Stay Safe While on the Run With These Tips
Most of us will never need to fight off a mountain lion with our bare hands but it is comforting to know that personal safety devices are available to assist not only in that type of situation but in some of the more common risky situations in which runners, particularly females, may find themselves.
Personal safety devices aren’t just for women who run by themselves. Most can be carried and used during daily life by anyone—children who have to walk home from school to an empty house, college students, and the elderly, for example.
Some of these devices you carry, some are wearables and some are apps for your smartphone. Some are very simple and some are more comprehensive; there is likely to be one to fit your particular needs. In addition, these devices range widely in price so there will certainly be one to fit your budget.
Photo from Pixabay
But first a clarification…mace or Mace?
Many times, I have heard someone mention that they carry “mace” to protect themselves. Because I had never bothered to look it up, I assumed that “mace” was a type of safety device, akin to pepper spray. And because there is a spice named mace I thought it somehow used the spice in its formulation.
Maybe you already know this but, Mace is actually the brand name for a number of personal safety devices and not one specific type.
Ring my bell…personal safety alarms
Perhaps the simplest of the personal safety devices are personal safety alarms. As their name suggests, these are alarms that you can wear or carry that emit a loud sound that has the potential to scare off an attacker, be it a person or an animal. The sound the alarms make is somewhere between 120 and 130 decibels.
Some alarms can be attached to a keychain, carried in hand with a strap that loops around your wrist, or clipped to your clothing. Some alarms have to be activated by pulling a pin and others sound off at the push of a button. They usually run on a long-wearing battery and their costs can be as little as $10 to $12.
Photo from CC0 Public Domain
I’ve fallen and I can’t get up…personal alert devices
Personal alert devices utilize a smartphone so they are more technologically advanced than alarms and they don’t emit any noise. Like the alarms though, they do have a panic button that can be carried in hand, attached to a backpack or key ring or clipped to an article of clothing.
With the push of the panic button, friends and family that you have chosen ahead of time are alerted through their cellphones that you are in trouble and need help.
One personal alert device offers two levels of notification—a yellow alert that lets friends and family know that you are in a situation that is making you uncomfortable and a red alert that informs them that you need professional help like the police or medical assistance.
Because these are more advanced devices, their costs are greater, on average in the $40 to $80 range.
Photo from CC0 Public Domain
There’s an app for that…personal safety apps
If you already carry your phone with you when you run, an app may be an easy addition to maintain your personal safety.
Most personal safety apps require a monthly or annual subscription and some are very reasonably priced…like $3 per month, for instance.
Because there are so many available, their options range widely. For instance, one app allows you to alert friends and family that you are leaving one location and heading for another. It enables you to check in with friends and family along the way and if you don’t respond to the check-ins, it can send an alert to friends and family or the authorities.
I’m not terribly quick on the draw when it comes to my cell phone and because I wear it in an armband when I’m running, I feel like it would be difficult to get at my phone and use the app if I were in immediate danger.
These personal safety apps may be for someone who is nimble with their cell phones or those who are walking rather than running.
Things are heating up…pepper spray
If you are a bit old school, you can opt for the very effective stand-by—pepper spray.
Used by law enforcement, pepper spray is formulated with the same oil that gives the sensation of heat to peppers. Measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU’s), pepper spray marketed to the general public usually measures 2 million SHU’s and those marketed to law enforcement measure 5.3 million SHU’s. As a reference, jalapeno peppers measure a mere 2,500 to 5000 SHUs.
Pepper spray is legal to use in all 50 states and it makes the victim’s eyes water profusely, rendering them almost incapacitated.
Pepper spray is most often available in a hand-held option so that it is readily available. Options do exist for pepper spray cartridges that can be clipped to a key ring. Refill cartridges are available and the costs for the initial cartridge and holder are usually less than $10.
The one downside to using pepper spray is that possible blowback could end up causing unexpected symptoms for the person who is spraying.
Stay safe out there!…general safety tips
No matter which personal safety device you choose, there are a number of things you can do in general to stay safe on a run.
One of the most important, and one that I tell my children and athletes on the teams I coach, is to never wear earbuds, especially if you are running by yourself. You need to be able to hear a vehicle or person who may be approaching since you can’t see them if they are coming from behind.
If you are running on the roads, always run on the left so that traffic is approaching you. And try to run as far to the left as possible and keep looking ahead rather than down.
If you can help it, don’t run by yourself. If you have to go it alone, leave word with somebody about where you are running and an approximate time you will return.
Although sometimes it is easy to just run the same routes over and over because it is one less thing to have to figure out, vary your running routes when you can. I was once grabbed by the arm in a mall by a stranger who not only knew my name but also said: “I see you run by every day.” A little creepy. And that was before the days of social media.
And speaking of social media, don’t post when and where you are running before you go.
If your schedule allows, don’t run before dawn or after dark. If you must, make sure you have a reflective vest and/or a light and that you run in areas where there are streetlights and sidewalks.
Although it takes some forethought, it’s not difficult or terribly expensive to stay safe on the run. Be safety smart everyone!