Most runners plan their workouts with safety in mind. You might wear a reflective shirt if it's dark outside or choose a route in a neighborhood you know well. You might tell a friend or roommate where you're headed and how long you'll likely be gone.
But for many runners—and for women in particular—there are dozens more thoughts that come to mind ahead of a solo run. Will there be other people nearby, or will you be alone? Will the sun go down during your run, and do you feel comfortable running this route in the dark? Is your phone charged in case you need to make a call? Are you prepared to protect yourself?
Many, many women take safety precautions if they're heading out for a run alone. A 2019 Twitter thread from writer Amanda Deibart prompted women to share the steps they take to feel safe. Some carry weapons, like a knife, or pepper spray; some carry personal alarm devices or safety whistles. Some run with a buddy, running group, or their dog. Some share their location with someone before heading out. Several advocate the benefits of self-defense training.
The responses are maddening and heartbreaking. It's never a victim's fault when an assault happens, and it's not the responsibility of women to take protective steps from attacks by men.
But the reality is, women all too often deal with catcalling, lewd comments, and sometimes more aggressive behavior when they're out on a run. Safety precautions don't guarantee a safe run, but they do give people confidence to continue getting out there and doing what they love.
Most runners train alone at some point. While a lot of us occasionally run with a group or buddy, solo runs provide stress relief and some much-needed time to unwind after a busy day. Unfortunately, they make a lot of runners nervous—and with good reason.
To increase runner safety awareness, here are some easy and realistic safety tips to avoid risk while running alone.
Know your route: A person running alone at night is more vulnerable than someone running in a crowded pedestrian area during the day. Runners often feel safer with runners, walkers, or bikers around, so it could help to plan your run in a place you know is popular rather than an isolated area.
While these precautions mostly relate to people you might encounter, runners should also be aware of drivers who may not see them. Don't run on the shoulder and stick to sidewalks.
Ditch the headphones: Some runners leave their headphones behind so they can pay more attention to their surroundings. While this may not be necessary if you're in a well-lit and crowded area, it's worth considering if it's starting to get dark or you're in an isolated area.
Bring your Phone: If you need to call for help or a ride home, you'll be glad you have it. Remember, it can also be dangerous to run with your phone in your hand (see why here), so tuck it in your SPIbelt to stay hands-free but also have your phone within quick and easy reach if needed.
Share your route (with a select few): Share your running plans with a friend or roommate before you head out, so they know where you're heading and when you should be back. But some runners advise against posting your routes publicly to apps like Strava unless you're sharing with people you know. If you're doing the same route daily, it wouldn't be hard for a stranger to figure out your plans.
Reconsider weapons: While some people feel more comfortable running with a knife or pepper spray, experts suggest leaving weapons at home unless you're trained on how to use them. An attacker could use your weapon against you, creating an even more dangerous situation. Instead, consider a personal alarm to draw attention if something happens.
Whether you live in a densely populated city or out in the suburbs, it’s smart to take precautions before a solo run. These tips, along with others (running with a group, for example) can help you continue getting out there while staying safe.