As runners we often find ourselves alone, on lonely streets and dark parks. I myself know, as a runners, but also as a teenage girl who travelled hours to and from karate classes in the evening, often returning home around 10pm or even later. I had my share of moments that made my heart jump, made me run as fast as I could and, even today, I look over my shoulder. I was attacked on the street shortly after I turned 18.
Nothing is bulletproof, no matter how many times one is a martial arts or boxing champion, no matter how many self defence classes you’ve attended, nothing is guaranteed. You can do or not do something that backfires. The information in this article represent my personal opinions.
Too many runners, or anyone who walks down the street seem like zombies. We have no idea who or what is around us, we avoid any contact with anyone, not even looking at the people around us for a second.
Take the headphones off and be in the moment. Besides the fact that as a runner you should listen to your breathing rhythm, your foot steps and think about how you run, you also listen to the world around you. Go the extra mile and be aware of who is around you, what they are doing, how they are behaving.
If you can avoid going into dodge alleys, parks, forests, under bridges, any places that are out of sight, avoid it. Choose well lit (if you run at night), public, familiar paths and, of course, still be aware of what’s happening around you.
It’s good to let someone know or leave a note about your whereabouts.
Time of day
Running in the evening after sunset is a time of day you want to avoid if you can. If you do have to run late maybe you can avoid the isolated paths and places.
Pony tails are dangerous as anyone can just grab it and pull you down. I usually wear a beanie hat in winter and a baseball hat in summer. I do so because I don’t like hair on my face but it also serves a second purpose, an extra element of safety.
Showcasing your phone
The world we live it has all sorts of people, you can’t change that but what you can change is your behaviours. Ever since I was a child my parents taught me not to flash my phone on the street, or take money out of the wallet in the middle of the street.
If you have to take your phone out remember to be aware of who is around you and what they are doing. Usually you can tell if someone is watching you, it’s that gut feeling. In my opinion awareness is half the battle won.
Probably the first self defence advice is, when you get the feeling that something is wrong, run! I mean run as fast as you can. If there’s no danger they you’ll be fine, but if it is you have just saved your life. Trust your gut instincts, they may save your life someday.
If running doesn’t do the job, scream. Even if you are a man. One of my (male) karate Sensei once asked the class "Who is the best fighter?". We all started giving all sorts of answers, from who is faster and stronger to who is well trained.
He then gave us the answer "The best fighter is the one who gets home safely". I believe fighting is not the answer, things might not turn out as you expect or plan. Try to avoid any form of violence if possible.
If someone attacks you asking for you phone for example, the best thing, in my opinion, is just to give it to them. Everything can be replaced...except your life. Nothing matters more than getting back home alive and safe.
Self defence classes
If you can take a few self defence lessons do it. Some actual practice may help you deal with the freeze response to such a situation.
Observe the shadows
In the evening you often pass by lampposts. This is a good opportunity to look at the shadow that comes behind you. Does it walk at your pace? Does the shadow increase pace when you do? Has the shadow been there a while? If unsure turn around and face the person behind you, or stop while they go past you. You can do the same during the day when the sun casts shadows.
Disclaimer: the author Alexandra Merisoiu and County Border News specifically disclaim any and all liability for any claims or damages that may arise as a result of providing this information. The information in this article is meant to be used as a helpful guide, but should not be considered as a complete resource on this subject. It is your responsibility for consequences that results in applying the suggestions in this article.
Alexandra Merisoiu of Oxted, founder The Merisoiu Technique Institute has been practising martial arts since 1995 with emphasis on Shotokan Karate where she holds a 3rd Dan Black belt and she is a Sensei associated to and recognised by SKCE (Shotokan Karate Centres England) teaching in Oxted. Alexandra has been several times national champion and second and third in the world championships. She still competes at international level, representing England as part of the SKCE squad.