It's a Dangerous World
The news recently has covered the story of Sherri Arnold, a 43-year-old mother of three and teacher, who disappeared recently from the small town of Sidney, Montana during her morning jog. The FBI has joined local law enforcement to search for Sherri, but unfortunately, all that they have found so far is one of her shoes near the jogging path where she was last seen. As frightening and maddening as this is, sadly, there are other stories like this, every year.
I'm sure that a lot of us are like Sherri. We set out for our morning or evening runs, eager to take in the fresh air and get the blood pumping. And if you live in a small town, like where I grew up, you wouldn't think twice about going out alone for your run or bike ride...You know most people, it's a safe town, nothing ever happens. Or even if you live in the city, you think you can stick to the "safe" areas, your "usual" routes, and you'll be fine. Sherri's story, however, reminds us that this is a dangerous world, no matter where you live - whether it's a car blowing through a stop sign into the cross walk, or a stranger trying to abduct you.
Tips to Keep You Safe
Years ago, I didn't usually tell anyone where I was going, even if it was for a weekend hike, and I rarely took my phone on my runs or rides. In the past couple years, however, I tell someone where I'm going, usually the exact route I'm taking, and I always have my phone and ID with me. That's not to say that any of those things will keep me from being hit by a car or abducted, but in a world that can sometimes be out of our control, it's good to try to control as many variables as you can. So here are some tips I've come up with to help keep you safe, or, in the unfortunate even that something does happen, to let someone find you or identify you quickly:
- Tell someone where you're going, the route you'll take, when you're leaving, and for how long you'll be gone. Make sure to call that person when you get back.
- Take your phone with you, even if it's a 20-minute run. Buy a little fanny-pack for the run or a bento box for your bike.
- Wear or take your ID. I wear a Road ID because it has all the information that emergency responders would need to know and can access online: my emergency contacts, address, medical info, and any other information. Don't worry, the online information is secure and can only be accessed by you and a special code that emergency responders have. A Road ID is well worth the small investment. If you don't have a Road ID, at least take your drivers license.
- Wear reflective gear or bright colored clothes, even during the day. At night a head lamp or arm/leg bands with lights are a good idea.
- You won't like this...but, leave the headphones at home! I know you like to groove to your music on a run (and some people even do it on their bike, which drives me even more nuts!). But having one more distraction is dangerous when you need to be paying attention to the road, to cars, to people jumping out of bushes....And how well can you hear if someone is coming up behind you with music thumping in your ears? Besides, most races nowadays don't let you run with headphones anyway, so just get used to it! I never take my headphones, not even on a long run. Just listen to the soundtrack of the world around you...
- Stick to your known routes, be aware of your surroundings, and try to go where there will be a lot of other people. I know that some of us run/bike to get away from people, but in some areas, this may not be your best bet. Would you rather be surrounded by other runners/cyclists, or by yourself when you fall and sprain your ankle or see some strange person coming toward you?
- For women (and maybe some men), stop being so nice!!! I'm guilty of it as much as the next woman when it comes to stopping to help a stranger or not wanting to say no to someone. But our female tendency to be nice, helpful or accommodating, can get us in trouble. I'm not saying you have to be a bitch or ignore someone in need, but use your God-given instincts - they exist, they operate all the time, and we often ignore them. If you want to learn how to better trust your instincts to possibly save your life, read the amazing book The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. You'll realize how much your head overrides your natural instincts, often for the worse.
- Also for women (and maybe some men), take a self-defense course. I took karate for 5 years and also took a self-defense course through the local police department a few years ago. The police department class was amazing because it took place over 3 or 4 nites, where you learned basic self-defense moves to use in a variety of situations. Then at the end, the police dressed up in huge marshmallow-men suits, simulated an attack on you, and you had to fight them off - literally - they wouldn't stop until you actually stopped them. Check out your local police department or even college campus for classes and get some girlfriends to go together. You'd be surprised how some simple moves could save your life.
- Take a whistle that you can blow in case there's trouble. Also...YELL!! If someone is approaching or following you, yell at them: "WHAT DO YOU WANT?!" "BACK THE F#*% OFF!" Something to let the perpetrator know that you'll put up a fight. Often attackers are looking for someone who they can catch off-guard or who they think they can overpower. So let the weirdo know that you will not be overpowered!
- Finally, this is easier said than done, but find a buddy to run or bike with. I know that's not always possible or ideal, but even if you run with someone else once or twice a week, that cuts down your chances of something happening to you while you're alone.
Please be safe out there, and pray for the return of Sherri and anyone else who has met with misfortunate while they were out just trying to do something they enjoy...
Do you have any other tips for staying safe during your workouts?