Security Tips For Runners

Running can be fun. It’s stellar cardiovascular exercise, and as any marathoner can tell you, often addictive. But it can also be dangerous. While there is no database for the number of runners hurt by traffic, 4,000 pedestrians die from “crash-related injuries” every year according to the CDC.

A recent survey by Runner’s World found that 43 percent of women “at least sometimes” experience harassment while running. That same survey discovered that women are so afraid, 42 percent of them will run only during the day, and 71 percent say that the number of people around affect their choice of route.

While homicides are down — especially homicides by strangers — recent deaths, like the murder of Queens jogger Karina Vetrano, have shaken the running community. Luckily, there are many ways to help keep yourself safe while you run — including alone, at night, and around traffic.

Jog With A Canine Companion

In a study of 86 burglars done by KGW, most of them would stay away from a house with a big, loud dog (small dogs didn’t bother them). People are intimidated by large breeds known for their protective natures, especially dogs like Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds, and that doesn’t change if you’re running down the street. Obviously, owning a dog is a big commitment; however, if you’re a dedicated, five-days-a-week, running-in-the-dark, mid-distance runner, it might be worth considering.

Don’t Run With Headphones

Yeah, you want to listen to that latest podcast, or you need your power music to really hit your stride. But when you’re drowning out your environment, you’re vulnerable to any number of dangers, including predators, bicycles, and traffic, Plus, you look distracted, which makes you seem like easier prey. And this distraction, as This Runner’s Recipes points out, is even more important at night, when you may need to be alert to the slightest rustle in the bushes. (And if you are going to use headphones, don’t use any that are noise-cancelling.)

Wear Bright Colors

There’s an obvious reason that a lot of running attire comes in neon: visibility. Cars and bikes are much more likely to notice you if you’re nigh on glowing. At night, take additional precautions: wear reflective gear, like a vest and shoe patches, especially if you’re on roadways. And if you do choose to bring a canine companion, make sure your pooch is similarly attired.

Run Against Traffic

Running Toward the Facts, when analyzing traffic deaths among joggers, found that most of them occurred when running with traffic. When you run with traffic, you can’t see cars coming up behind you; as cars take that curve, they may be more likely to see you, but any factors working against your visibility — night, fog — may cause your choice to backfire. You might find yourself in the ER, at best; being hit by a car going 45 mph is the impact equivalent — Running Toward the Facts says — of falling off a six-story building.  

Carry A Little Something Extra

Don’t want to be a victim? Make sure you’ve got some foolproof protection you know how to use. As a jogger, that probably means a bracelet designed to release a cloud of mace in the face of an attacker — a “macelet.” There are other self-protection tools, including lightweight batons; however, those tend to be cumbersome while running and hard to get right in an attack. Stick to something that blasts your attacker’s face from several feet away.

Don’t Put Your Routes On Social Media

Yeah, it’s fun to share your impressive runs with all your friends. But releasing that kind of information, especially if you run predictably in the same areas, can leave you vulnerable to attack. While you’re keeping your personal information off Facebook — and all the running apps out there — vary it up. Change your route, the time you go out, the distance you run. Don’t be predictable. If you run on the same track on the same three nights every week, you put yourself in harm’s way.

Follow Your Gut

Weirded out? Turn around. That group of guys ahead feel off? Do a u-turn and go back the way you came, preferably somewhere with more people. You never know when your gut feeling will be the thing that saves you from attack. According to Susan Newman, Ph.D., sometimes our brains may be undermining our best interests. Our “gut reaction” may actually be a reaction to a multitude of complex stimuli all adding up to tell us “Danger!”

[If you prefer to rest and explore — but not necessarily jog — outside, check out our Safety Tips For Campers.]

Generally, running is an inherently safe activity. But some factors, including night time, traffic, and the possibility of an attack, can make it less so. The best way to combat these dangers are to take a proactive stance. Recognize them, don’t deny them. Then come up with a plan to deal with them. That will keeping you jogging happily and feeling in control, which makes you feel and look more assertive. Which makes you less attractive to criminals. It’s a feedback loop. And it’s one that’s good to be caught in.

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent lives in a medium-sized city in the South with her three children, three dogs, and patient husband. She works as a staff writer for Scary Mommy, and her writing has been featured in The Washington Post and on

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