Since I was a teenager, I’ve been mugged twice, cat-called and honked at while walking or running alone. It wasn’t until one of my best friends gave me a can of pepper spray and demanded that I ditch the headphones while exercising solo outdoors that I realized I had been letting my guard down.
Running has always been an escape for me, a time to go within and get in the zone, particularly when I am traveling on business and need to de-stress.
As staying fit on the road continues to be a top priority for business travelers, including busy meeting professionals planning events or attending industry conferences, the recent Mollie Tibbetts tragedy is a reminder that we must continue to keep our guard up while running and exercising.
Despite her violent death in July while out on a jog in Iowa, female runners around the world are hitting the pavement, dedicating their runs to Tibbets under #MilesforMollie. They’re shedding light on the dangers women face but vowing to take a stand against violence—not hang up their shoes.
Whether you’re racking up #MilesforMollie or just heading out for an invigorating run, especially in a city you aren’t familiar with while traveling on business, here are some tips to stay safe on the road.
- Map out your run and ask a hotel concierge about the safest areas if you are unfamiliar with the destination.
- Let a family member or friend know where you are running and when you expect to return.
- Run with pepper spray and your phone should you need to use them in an emergency. Both can be attached to convenient, easily accessible carrying bands.
- Carry identification and consider an ID that has emergency contact and medical information. Road iD is a good option (www.roadid.com).
- Do not wear headphones to listen to music or jewelry that may attract attention.
- Avoid running at night, but if you do, wear reflective gear on your clothing and stick to well-lit, trafficked areas with plenty of people around.
- Avoid running in isolated areas where there aren’t any people or cars.
- Run against traffic so you can see what’s coming.
- Be confident and aware, not looking down at the pavement.
- Continually be hyper-aware of your surroundings. Do not run close to bushes or in places with numerous alleys or doorways where someone could hide.
- Trust your instinct. If something seems suspicious, take another route. Don’t put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.
- Consider taking a self-defense class to feel more confident should the situation to defend yourself arise.
It is also important to decide how you can take action beforehand if you are approached, attacked or made to feel uncomfortable in any way. How you react depends on the situation, but in general, if the attacker is armed with a gun or knife, and you feel your life is threatened, it is likely best to comply with their demands.
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Your life is worth more than your cell phone.
If you assess the situation and feel you can try to flee or even fight back if need be, some tactics to get out of the situation and/or scare off an attacker include the following:
- Be as loud as possible by simply screaming or screaming “No!” and “Call the police!”
- Run in the middle of the street, and if it is safe, flag down a passing car.
- Draw as much attention to the scene as possible.
- Call 911.
- Employ moves learned in a self-defense class, such as using your feet to kick and fight back, poking the attacker in the eye, striking the attacker in the throat and hitting the attacker upward in the nose with the bottom of an open fist.
Instead of running alone, buddy up with a partner or form a running group with like-minded colleagues on your trip. Participate in organized group runs that may be part of the conferences you attend.
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In the end, it’s most important to avoid potentially dangerous situations, be hyper-aware of your surroundings and equip yourself with self-defense tactics.
Do you have any additional advice for staying safe while running or exercising on the road? Share it in the comments below! We're also interested in hearing any personal stories you might have.