Runner safety is a topic I discuss from time to time in this space. It’s important, but I admit to going through the motions in regards to it. In a lot of ways, I felt invinceble.
So what happened? I’ve dealt with things like loose dogs, the threat of a bobcat, random snakes, and the usual honking and cat calling. I feel like that’s all “normal” in the grand scheme of things.
However, this time, I encountered a woman, in broad daylight, who could be considered a threat. At the time, I didn’t know it, but she is “known” in our area, for her erratic and problematic behavior. Are there mental health issues at play? Yes, absolutely. However, that doesn’t make her a safe individual. I did end up calling 911, simply because she made statements like “I don’t want to live like this anymore” and “if we cut off our heads, will we die?” I was afraid for myself, but also that she might hurt herself or someone else.
It was a bone-chilling experience, and have no desire to repeat it.
First Things First
After I calmed down, the first thing I did was reach out to A’s karate instructor to talk about improving my runner safety. Not only is he a multi-degree black belt, but he is retired military, so he’s kind of a pro at self-defense. He agreed to take on myself, my usual running buddy, and her daughters for a women’s self-defense clinic, designed to give us moves to help us in situations where we feel threatened. I watch a lot of action movies, but I don’t know that that qualifies me to act towards my own protection.
Mr PugRunner and I had a long conversation about my runner safety (or lack thereof), when I go out alone. In many ways, I am incredibly safe. I don’t listen to music or podcasts, I change up my route, I let him know where I’m going to be and how long I plan to be there, etc.
I used to carry pepper spray, but it was awkward, so I would shove it in my sports bra. From there, the sweat led to some rusting, and I finally just pitched it as unusable. He would like me to resume that usage. I feel like I would spray myself in the face.
We compromised on this piece from GoGuarded.
The GoGuarded Hand-Held With Pepper Spray straps to your hand with adjustable velcro. It’s lightweight and easy to hold, which satisfies my requirements for not being annoying or cumbersome. I struggle with carrying even a water bottle and fuel on long runs, so this was a big deal.
Priced at $19.99, this piece boasts a pepper spray canister, and a short serrated blade of hard plastic, protected by two rubber flaps. That’s to help prevent “user error.” it’s very well made, and super simple to use in an emergency.
While I hate that it has come to this, safety is first, and I am much better protected now. I am looking forward to reporting back on my self-defense class and all the great tips I’m sure will come from that.
How do you handle your own runner safety?
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That’s so scary with that woman, Jenn!
So good that you have taken action to boost your feeling of safety.
I make sure that I run in an area where I will pass other people once in a while – hikers, dog walkers and bikers. And if I run in the dark, I make sure I’m with a group of runners.
I was on a main road. In fact, a woman I know said she drove past and saw us talking. She would have stopped if she knew I was in a tight spot, so at least my acting skills were paying off.
Lisa @ Mile by Mile says
I run with pepper spray but I like the idea of having the go guarded connected to it as well. Im sorry that happened to you! Something else you could look into if you’re interested is a course called mental health first aid. I teach the youth version, but there is a version for how to help adults too. It teaches you what to do when you encounter someone who is experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis. Now, you will still of course need to call 911 if there is a safety issue, but it can be helpful in other ways.
I absolutely love the idea of that. I am REALLY proud of how I handled the situation. I was super calm in the moment, and nothing escalated, which I would think is a good thing. The woman in this case has been Baker Acted multiple times, and went on to be arrested a day later for more concerning behavior, but she needs help.
Darlene S. Cardillo says
I’m pretty lax about safety.
Thanks fir reminder. I should be more careful out there. You never know.
You just don’t know.
I’ve written a few posts on runner safety. In fact, my review of the self-defense tools available to runners is my most viewed of all time! I use the GoGuarded ring. I feel that if I would encounter a predator, my instinct would be to push them away. The blade on the ring would do the job, I think. I’ve been warned about using pepper spray by several cops who were concerned that if it could be used on me or if the wind were blowing at me, the spray could blow in my face. We have to choose the tool that we are comfortable with and prepared to use. I hope you never have to use your weapon. That is very scary about that woman.
Yeah, I was looking at the ring, but I thought it would annoy me to wear. My level of tolerance for irritating things factored in quite a bitt.
Deborah Brooks says
I am pretty comfortable safety wise when I run. I run with a friend 99% of the time and feel pretty safe in our surroundings. I have been frightened by a loose dog or two. That is scary that happened to you. Always good to have a plan in place that you feel comfortable with
I’m not even scared of the loose dogs, really. I’m cautious, but I’m more worried about the bobcat.
Great post, and I’m going to look into the Go-Guarded. I’ve never had an issue, but there have been plenty of times I’m out on a run and I think “if someone were to attack me now, there’s no one around to help and nothing I could do.” I’ve thought about carrying something with me, but just have never gotten around to it. Thanks for this info!
That’s just it. We get too comfortable. I’m 5’10” and big-boned. I’m not an easy target and I’m not very “moveable”. I *think* an attacker would go for someone who would be lighter and easier to pick up and overpower. But you just never know.
Janelle @ Run With No Regrets says
This looks like a great tool to have…I bought pepper spray ages ago but have never used it, years later and it’s still in its packaging. I tend to feel pretty safe on my neighborhood runs, but I do worry about the trails sometimes, and should be a bit more proactive in protecting myself.
My originally pepper spray straight up rusted. So clearly, it got lots of use.
I would carry something on our trails. We have bobcats, panthers, bears, and wild hogs. That being said, I am not sure I COULD spray an animal.
Kimberly Hatting says
Thankfully, I feel very safe where I am. Your post is quite timely, though, in that Mollie Tibbetts’ assailant was FINALLY brought to justice this week (sentenced to life in prison with no parole). Personal safety is such an individual thing…glad you found a solution for your situation.
I am so glad there was justice for Mollie.
I am resentful that I have to worry about safety, but you just never know. Especially now when people are straight up WILD. I can’t leave it to chance. My area is safe, too. This wasn’t anyone I would see and view as a threat. But I also don’t know everyone’s demons, and the things she was saying made my blood run cold.
Your encounter sounds so scary! I’m glad you are okay.
I used to always carry handheld mace when I lived in the Seattle area. There were a few situations where I got close to using it, but thankfully never had to (and obviously, it would not help with a mental health crisis). Now, I typically run early in the morning and most of the people who are out are older people on walks. But it’s something I should still take seriously.
I carry pepper spray when I run alone in the dark. I was attacked years ago so I’m always on the alert.