Monday was a big day for me. I bought a new set of running shoes that I’m very excited about, along with some toe socks to try and an extra pair of the good socks that I know I like. I also attended a Runner’s Personal Safety and Self Defense class. It was presented by Run Wild Missoula and The Runner’s Edge, which also happens to be where I bought my new gear.
The class included some information from local police officers as well as some safety equipment sold by the Runner’s Edge. My big takeaways from the class were: pepper spray, elbows, practice/preparation/planning, visibility, trusting your gut and be careful with headphones.
Pepper Spray: The Runner’s Edge sells the Jogger Fogger, which is what I will be getting. The advantage of the Jogger Fogger is that it doesn’t require such accurate aim. It sprays a mist or fog that will be a bit less powerful, but more likely to actually get into the eyes and mucous membranes of your target. The thing to remember to be careful of is not to be downwind if possible, and to consider holding your breath either way. But you’ll have adrenaline on your side, which will help a bit. One thing the officers emphasized that I thought was interesting was, DO NOT warn your attacker. If you’re in a situation where you feel threatened enough to use the pepper spray, just spray it and get the hell out of there. Warning your attacker will give them (if they’re human) time to cover their eyes or turn away so that your spray has less of an impact. They also suggested cutting the safety tab ahead of time. They seemed less concerned with accidental sprays than I would have expected.
Elbows: If you’re attacked by someone bigger and stronger than yourself, or even if that person just has the element of surprise your elbows are a good weapon to use. Punching them may well break your hand, but your elbows are a bit stronger. You can go for their face or neck if possible, but other soft spots are good too. Even just using your water bottle to hit them in the face with or spraying your water at them is better than nothing and could give you the second you need to kick them in the old peas and carrots so you can get away. But a lot of us aren’t experts at any kind of self defense technique. That’s where preparation, practice and planning come in.
Preparation, Practice and Planning: Being prepared doesn’t just mean having the right shoes or knowing whether or not you’ll be out long enough to need water. You should also make sure that someone knows where you’ve gone and when you should be back. That way, if you’re not back on time, they know where to start looking. If you’ve never taken a self defense class, consider watching some self defense vids on youtube and practicing a bit so that your body will know what to do in a scary situation. Plan your route and know your surroundings. If you get into trouble, knowing which way to go to get to the nearest open business or the friendly neighbors’ house may make a big difference.
Visibility: I’m lucky to live in a pretty safe community. There haven’t been many attacks on joggers over the years, but of course even the few we’ve had are too many. Visibility is helpful because anyone who is planning to attack a jogger is a little less likely to go after the person who is drawing a lot of attention, but also it keeps you safer from vehicles. Wearing lights when it’s dark out and bright clothes are great ways to stay visible to traffic and to other pedestrians. There are so many options when it comes to visibility gear, too. Here’s just one set of good ideas.
Trust your gut: If you’re out on a run and somebody approaches you and makes you uncomfortable, trust your gut. Cross the street if you need to. Draw attention to yourself by yelling, singing or using a whistle. Do whatever it takes, even if you look like a nutjob. If they’re not a bad person and you’ve just hurt their feelings, that’s sad but they will live. On the other hand, if they are a bad person you’ve just made it less likely that they will bother you because you’ve just drawn attention to yourself from all the other people in the vicinity. Also, walk and run confidently with your head up. Know who is around. Look them in the eye. Don’t stare at your feet like I do, when I walk.
Headphones are a problem. Many of us love to run with music, but you need to be able to hear what’s around you. Cars and people make noise and you need to be able to hear them coming. There are headphones out there that are designed to allow external sound in, including a very fancy and expensive brand called earHero. Their earHerosport model is out of my price range, but they look really fantastic. One of the officers who spoke to us today has a pair and they’re tiny little things that don’t plug your ear and block the external sound. There are other options as well, but I haven’t explored them yet.
On Tuesday I ran in my new shoes, and so far I love them. They’re light and comfortable. Sadly, I don’t think the toe socks fit me properly. They work great on my toes, but they’re too loose and slippy under the ball of my feet. On Thursday I will run in the same shoes, but with socks I am more familiar with, just to make sure it’s a sock issue. And I’ll run in my Asics for our 20 miler on Sunday. I’m not taking any chances, there!
The marathon is in 73 days and I just keep getting more excited!