Women’s safety and concerns regarding sexual assault has been a growing topic of discussion. While this article is not an attempt to address the issues of why attacks happen, and I agree the #NotAllMen are attackers, I do feel that #YesAllWomen should consider safety measures while trail running. This is a 5 Step guide for women to increase safety while trail running.
- Let Someone Know: Let someone know where you’re going, when you expect to be back, and when to worry. This is standard backcountry advice for most outdoor recreation. If I’m deciding last minute, I’ll often text my husband from the trailhead a simple text of “Running near XX, parking at XX, I should be done by XX, but don’t worry unless you don’t hear from me by XX.” While he doesn’t know the places I’m going or the trailheads I’m running near, he does know that if I’m a couple hours late and SAR is called he can tell them where my car is and what area I was heading towards. Had Aaron Rolsten left a note like that on his kitchen table, “Between A Rock and A Hard Place” would have had a much different ending.
- Know Before You Go: Simply think about what your potential risks are. Well-traveled trails mean more bystanders, but also a greater potential of sketchy people. Traveling at higher altitudes reduces the traffic flow of potential help and potential threats. Also, mentally addressing what your risks are and where your points of safety are only takes a few seconds (while your watch gets GPS…) and helps your mental response if something were to happen.
- Take Protection: Choose a safety item that you are comfortable with. Suggestions of concealed carry guns, knives, mace, cell phone tracking apps, or tasers have all been discussed on recent TAUR forums. Know how to use what you take, and test it frequently. I used to carry mace, and 6 months later I realized my mace didn’t work. I tested my back-up canister and it merely dribbled. I now know to test more frequently! Also make sure you have easy access to your protection. With step #2 of “Know Before You Go,” where you are running also influences what you take. There are solo runs where I merely take a phone, and there are places I run where I take both a knife and mace instead of a phone.
- Be Aware & Tone Down the Charm: Turn the music down just a bit and keep your eyes open. I mentally track where and when I see other people when I’m alone. If you are approached and/or feel threatened, make noise. Rapists generally don’t want a woman who will cause a lot of disturbance and trouble. Making known that you have a form of self-defense, and being prepared to make a lot of noise could be life-saving.
- Consider a Trail Buddy: A dog can be a great deterrent for assaults, although many have happened on the trail with less aggressive dogs. Friends are always great! Trail running friends keep things fun and safe. I enjoy running with others for about ½-2/3 of my trail runs.