When you head out for an early morning run, you’re pounding the pavement to improve your health, clear your head, and get ready for a productive day. The last thing you think about is someone attacking you. But runners are being targeted more often, with tragic stories of women being grabbed from their go-to path and assaulted—or worse. No matter what, though, you shouldn’t run in fear or stop running altogether. Here are six ways you can protect yourself each and every time you’re running solo.
Tips for Running Alone – Do a targeted-pace workout
Running solo is a good opportunity to do a workout that’s very specific to your pace and running goals. So take advantage and do a specific track workout or speed workout where you’re trying to hit certain paces. You can do your own thing and not worry about having to speed up or slow down for your running partners.
Tips for Running Alone – Be visible
It’s easy to miss a single runner on the road, so make sure you’re visible. If you’re running in the early morning or at night, even at dusk, wear white, yellow, orange, or other brightly-colored clothes. Also, make sure you have reflective gear on. Although some items (running shoes, jackets) already have reflective pieces on them, it doesn’t hurt to add more. Some runners also run with a small flashlight to make sure they’re seen by oncoming traffic.
Tips for Running Alone – Carry identification
Put your driver’s license and your medical insurance card (in case you get injured) in your pocket or wear an ID tag on your shoe. If you’re wearing an ID tag or bracelet, make sure it has an emergency contact number on it. Whenever possible, try to run with your cell phone, and save your ICE (In Case of Emergency) numbers.
Tips for Running Alone – Stick to well-traveled routes
Running by yourself is not the time to try out an new, unfamiliar running route. Stick to your tried-and-true running spots, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost or risk putting yourself in an unsafe situation. Choose a safe route, where you know they’ll be lots of people around.
Tips for Running Alone – Try some self-talk
If you’re running alone and struggling, give yourself a pep talk. Tell yourself that you’re not physically tired — you’re just mentally fatigued and you can push through it. Say to yourself things like, “I’ll have some water in five minutes — that will make me feel better.” You may want to keep repeating a mantra, like, “Think strong! Be strong!” If you’re doing your longest run ever, remind yourself how proud you’ll feel when you’re finished.
Tips for Running Alone – Run with a Partner
It may sound obvious, but it’s true: There’s strength in numbers. Jarrett Arthur, founder and chief instructor of Customized Self-Defense for Women and other specialized self-defense programs, says that an assailant is way less likely to attack two women versus one. “Typically attackers look to target those who will give them the easiest path to achieve their crime—fast, little to no resistance, and in secret,” she says. Successfully assaulting two women at once is much more difficult because one could scream or run for help, dial 911, or help fight back.
Tips for Running Alone – Get Techy
It’s not the smartest idea to run with headphones—in fact, many safety experts advise against it, as it slashes your odds of hearing an attacker (and traffic) come up from behind. But that doesn’t mean you should leave your phone at home. You should always have it handy when out by yourself, not only as a way of touching base with someone if an attack were to happen but also in case something unexpected occurs (like spraining an ankle when you’re still 2 miles from home).
And since you already have it, you might as well make the most of your phone. Download a safety app like bSafe (free), which lets you set up a network of “guardians” who can “follow” your route—and make sure you get home safe—via its GPS trace feature. If there’s an emergency, press the app’s alarm to set off a siren, alert your guardians of exactly where you are, and begin recording audio and video in case you need to present evidence to the police later.
Tips for Running Alone – You Don’t Need to Ditch the Music
Just because you shouldn’t run with headphones doesn’t mean you have to skip your favorite tunes if that’s what truly keeps you motivated (and for many it is—experts say it can increase endurance by at least 15 percent). “If music is an absolute must, opt for a small, portable external speaker for your phone that you can zip into an exercise band or pocket,” says Arthur, or just turn the volume all the way up on your phone.
That way, whether your phone is in your hand or pocket, or tucked into your bra, your music will be loud enough to hear but low enough for you to still be aware of your surroundings. And no, other runners won’t mind—you’ll be zooming past them fast enough that they’ll only hear a quick second of your song anyway.
Tips for Running Alone – Be Ready to Fight
If the worst-case scenario does present itself and someone tries to attack you, it helps to have some key self-defense moves in your arsenal. “There are two things you must do in order to effectively fight back, especially when someone tries to ‘bear hug’ you, which makes it easy for them to lift and carry you away or slam you to the ground and knock you unconscious,” says Howard Mallen, cofounder of Krav Maga Worldwide, which offers self-defense classes across the country.
“First drop your ‘base,’ or make yourself heavy by bending your legs and dropping the level of your hips.” This lowers your center of gravity, which makes it harder for someone to pick you up. Second, create space between you and the attacker by “sending strikes in a side-to-side motion to vulnerable areas like the groin.” The attacker’s hips will reflexively fall back, giving you room to get away. Call for help as soon as you possibly can.