Safety for Women Runners

By: Jennifer Cassetta

This past year has not been a great year for women’s safety while running. 10 months ago three women were murdered while out running. The first, Karina Vetrano, was running in a park in Queens, NY, when she was raped and murdered. The second, Vanessa Marcotte, was running in Princeton, Massachusetts, near her mom’s house when she was also murdered and her body set afire. Alexandra Brueger was the third woman who was murdered while out running in Rose Township, Michigan. She was gunned down by her assailant.

Back in March, Kelly Herron was attacked in a public bathroom in a park while she was four miles into her run. Her assailant took her to the ground and she fought back long enough until a man passing by came in and the two of them were able to lock the attacker in a bathroom with a carabiner until the police arrived.

In May, a woman named Renee (she didn’t want to have her last name released), was attacked while running the Ragnar Relay in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She was in the middle of her first leg when a man attacked her and she fell to the ground. Luckily, during her struggle, a woman heard the distress and called out to Renee. That alone was enough for the attacker to be scared off.

Although these were all isolated incidents, it does sound scary when reading about them all at once. This article is not meant to scare anyone from running alone ever again. The purpose of this article is to empower us to feel strong, safe and prepared while out running.

Here are a few ways women can feel more strong and safe when running outside alone.

Share your location

Before you head out the door, there are a few apps you can use to track your route and share your route with other people. Strava and Find My Friends are examples of such apps that allow you to share your run with a partner, friend, roommate or parent so someone will always know where you are, as long as your phone is still with you.

Check your six

Make a habit of looking behind you (6 o’clock) from time to time while on your run. Make eye contact with anyone that you see, therefore they know they can no longer surprise you. You’ve seen them and made a mental note of their appearance. Look for any strange behavior. That’s how Renee noticed a man running behind her during her Ragnar race and his odd behavior of jumping on and off the sidewalk, especially when cars approached.

Turn down the volume

I know it’s unrealistic to advise people to leave their music at home. But, if you do choose to listen to music on your run, leave one earbud out and turn the volume low enough so you can hear what’s going on around you.

Switch up your route

Try not to run the same course every time. Switch up your runs so you don’t become predictable to a would-be stalker.

Be prepared for the worst

Visualizing what you would do in different safety scenarios can help keep you on high alert while out running alone. For example, visualize yourself in Kelly Herron’s shoes if you were to enter a public bathroom and there was a man standing in one of the stalls. Give yourself multiple options of ways you could keep safe.

Learn self-defense

In most of the stories above, it was reported that the women fought back against their attackers. Sometimes, fighting back is enough to have your attacker change their mind. Sometimes, screaming and making enough noise will help a bystander hear you and want to help you. Either way, it can’t hurt to learn at least the basics to help you physically defend yourself if ever needed.

Carry pepper spray

If running alone is your thing, I highly recommend carrying pepper spray. This Mace Brand Hot Pink Jogger Pepper Spray is perfect for runners. If you don’t like having things in your hands while running, try the Booby Trap Bra to carry your pepper spray in. A woman who was attacked while wearing her active gear created the Booby Trap Bra. She decided to take her experience and create a product that would empower women to stay active while having the means to protect themselves on their body. You can find out more about the Booby Trap Bra here. (

We want to hear from you! How do you practice personal safety while out running?

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