I’m running like hell, I’m going to want to call 911, a ride, whatever to get out of there and to a police station to report the attack. If you don’t use your phone for music, you can hide it in a FlipBelt.
I Keep My Music Low.
Every article I read about how to stay safe running tells you not to listen to music, or keeping one earbud out so you can hear an attacker approaching. Those of us that need our tunes for motivation are going to have at least one earbud in, but we’ll also be using earbuds that let ambient noise in (Yurbuds are great for this purpose). As much as I’d like to drown out the world (and catcalls), it’s much more important to be able to hear a telltale rustle of a bush or footfalls.
Everyone, stay safe out there! Most of the people you see will be harmless, like fellow runners and people walking their pups; some will be loudmouth jerks, and one or two might actually mean you harm. As annoying as catcalls are, they’re not what makes the hair on the back of my neck bristle. In the heat and humidity, I’ll wear what I please, ignore the loudmouths, and clutch my pepper spray as I log mileage. But they will not ruin my run; I won’t let them.