Running before sunrise or at night is a safety issue for any runner, but it is a special concern for women who hit the pavement after dark.
Not only is the usual danger of limited visibility for both runners and drivers on a female runner's mind, but the possibility of an attacker hovering somewhere in the blackness is a frightening thought for every woman jogging alone along a dark roadway.
It doesn't matter how fit, how fast or how confident you are, the danger is real. According to a report by UN Women, one in three women in the United States will be the victim of sexual assault at some point in her lifetime.
But that doesn't mean you should be fearful when you step out for a nighttime run. There are safety measures experts recommend that can help assure every run you takes is a safe one.
Night Running? 5 Safety Measures Every Woman Must Take
Don't Run Alone
Bring a friend along whenever possible. It may seem obvious, but that's because it really works. An attacker will likely avoid a confrontation with two or more people, and if an attacker is that brazen, he will be outnumbered.
Your partner doesn't necessarily have to be human, either. A medium to large-sized dog makes an excellent running companion. They can protect you if you are attacked, and they can sense dangers that you cannot. If you don't have a good-sized dog to take along, offer to walk a friend or neighbor's dog.
Don't Wear Headphones
Most runners love to exercise while listening to music, but it is very dangerous to do so in the dark. Your vision is already impaired, so taking away your hearing is just asking for trouble. Music will make it impossible to hear an approaching car, footsteps or the growl of an animal until it's too late.
It is never recommended to run with music at night, but, if you must, use only one earpiece.
Vary Your Routine
It's easy to get into a comfortable exercise routine that you follow day after day. But this habit makes it much easier for someone with nefarious plans to track your activities. Running the same route can also make you complacent and allow you to mentally zone out instead of being aware of your surroundings.
So, break your habits. Be more spontaneous. Run earlier or later than usual, reverse your normal route, find new trails to run and rotate your schedule whenever you can.
Carry Pepper Spray
It may seem cumbersome, but carry a can of pepper spray with you, especially if you're running in an isolated area. It can get you out of sticky situations with both humans and animals. Pepper spray is not legal in every state, but if your state allows it, carry it. Also, be sure to have your phone and ID on you as well as any medical bracelets you need.
Run Against Traffic
Not only does this make it easier for you to avoid collisions with oncoming traffic, it makes it more difficult for someone to pull up behind you without you knowing it. You should also, of course, wear reflective clothing and blinking lights.
If you follow these simple suggestions, you can avoid making yourself an easy target while running at night, or any other time of day. Above all, remember to follow your instincts. If something feels off to you, it is.
In his book “The Gift of Fear,” security specialist Gavin de Becker said: “Intuition is always right in at least two important ways; it is always in response to something, and it always has your best interest at heart.”
That is sound advice.