As a Female Trail Runner, who occasionally braves the evils of tarmac, I've experienced a common theme of questions from non-runners, potential runners and experienced runners and have a few tips to overcome this fear and to help keep you safe.
I write this as someone who as a female who has spent a large portion of my life running on isolated trails. I was until recently a sergeant in the police force too so have a good idea on any risks that are out there and what i can do to minimise trouble.
‘Aren't you scared of running alone?’
‘What would you do if someone attacks you?’
‘I can't believe you run on the moors by yourself’
‘What if you fall?’
‘What If?’ is a question that can be applied to every aspect of daily life, in general we minimise the risks and it doesn't prevent us driving and facing the daily gauntlet of other drivers of all abilities (or lack of), going shopping, going out in the dark, venturing out in differing weather conditions especially in the glorious English weather of ours, and basically getting out and enjoying life.
The what ifs? Suddenly become bigger when going out alone, with every possible potential issue becoming magnified, sometimes this is increased by family/partners/friends inputs- this is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing if you are aware of the potential risks these can be minimised and used to help keep you safe.
Here are some of the basic precautions and measures i always try to take.
Tell someone where you're going and how long you expect to be,
Use technology to help- take a mobile with you (find my friends), beacon alert, live tracking but remember this may not always work and in particularly inclement weather it may have a meltdown.
Download a safety app where you can set up guardians to follow your route, some have a siren to set off and can record any incident live.
Be visible, when running on the roads run towards traffic and be very vigilantof distracted drivers, I try to make eye contact with them to ensure they have seen me, If not take evasive action rather than the ‘I own the road go round me approach’
Be aware that on tight country roads wagons/tractors/horse wagons will be staying very close to the verge especially on bends to avoid any oncoming traffic, be exceptionally careful on bends and listen for oncoming traffic, be aware of your surroundings and the availability of grass verges, if the hedge/banks are high wait until traffic has passed before attempting to continue (even if you're on for a pb)!
Ensure you are wearing fluorescentclothing even in daylight and at night go with the Christmas tree approach.
Injury potential is always there and sometimes in the daftest of places. Be prepared for all weather conditions, the sunniest of days can always turn into a downpour fine if you're not far from the car and in one piece.
Think though if you fall, or are unable to walk, a ‘short couple of miles’ back to the car has suddenly turned into the longest distance imaginable.
Runners tend to be minimalist in their clothing and kit carrying, however if you have been moving at speed and then come to an abrupt halt you are more of a hypothermic risk. Carry full body cover including hat and gloves and a survival blanket don't just save them for kit check on race days, this could save your life, bear in mind that you should have enough equipment with you to potentially keep you warm for a number of hours.
In the centre of a town you are more likely to be rescued quickly, but you can still get cold very quickly when injured and rescue is unlikely to be immediate.
One thing i always advocate is wearing the correct shoes to minimise the risk of falling or slipping when out on my own. Run freaks have some great deals on Scott shoes like the ladies supertrac. Make sure your shoes are in good condition.
A good head torch allows you to see not only where you are going, but to see any potential injury hazards as well as any persons on the route.
I have always ran with our family pet dogs, and while they may not always protect me, having something with you living and breathing distracts you from your fear becoming irrational, they give you someone to speak to, and stopping to put on/off leads give you a sense of normality, added to that you get the additional bonus to have to get out when life takes over.
This doesn't have to be formal, there are plenty of community running groups which may seem a less scary place, or get a group of friends to start running. Running with a group can help you to run further/faster and in places that you may be too scared to go to on your own. Run them with friends and become confident in the route to give it a go on your own, knowledge is powerto your brain.
The risks are minimal but it is worth considering Attackers don't have ‘attacker’ written all over them but what they do have is the ability to plan an attack, if you run the same predictable route at the same time every morning/night you allow them to have the power of planning an attack, for them to identify a location for the attack to take place. Make this difficult by varying your route. Make sure your hair is tucked in, or in a bun, a ponytail is an ideal grabbing tool.
Trust your instincts if someone or something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t, cross the road, pick up speed, change route to a busier area.
Finally get out and enjoy running, take onboard risks and use this awareness to help to keep you safe, enjoy the solitude of a run alone, and the ease to go when it suits, enjoy listening to your body.
About the author
Shelli Gordon is a vastly experienced trail runner, ex police sergeant and runs as part of the Scott team.