Running & Jogging – The Safe Way

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Female runner wearing earplugs

54% of women joggers and runners are worried about their physical safety.  And justifiably so. 

Numerous attacks have taken place in broad daylight and in well-populated areas.  Perpetrators are calculating, brazen and malicious.  Joggers and runners need to be vigilant and prepare themselves mentally and physically with smart, defensive measures. 

Andy Dixon, Editor-in-Chief of Runner’s World UK took time from his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions.

Veronika Bradley:  In 2017, Runner's World conducted its first survey of harassment experienced by women.  Have you received information since then that would modify your survey results or provide you with new insights or trends?

Andy Dixon:  We haven’t done a follow-up survey, so I don’t have any new statistics on the prevalence of harassment of female runners.  It would certainly be worthwhile to see if the situation has improved since the feature.

jogger running down a lane

The survey pre-dated the Me Too Movement, which brought female sexual harassment into greater awareness, so it would be interesting to see if it had a beneficial ‘knock-on’ effect and reduced the incidences of harassment of women when they are out running.

Veronika Bradley:   The very feeling that you want to attain while jogging or running is compromised with measures of defensive action.  What would you say to women to help them maintain a healthy and balanced perspective?

Andy Dixon: It’s incredibly troubling that an activity we associate with personal freedom and ‘me time’ should be tainted for many women with worries of being assaulted.  We need to continue to drive the message home that harassment of women runners by men is unacceptable, as it is in any area of life.

It’s sad that women should have to take defensive measures when out running or jogging, but if those measures offer a feeling of security or safety they are still worth taking, even if you never need to use them.  Ultimately, the benefits of running – including more confidence and better health – far outweigh the actions of a small-minded few.

female runner on country lane

In 2017, Runner's World conducted its first survey for US women runners and joggers who experienced harassment.  Here are the results.

54% of women joggers and runners are worried about their physical safety.  

58% of women under the age of 30 experienced harassment while running

43% of women over the age of 30 experienced harassment while running.

4% of men joggers and runners reported harassment

30% of women were followed by a person in a car, on a bicycle or on foot

18% of women were sexually propositioned

5% of women were flashed

1% of women carry a loaded gun

‘Harassment on UK streets ‘relentless’ for women and girls’ published by Runner’s World UK states: “…the amount of harassment occurring means it has now become “normalised” for girls growing up.” 

46% of female runners in the UK experience harassment regularly.  The government has pledged to eliminate sexual harassment by 2030 but the advisory committee has yet to come up with a solid, working strategy. 

Mollie Tibbetts

On July 18, 2018, twenty-year-old Mollie Tibbetts went out for a regular evening run in Brooklyn, Iowa.  When Mollie did not show up for work the following day, she was reported missing.

After a month-long search, police obtained surveillance footage of 24-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera’s Chevrolet Malibu driving back and forth where Tibbetts was jogging. 

Rivera led police to a cornfield in Poweshiek County where they found Tibbetts’ body.  The Iowa State Medical Examiner recorded the cause of death as ‘multiple sharp force injuries’ and subsequently, Rivera was charged with first-degree murder.  Rivera pleaded not guilty and waived his right to a speedy trial.  His trial is scheduled to begin on September 3, 2019.

“…any woman who leaves her home for any reason - to run, to work, to get the mail - could potentially be harassed… this is not just a running issue but a societal issue,” says Michael Kimmel, Ph.D., distinguished professor of sociology and gender studies at Stony Brook University in New York, as stated in the article "Running While Female" published by Runner’s World.

“Honks, innuendos, and so on are a man’s way of saying, “You are present in my space and I’m going to let you know it’s my space.”

The perpetrator is motivated when the victim is paralyzed

In 2016, three female joggers were murdered in nine days: Alexandra "Ally" Brueger, 31, in Michigan on July 30th, Karina Vetrano, 30, in New York City on August 2nd and Vanessa Marcotte in Massachusetts on August 7th.

Just a few weeks ago, a woman who was jogging on the Bruce Trail in Hamilton, Ontario was struck with an object and then sexually assaulted.

female jogging down a desolate laneway by herself

A woman was assaulted while jogging in the evening in River Heights, Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2017.  In 2016, a woman was attacked and sexually assaulted in Spruce Grove, Alberta and another woman was attacked and choked while running on a popular trail in Shubie Park, Nova Scotia during the early afternoon.  …and the assaults go on and on.

OK Ladies…listen up!

I have compiled what I deem the best running and jogging safety tips and sound advice. Please read them and pass them on to all the runners and joggers that you know.  Print this article and place it on the bulletin board of your gym or community centre. 

I want you to be healthy and happy, safe and secure.  I want you to have the greatest run of your life!  Do it for Mollie Tibbetts!  Do it for Ally Brueger, Karina Vetrano and Vanessa Marcotte!  Let's do it for the girls!

man and woman running together

“Let’s defend ourselves with integrity and knowledge, so we can run with freedom and confidence.”

Running & Jogging Safety Tips

Run during the day and early evening. If you must run at night, run in well-lit areas and wear reflective gear.

Don't wear headphones or earplugs when you are alone or in secluded areas. Consider inserting an earplug in just one ear.

Leave your headphones at home. When you are running and really driven by the music, you can’t hear approaching cars or traffic, people who want to communicate with you, and most importantly ….a perpetrator in the lurch.

If you must have music, Trekz Titanium, a wireless headset with bone conduction technology and OpenFiit design, delivers music through your cheekbones ensuring your ears remain completely open so that you are always aware of the environment that surrounds you.

Opt for a discreet, phone device that you can wear rather than hold. Consider the repercussions of the alternative.  If you are caught unaware in a difficult situation, you will not have time to access your phone, unlock it, call for help and wait for a response.

Female runner wearing earplugs

Run with a group of people or establish a buddy system.

Know your route like the back of your hand and plan emergency exits at different intervals.

Stick to routes where you feel secure.

Run in well-populated areas.

Don’t become predictable. Vary your route location and your time schedule.

Let family and friends know where you are going to jog and when you will return.

DON’T post your activities on social media.

Remain vigilant. Be cognizant of your surroundings and people within your vicinity.

Trust your instinct – if something feels off, react accordingly and follow through.

Take self-defense classes.

Consider carrying pepper spray or mace and have it in the ‘ready’ position. It’s important to know that Mace and pepper spray are two different self-defense products.  Traditional Chemical Mace (CN) is classified as an irritant and is similar to tear gas.  Pepper spray is classified as an inflammatory agent and will immediately incapacitate an assailant.  I highly recommend that you speak to your local police department to determine proper usage.

What Happened to You Could Happen to Other Women

If you are harassed or threatened, do the right thing and report it to the police.  Don’t slough it off like it doesn’t mean anything – because you would be wrong.  Your incident will help the police gather information about the perpetrator and could very well prevent another person from being harassed, assaulted or worse.  Do the right thing.

Resources

For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following websites:

Running While Female – Runners World

Michael S. Kimmel is one of the world's leading researchers and writers on men and masculinity.  He is the author of more than 20 books, including Manhood in America: A Cultural History and Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, and Angry White Men. 

Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following videos:

Additional Resources

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1 COMMENT

  1. My sister is a runner and I always accompany her when she runs so that I can ensure here safety. Nice content, good read and informative. Great tips.

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