Protect Thyself! Safety Tips for Running

Samammish Trail is a spectacular place to run. It’s part of a larger system of trails (Burke Gilman) that interconnects all of Seattle for folks to walk, run, or bike to just about any part of the city (almost 90 miles). If only our public transportation was so well developed! The SamammishRiver Trail follows along a natural waterway that connects Lake Samimmish and drains into Lake Washington. I always see lots of ducks, Canadian geese, and the Great Blue heron along the river walkway. My goal is to (someday) run up to Chateau Ste Michelle (I think about 12m total), a gorgeous winery in Woodinville. I love the idea of running next to the expansive fields of gentle hills lined with grape vines, and the main buildings are an architectural feast which conjures the image of romantic past lives.

On a sunny day, the trail is crowded as everyone is getting outside to enjoy the weather. In Seattle, if you don’t take advantage, it could be awhile before you see the sun again. Last Friday, I was running late from work. I needed to get out and run because it had been a very long two weeks since I’d done any running. The days have been getting longer, and so I decided to go ahead and head to the Samammish Trail for a five miler. The first three miles were perfect! It was warm, but not hot. The ducks were swimming along the river, and a gaggle of Canadian geese rested on the side of the trail. I hit the ‘zone’, and was running well with no pain and felt like I could go forever!

I’ve read several emails and websites about how to protect yourself while running, or in general, and the first tip is always to be aware of your surroundings. As a result, when I pass by people I make sure to look at them. Not directly, I don’t want to be weird, but I make sure that they are aware that I know they are there. I passed by a man wearing a turquoise football jacket with the hood up. He was wearing pants, light in color, that had stains all over them. He reminded me of a construction worker, which would be common as new condos are being built near the trail and many workers take the trail to and from city hall where they park.

As I passed, I made eye contact, and then looked forward. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to look back as I was jogging to find that this man did a 180 and was now following me. I glanced around at my surroundings and found the sun was setting and I was all alone on the trail. It was ominous and definitely a story that I did not want to find out the ending to. I looked immediately for an exit, to find a place where lots of people would be around like a roadway or shopping center. Luckily, there was a bridge up ahead that was used by motorists to connect two parts of the city. I climbed the stairs and ran as fast as I could down the side streets. I was nervous because it was an area that I’d never been in before, and I had visions of a bad horror movie playing out in my head. Instead of allowing the mild panic to turn into full fledged panic, I aimed myself in the direction of my house and turned down a street that I vaguely remembered and found myself running next to the municipal courts and (thankfully) a police station. I started to wonder though, if the creep was parked nearby and was able to get in his car and follow me. I wasn’t taking any chances. (Photo courtesy of http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/outdoors/2004246218_nwwtrails281.html)

From there, I ran along the populated roadways to my townhouse. I looked around to make sure no one was watching or lurking anywhere as I got closer to the house. Then I ran inside and called my girlfriends to tell them, and that if I was snatched, to look for the creepy on Lake Samammish Trail wearing the aqua jacket. The after effects have slowly faded, but I still find myself a little startled and my mind a little fearful of lurking creeps. So, I’ve reacquainted myself with self defense tips and will start looking at the possibility of some mace. I don’t really want to go this route, considering with my luck it will get on me rather than the intended victim. My friend Dawn says I need to go to the park and practice using it first. So for now, I’ll be using only one ear of my headphones, running in the daylight, and running with Nadene as much as possible. Keep on Keepin‘ on!
The following guidelines were established by the RRCA:
  • Avoid unpopulated areas such as parks, bike trails and deserted tracks or non-residential streets.
  • Consider carrying a whistle.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Know who is ahead of you and behind you and be aware of the nearest people or populated areas.
  • Think about possible escape routes in case of an attack.
  • Follow your intuition; if an area feels suspicious, turn back.
  • Tell someone where you will be running. Note your regular routes to a friend, or write down where you plan to run.
  • Run in familiar areas.
  • Run with a partner whenever possible.
  • Run widely around places where attackers might hide, such as parked vans, trucks on the street and bushes, bridge underpasses and portable restrooms on the trail.
  • Ignore verbal harassment.
  • Use discretion in acknowledging strangers (but be aware of them).
  • Carry money for a phone call. (Remember, though, that you don’t need money for a 911 emergency call.). (I’m just going to carry my phone!)
  • Carry identification.
  • Do not run wearing headphones because you cannot hear approaching people, vehicles or dogs.
  • Consider enrolling in self-defense classes or a mace training certification program.
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1 Comment
  1. YIKEY!!! I just got read this, my dear! I’m soo glad you turned around to notice! I can’t even imagine what may have happened. Glad you acted, woman! I usually run with my music SOO loud and in both ears.. I need to re-evaluate that for sure! Thanks for the reminder. SOO glad you’re okay!

    Especially on those long runs….I’ve often thought..I’ve already ran FIFTEEN miles..what if someone started chasing me now???? what would I have left??? Ya know?? YIkes!

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