I recently read a story about a 30 year old woman (Karina Vetrano) who was strangled to death in Queens while she was out for her evening run. I was naturally upset and shocked to hear the story, and I read a bit more about it to find out what had happened.
I was surprised to see quite a lot of commentary from social media users blaming Karina for not bearing her safety in mind when out running. They questioned that she went out at evening time (although she started her run at 5pm during the summer), that she ran in a well-known remote area on her route, and most concerning that she provoked the attack by wearing tight running clothing!
In this article, I’m not going to start a discussion on victim-blaming. That would be a whole other conversation. What I will look at though are some pointers to help keep you safe when you are out running, especially now that the evenings and mornings are getting shorter and there will be more darkness than light.
And always bear in mind that these kind of attacks are really few and far between. So while it is not something we should panic about, it is always best to err on the side of caution. Also remember that you can use these tips for any time you go out late at night, early in the morning or travel on a route that is secluded or you are unfamiliar with.
- Always let someone know when you are going out for a run (or walk, or cycle…). Make sure you let them know what time you expect to be home and the route you plan to take. Also, commit this person’s number to memory in case anything happens to your phone while you are out so you can call them from another phone.
- Try to vary your routes and times so that your patterns don’t become predictable. You want to make it difficult for someone to track when and where you go on a regular basis.
- If you are running late at night or early in the morning, consider running along the side of the road rather than on the path when you are passing walls or hedges where an attacker could hide. Of course, always make sure you are wearing reflective running gear if you are going to be running on roads.
- Check out personal safety apps that offer a range of features like alarms, emergency SOS texts, tracking via GPS… Your phone can be an invaluable safety device so always bring it with you when you’re out running. A fantastic Irish product that I’ve seen recently is run angel. It’s a safety device that you wear on your wrist, and when activated it emits a loud noise and texts preset guardians with your location. Having it on your wrist means you can easily activate it, instead of fumbling on your phone. Check out the details on the run angel website.
- Another tip is to keep a house key protruding out between the knuckles of your index and middle fingers. This might seem a bit old-school, like something you were taught in self-defence classes in school. But a second or two is invaluable in the case of an attack, so if you can lash out with something sharp you might disarm your assailant for just a few seconds, which could give you enough time to make your getaway.
- Be aware of your surroundings. I often see cyclists wearing headphones as they cycle on the road and I think this is madness. Whatever way you look at it, you are more vulnerable when you are not aware of what is happening in your environment. So try to go without the headphones for those runs where you are at higher risk – or at least leave one earpiece out so that you can listen to your music, but still hear what is happening around you.
- If you feel unsafe, don’t worry about being extra-cautious. If you get the feeling you are being followed, don’t delay taking action. Call your emergency contact and ask them to come pick you up. Or go to a nearby house and tell them what’s happening. Your safety comes first – and any embarrassment you might feel from seemingly “overreacting” will be short-lived, and could even save your life!
- If someone tries to steal your phone, just give it to them! Don’t try to fight for it, just hand it over. You will of course be shaken but again go to a nearby house and ask them if you can use their phone to call your contact to come and pick you up. A phone can always be replaced.
So remember, stay safe out there and enjoy your autumn runs – it’s my favourite time of year for running!