Saturday, 7 July 2012

Personal safety when running

I had a real scare on my run this morning and it made me realise how important personal safety is when running alone, particularly in isolated areas.  It was the first time I have ever been really scared - to say I feared for my life is slightly over-dramatic, but I certainly feared for my safety.    

As you may have noticed, I like to do my long runs early in the morning (usually starting around 5am), which leaves me the rest of the day free (to sit on the sofa and eat cake ha).  I have run in the early hours for the last couple of years and love the peace and tranquillity.  Often I don’t see a soul on my runs.  I have never been scared for my personal safety before today – in fact, it has rarely occurred to me that as a lone female running in quiet, isolated areas with no one around I am potentially vulnerable.      

I was running a 3 mile loop on a very quiet country road.  I love this loop because the views are amazing (when it’s not raining) and because the road doesn’t really lead anywhere it is nearly always deserted.  I was only about 2.5 miles into my 15 mile run when a car came speeding past me going much too fast.  About 20 seconds later the same car drove back past me in opposite direction really really slowly – the driver was just staring at me.  I started to feel a bit nervous and carried on running while avoiding making eye contact with him.  He had obviously turned around yet again as I could hear a car approaching from behind me once again... low and behold it was him!  I was really starting to panic by this point – my heart was racing and I just didn’t know what to do.  

Once again, a bit further up the road he turned around and drove a short way towards me then he just stopped the car in the middle of the road.  He just sat there staring at me with a huge (creepy) smile on his face.  I couldn’t think straight but had to make a split second decision about what to do.  I knew that there was a house just around the bend from where he had stopped his car (one of only two houses on this route).  Should I get closer to him and run past the car to the house, or should I turn around and run back the way I came.  The problem was, there was nowhere to go if I turned around and he could easily catch up with me.  So I took a big breath and sprinted past his car (without looking at him and trying not to look flustered).  I made it to the house and ran into the driveway...  thankfully there were three cars in the drive so I assumed there would be someone home.  I heard the sound of two car doors slam and thinking he had gotten out of the car I hid in the garden of the house but within reach of their door (in case I needed to bang on it for help).  Then, nothing... I crouched there holding my breath with my heart almost beating out of my chest for what felt like an eternity, but was probably only 5-10 seconds, then I heard the car drive away.  

I was shaking from head to toe and it took me ages to free my mobile phone from the pocket in my backpack.  I phone Arran (it was only 6am) and he told me to stay where I was and he would come and meet me.

So once again, it was Mr Westy to the rescue.  He threw on a coat and some trainers over his jammies and hopped on his bike and cycled to get me in the pouring rain.  He stayed on the phone to me the whole time as I was freaking out that the guy would come back.

I was so relieved when Arran got to me and we made our way home.  I was soaked from head to toe and freezing cold.  The adrenaline started to dissipate and I started to get annoyed... that some weirdo had ruined my run... priorities!!!         

I broke one of the cardinal rules – no one knew where I was running.  I hadn’t told Arran my route (I actually didn’t even know myself until I got out there), not only that he had no idea what time I left the house, how far I was running and when I should be back.   

I think sometimes it is easy to become complacent about your own safety when you are in a routine of running at the same time and on the same old routes, I know I am guilty of the whole ‘it’ll never happen to me’ mind set.    

Now, I am not suggesting for a second that we should all be running round with cans of mace in our pocket or a tazer strapped to our waist ‘just in case’, or that fear should prevent us from getting out there and running, but a few simple precautions could make all the difference:  

  • Tell someone your planned route and how long it will take you.  Set a plan so they know what action to take if you are not home on time and have not made contact
  • When running in the dark, stick to well-lit, well populated roads and paths
  • Try and train with a friend or in a group
  • Try and vary your route and the time you run
  • Take extra care when wearing headphones as they can restrict your awareness
  • Take a mobile phone and some money.  Try to keep valuables out of sight
  • Listen to your instincts - if something doesn't look or feel right, move yourself away as quickly as possible... preferably towards a public place

Taken from a great article by Run Britain here

Whilst on the topic of safety, I wanted to take this opportunity to mention how important it is to have emergency contact details on your person when running alone in case of an accident.  


A highly recommended method is to programme the telephone number for your emergency contact into your mobile phone under the name ICE – In Case of Emergency.  Paramedics and police are trained to look for this entry on your phone and it could save valuable time in an emergency situation by enabling the emergency services to get vital information about you if you are unable to speak through injury or illness.  

Medical ID Bracelet

This is another way to carry information about your emergency contact details, any medical conditions, allergies and drug treatments. 

I use the Cram Alert bracelet – you register your details online and can update them at any time and the wrist band contains a telephone number to a 24 hour call centre who can contact your next of kin and provide your medical information to the emergency services.  

Check out my amazing photography skills... it was supposed to be blurry... obviously!!

This was developed by Steve Cram after his brother was killed on a training run.  He wasn’t carrying any ID and his family could not informed for several days until he could be identified. 
There are many different medical ID bracelets and cards available, and many people save money my making their own. 

So, tomorrow heralds long run attempt #2... fingers crossed for a totally boring, completely uneventful run.  I have decided that I am not going to today’s route again and I will start my long runs slightly later from now on – just to ensure there are more people around.  I won’t let this experience to taint my view of running.  I love to run and by taking a few simple precautions I can continue to run safely and enjoyably.  


  1. Wow! That is so super creepy. Glad to hear that you're safe and everything turned out okay. Good reminder that I need to get some sort of wearable ID for when I do my outdoor runs.

    Great post :)

    1. Thank you! Luckily everything turned out okay - it just scared the life out of me - I sure there are a few more grey hairs after that :) It is only when something like this happens that it makes you think about your own safety. Happy running x


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