Safety Tips for Runners

If you’re a runner, chances are you run alone sometimes and you may even venture out at night or in isolated areas. These safety tips for runners will help you take precautions to stay as safe as possible when you run. Luckily, technology offers us plenty of help for maintaining running safety, and preparation can also be a lifesaver. Once you prepare, you’ll be better equipped to handle any emergency situation that may arise.

As a female running coach in New York City, I’ve had some crazy and sometimes scary situations come up on my runs, and I’ve learned the hard way how to take safety seriously. Of course, it is never your fault if you do get attacked on a run but taking some safety measures can help you better prepare and ward off threats, escape or sound an alarm if needed.

Tech Tips for Safer Running

Technology can be your best friend for running safety and luckily there are many running safety apps to help. Some of these apps let you share your run with a trusted person. This allows your contact to see your running location in real-time, so if anything happens and you do not return, your contact can see your GPS location and stopping point. Other running safety apps have features to alert people in an emergency and even record audio and video of the event. Here are some running safety apps to check out:

Strava is a popular running tracker app for sharing your running routes and times. You can use Strava’s Beacon feature to share your running location with up to three contacts. First download Strava and then go to Settings and under Settings choose Beacon. Slide the button to turn on Beacon for mobile and choose your contacts. This safety feature will send a text to your contact every time you begin a run so they can track your route in real-time. Just be advised that if you are in a very isolated area or have a weak GPS signal, Strava warns that your exact GPS location may not be accurate. You can choose if you want to share each run when you begin a workout on Strava so if you are running with someone or in an area that you feel is safe, you do not need to send the location alert text when you begin your run. I have used this Strava Beacon feature to share my routes when I am running alone on isolated trails or on the road at night and have found it helpful.

ROAD iD is an app specifically designed for running safety. ROAD iD lets you share your running location with others. The app includes a “stationary alert” option that notifies contacts if you stay in one spot for more than 5 minutes. The app also displays your name and medical information on the lock screen so if something happens to you, people can more easily help.

bSafe is another running safety app that allows you to share your location in real-time on your runs as well as offers live audio and video at the scene of emergency events. The SOS feature that allows you to press a button on your phone or voice signal in an emergency situation. The SOS alert goes out to your emergency contacts and provides live video and audio from the scene.

Running App Safety. Speaking of apps, it’s important to practice safety when you use social media to share your runs. You can make your routes private or only allow app friends to see them. As a female runner, I choose to keep my routes private and then no one knows where I live or what my regular routes are.

Other social media considerations include photos. Generally it’s not a good idea to post photos with identifying streets or information on where you live or on what time you run. The more public your social accounts are, the more you will need to be guarded with identifying information.

General Safety Tips for Runners

These general safety tips for runners can help you prepare for emergency situations that may arise on your run:

  • Take your cell phone on runs. It may be tempting to run carefree and phone-free but a cell phone is an important tool you can use to contact people in an emergency. The cell phone also lets you get an Uber if needed, and people can track and contact you if you have a running safety app on your phone.
  • Always carry your ID when running. In case an emergency situation arises on your run, people can identify who you are and where you live.
  • Bring a small amount of cash or a credit card when you run. You never know when you may need to buy something in a crisis situation or you may simply want to stop to buy water on a run. Money is also useful for taking public transit or buying food or bandages.
  • Obey traffic signals. Drivers are rarely looking for runners so we have to be on the defensive when running. Obey crosswalk signals and do not jump out in traffic or run in the street. Also stay out of bike lanes or you risk getting hit. I know a runner who got a concussion from getting hit by a bike in Brooklyn when getting out of a cab. Always be on the lookout for moving vehicles and do not assume they will stop for you.
  • Get a running buddy. Run with a friend, family member or your dog for extra safety. If you are running at night or in isolated areas, a running buddy is especially important for safety.
  • Pay attention to your gut. If a person or situation makes you feel unsafe, run away. Running is really the best defense and avoiding confrontation is usually the safest option. You can also use your phone to record videos of street harassers or someone you may need to report to the police.
  • Carry a personal safety device. For women runners especially, a personal safety device can help you protect yourself or sound an alarm. After a man tried to grab me in the park on one of my runs in NYC, I started carrying pepper spray. I hope I never have to use it but I will use it if necessary. Other personal safety devices may include sounds such as an alarm or whistle that you can use to call for help and draw attention to an emergency situation.
  • Run during daylight hours and run in places with other people around. Although this does not guarantee your safety, it increases your chances of being able to get help, record the situation and see what is going on.
  • Stay alert. Turn your music down enough to hear your surroundings or run without headphones. Pay attention to what is going on around, including people, animals and traffic.

If you are still concerned about running safety, you could sign up for a self defense class or workshop. I hope these safety tips give you some tools to help you stay safe and happy for many miles to come.

Marnie Kunz is a NASM-certified personal trainer, USATF and RRCA-certified running coach, and the creator of Runstreet Art Runs, which bring together communities through running and street art. She is a Brooklyn resident, trainer, Akita mom, and writer. She enjoys running, coaching, traveling, art, and eating messily. You can follow her running and events at @Runstreet Instagram and Runstreet Facebook and follow her on Twitter for more on her running adventures.