How To Take Care Of Your Personal Safety While Out Running
A number of sexual assaults have taken place in Leeds recently, most recently last Saturday morning on the Leeds Liverpool canal near to the steps leading to and from the A6120 at Rodley. Two women, one out running and one walking her dog, were assaulted and another was approached at about the same time. There were also a series of attacks in the Burmantofts and Harehills areas of the city last month though police have stressed that these attacks are not related.
In light of these attacks and the upcoming dark winter months, what can we do to best protect our personal safety? Statistically women are more likely to be the victims of a sexual assault such as those which occurred on Saturday but men are also affected; nearly half a million adults are sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year according to the charity Rapecrisis.
So, here are some safety conscious tips we could all make use of whilst out and about running and walking:
- The golden rule of running in the dark? Wear hi-vis and make sure you can be seen! You can buy a hi-vis vest in poundland (for a pound of course). Shops such as Aldi frequently do offers on running gear and at this time of year that includes items such as running gilets or jackets, even armbands with flashing lights on. Keep an eye on their website for offers – there’s no need to spend a lot of money!
- Make sure you let someone know where you are going, your anticipated route if you are running or walking, how long you anticipate you will be gone. Send a text, leave a note, but don’t post on social media before you go – potential perpetrators use social media to track victims, and, make sure you yourself know where you are going! I have been guilty in the past of finding myself lost and in difficulty and this can make you vulnerable.
- Take your phone and make sure it is charged. Even if you don’t have a fancy smartphone, a standard pay as you go device to keep in a small bag or pocket or strapped to your arm will suffice. In an emergency you can contact emergency services, family and friends. Perhaps also put some money in with your phone or if you have one a bus pass so that you could get home more easily if you feel threatened or find yourself in difficulty.
- If you want to listen to music keep the volume on low or only use one headphone. Being able to hear someone approaching could give you vital seconds to prevent an attack. There are also a lot of cyclists on the canal and being able to hear them approach will prevent collision accidents.
- Mix things up a bit and use different routes when running or walking. If it’s possible, run or walk at different times. Not all attacks are random; many are premeditated.
- If you feel threatened in any way take appropriate action, make lots of noise and attract the attention of passers-by. Whether you are right or wrong about your fears, don’t feel bad about taking action – your instincts are a strong indicator!
Another option is to join a group or find a partner so you are not on your own. Run Leeds have around 20 groups to run with, while the Leeds Athletics Network have a further 15+ clubs to join, with many catering for beginners!
I also consulted with my fellow runners at Kirkstall Harriers. Rose George had some sage advice on how to stay safe:
Wear an ICE wristband, carry a whistle, and download a safety app on your phone which gives your real-time location (e.g. Glympse, or Strava’s new one), tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to be. Don’t run somewhere where you can’t get away from a threat (which is why I don’t like the canal). But don’t stop running.
There are also self-defence classes in the area which can give you more confidence in protecting your own safety – Stephen Patterson runs classes in Armley:
I teach a self-defence program based on a Kung fu system developed by a woman about 350 years ago. Self Defence is important because people who choose you as a victim usually do so because they think you are weaker or a justifiable target.
Classes are all about building confidence, overcoming fear and knowing your own ability to enable you to reach your full potential and really look after yourself. Classes are held at Interplay Theatre on Armley Ridge Road on Sundays from 7pm.
For more information on joining one of Stephens classes email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Whichever action you choose to take, make sure you stay safe!