Staying Safe as Runner or Walker

Five Rules for Runners and Walkers by Melissa Palmer

KIRunnersby Melisssa Palmer

This morning I woke up to yet another article about a runner being attacked or abducted. Here in Raleigh, NC we have a very strong running community and these stories hit home. We have a running group (KI Running Crew) at the Karate International dojos that meets at least once a week to go run and we can’t help but notice the different things runners and walkers do to make them an easy target. Whether you run in groups or alone (it’s not always an option to have a group to run with) be aware of the decisions you are making that could make you a target. Read on for the top five rules for runners and walkers.

1) BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. We’ve all heard it but it can’t be said enough. Keep your head up and see what’s going on around you. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact and give a pleasant hello or nod when passing other walkers/joggers. It lets people know you’ve seen them. Listen to your surroundings. Take the earbuds and head phones out of your ears. Yes, I love listening to music and yes, I know this is not what many people want to hear. However, many attacks happen from behind. If you are listening to music, there’s no way you will hear someone coming up from behind you. “I run with my dog so I’m safe and can zone out to music” is a common response. But it’s not good enough. A few months ago I was running with a couple women and we passed a baby copperhead slithering into the grass. Up ahead of us was a young woman jogging towards us with her dog while listening to music on the side of the train the snake had just gone. As we ran to meet her we tried to get her attention to tell her to move to the other side. Three of us were going towards her head on and she didn’t even notice us until I was right in front of her and the other ladies were at her side. Needless to say we scared her and her dog had done nothing to protect her.

2) BE UNPREDICTABLE. Most attackers have picked out their target before the actual attack. They aren’t looking for a fight but an easy victim which means attacking someone when they are most vulnerable. If you always run the same path the same day at the same time, you have set up a pattern and all the attacker has to do is pick a spot and wait for you to show up. Run at different times and locations and on various days whenever possible.

3) BE SMART WITH SOCIAL MEDIA, especially if your running patterns are predictable. If you post something on social media, expect the entire world to read it, no matter how careful you are with your groups and restrictions. If you use an app like Map My Run and then post it to Facebook, everyone now knows the exact route you ran and when. My running group loves making posts about our runs when they are finished, it’s inspiring to the group. But we don’t post our exact route and we are very unpredictable. Plus we are a group of people, and martial artists to boot. A simple statement of “ran 10 miles today!” is just as inspiring as a Map My Run post.

4) TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. This rule applies for anyone at any time whether you are out jogging or walking to your car. Do NOT ever allow anyone to stop you and get close to you. Even if it seems like the most innocent person asking you for the time. There’s nothing wrong with giving them a friendly smile and answering as you continue to walk/jog past them (giving as much space as possible). If you allow someone to stop you, you have become manipulated which screams “easy target.” It has also allowed the other person to take control of your space, especially if you allow them to get to close. No one has the right to enter your personal space without your permission. Period. In the event it happens, and someone has managed to stop you and take control of the space, turn sideways to them so you take back some of the control and can see if someone else is coming up from behind you.

5) FIGHT BACK. Should you ever be attacked, fight back. Your will to survive is your most powerful weapon. Use it. Attackers want an easy victim, not a fight.

These are just a few tips to help keep you safe. To learn more I encourage anyone to grab a friend or two and take a martial arts class at any Karate International location. Karate International has classes for ages 3 and up and for all levels) or attend one of our 12 hour Take Control Self-Defense classes.

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About the Author

Melissa Palmer

Melissa Palmer

Melissa teaches karate, jujitsu, and self-defense at Karate International. Being an independent female who enjoys traveling and doing activities on her own, she realized the importance and freedom of knowing how to protect herself. Her extensive studies in karate, jujitsu, judo, and Iaido, paired with her background in performing arts, makes her classes not only informative but entertaining and fun as well. Melissa graduated from Meredith College in 1999 with a music degree and has had the privilege to return to Meredith College as an adjunct instructor to teach Karate and Take Control Self Defense. Her students find the warrior in themselves, but also discover a base of supportive and encouraging peers. 

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