Recently, I read a disturbing article in Runner’s World about a woman, Stephanie Steiniger, that was assaulted on her run at dusk.
It was dark—around 7:50 p.m. Still, eager to make it an even 14 [miles], Steiniger set out along the trail again for a final half mile. And then someone approached—a white man about 5’6”, slight build, not much taller than Steiniger herself. He wore dark-rimmed glasses, baggy pants, a dark zip-up hoodie, and a white t-shirt.
As Steiniger ran past, he asked her the time. She paused, glancing at her left wrist. And that’s when he attacked, grabbing her forearm and pulling her inward.
Luckily, the assailant didn’t realize who he was messing with: a kickboxing instructor. Steiniger fought like hell and was able to dash away to a Little Caesar’s nearby.
As women, it’s a sad fact that we are seen as vulnerable targets when we run. As the daylight hours grow minuscule, here are some pointers should you decide to embark outside before daylight hours.
Run By Lights
Or anywhere you know people are going to be around. Run against traffic or in the middle of the street (if it’s safe, of course). The idea is to be as conspicuous as possible. In fact, you should opt for being semi-obnoxious in making your presence known. This makes you less of a target.
Let Someone Know What You’re Doing
The first 48 hours of finding a missing person are crucial. If nobody knows you’ve disappeared, that could be detrimental should the worst happen. I text my mom before every run, and I give her an ETA of when I should be back. It helps to know if something goes awry, someone has my back.
Er, mace is technically illegal in New York. So, I should say carry something that can stun a potential assailant. A stun flashlight also works very well.
Ditch the Music
You’re running in the dark, so that means one of your senses is already gone. Making it two out of five means you’re a sitting duck. If that sounds painful, wait until the sun has risen to turn on the tunes. Enjoy the dawn!
Avoid Public Restrooms
A large portion of terrifying encounters with female runners seems to start in the bathroom. It’s no surprise since you’re cornered and you’re literally caught with your pants around your ankles. Best to just hold it or go before you leave the house. Trust me, the discomfort is worth the peace of mind.
If you need more convincing, look no further than Kelly Herron’s story:
My biggest running nightmare became reality- 4 miles into my long run Sunday afternoon, I stopped to use the restroom and was assaulted by a man hiding in a stall (that is my GPS in red lines). I fought for my life screaming("Not today, M**F**er!"), clawing his face, punching back, and desperately trying to escape his grip- never giving up. I was able to lock him in the bathroom until police arrived. Thankfully I just took a self-defense class offered at my work and used all of it. My face is stitched, my body is bruised, but my spirit is intact. #NTMF #fightingchanceseattle #ballard #runnersafety #marathontraining #womensselfdefense #myballard #fightlikeagirl #fightback #nottodaymotherfucker #youcantbreakme #instarunners #garmin #garminvivosmarthr
Run With a Partner
Human or canine. There is safety in numbers. Plus, you get an added bonus in motivation. Waking up to work out on dark fall/winter mornings is always a chore. This way, you and your partner(s) are held accountable.
Don’t Forget to SING!
Sandra Bullock deserves an Academy Award for teaching women about this in Miss Congeniality. If all else fails, go for the most vulnerable parts of your attacker. Sometimes the best snap decision is to kick ’em in the crown jewels.