I run nearly every day, and have for almost 10 years. I run through colds. I run through heat, cold, rain and snow. I ran pregnant. I ran exactly six weeks after giving birth. I run with a baby. And through it all, I run scared.
In one two-week period during summer 2016, three women in the U.S. were killed while running solo. Sadly, though, 2016 wasn't an outlier year. A 2019 Runner's World survey found that 84 percent of had experienced some kind of harassment while running that made them feel unsafe, including groping, being followed or flashed, as well as subtler catcalls, honks and lewd comments.
Women don't get the luxury of running on trails, walking on a deserted road or hiking through woods without fear. Women who spend solitary time outdoors know what it's like to be on guard even through the pleasure of adrenaline, the euphoria of endorphins.
Let's be clear: It's unfair that I feel "irresponsible" to, say, run alone at night while a male can happily skip out the door well past sundown. But the reality is there: Running while female is unjustly dangerous. But the United States Department of Justice doesn't have a readily available statistic for attacks on runners, female or male. All we have are news stories about female runners who have — and haven't — survived attacks. Like this. And this.
So what to do? While the best solution would be to stamp out violence against women, we might need to find a quicker bandage. Luckily, a few safety apps and features have come along to help ensure a safe workout for all runners, female or male.
An app like Glympse will allow people to track your GPS location (they don't need the app to view it) for a set amount of time. BSafe also has an SOS button, and includes more everyday features like the option to receive a fake phone call should you want to leave an uncomfortable situation. (It's not clear how runners don't wind up accidentally hitting those panic buttons while they're logging miles.) There's also RoadID, which lets active folks leave an "ecrumb" for family and friends interested in their whereabouts and has a "stationary alert" function that pings select contacts if you're not moving.
Let's not forget more traditional defense systems, too. Some sports bras offer a small pocket to hold a knife or pepper spray, for instance. TigerLady offers a retractable claw-like self-defense tool. Go Guarded is a serrated-edge ring designed for ease of use.
And if you want to go low-tech, run with a friend. Or a big, hulking dog who'll appreciate the exercise.
Originally Published: Aug 16, 2016