I don’t run at night: women, running and personal safety

Jon Feingersh, Getty Images

This morning, in one of my daily newsletters from Runners World, I found a link entitled “Do you run alone at night?”  The link led me to a discussion in the women’s forum about personal safety when running.

The women who participated in the discussion all had a list of things they do to keep safe when running alone:

  • Running in groups
  • Running with dogs
  • Finishing a run before night falls
  • Driving to neighborhoods they perceive as safer
  • Running in parks
  • Carrying Mace or pepper spray

A few of the women said they even carry Tasers or guns in holsters when they go out for a run.  Yikes!  Running is challenging enough – can you imagine doing it with a holster strapped to your body?

It got me thinking about how the fear of being assaulted while running has been deeply ingrained in me over the years, and how it’s influenced the way I run.  For instance, I never, ever run alone when it’s dark outside.  I just don’t.  The few times I’ve had to out of necessity – because of changes in my work schedule, primarily – I find myself looking over my shoulder more than I look ahead.  I know this is idiotic, because the odds of tripping on something and smashing my face open because I wasn’t watching where I was going are far greater than the odds of being raped by a scary dude hiding in the mangroves near my home.  And yet, the fear persists.

I feel this way even though I live in one of the safest areas in my city, the kind of place where someone’s car gets broken into and the entire neighborhood goes on high alert and deputies hold town halls and everything.  I feel this way even though I can count the number of attacks on joggers that have happened in my city in the past three years on one hand.  I feel this way even though I am way more likely to be hit by car while out running than be attacked.

This is how deeply ingrained that fear is – that despite all of these things, I will not run alone at night.

What about you?  Do you change your biking/running/walking habits for reasons of personal safety?  Why?

Edited to add: while looking for an image to illustrate this post, I found this interesting interview at That’s Fit with Holly Kearl, who surveyed more than 800 women about the role fear plays in their exercise habits.  Check it out.

4 responses to “I don’t run at night: women, running and personal safety

  1. See, and I’m just inherently dumb. I run at night. I run alone. I don’t look over my shoulder. I’m the girl who’s neighbor watches her go running each night, hides in the bushes, then rapes her. This would be really true if a) I didn’t live in Shore Acres (yes, I know, “anyone, anywhere, it’s always someone you know, yadda, yadda), b) I ran on any sort of schedule, c) I wouldn’t outrun, dropkick, bite, tackle… ok, so I would be pretty fkin angry… d) no one could here me scream when there are houses always within 50 ft.

    I’m not so naive as to call it impossible, but my odds aren’t so bad.

    • Ha, see, I don’t think that’s dumb. I actually question myself and wonder if I’m not dumb, because I live in this safe, upscale neighborhood and yet I am still freaked out. I am freaked out even though I know most of my fear is generated by the media, and that media coverage – especially when it comes to news – is dedicated to the awful and the extraordinary, which makes people think awful and extraordinary things are really the norm! Hell, I am freaked out even though I WORK for the media and I know how all this shit goes down.

  2. Pingback: Running in the dark | Fit and Feminist·

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