In Ask the Trail Sisters

Yesterday’s article touched on a topic that deserves more follow up, along with additional information to help you stay safe.

“I run alone a lot, and was wondering if you have any tips on   how to get yourself out of a tricky situation.”


When it comes to general trail safety from other people I think there are two steps, pre-run + mid-run. Before you head out, especially on trails you’re not familiar with, let someone know where you’re going + when they can expect your “yay, running is awesome” finale text post-run. This will give you some confidence on the trail + it’ll be a good safety net if you do encounter anything weird on the trails.

Once you’re out on the trail, ditch the distractions. Trails are a great place to run without headphones + don’t be ashamed of slowing or stopping to take a look around you. This will make you aware of anyone odd before they can take you off guard. If you are approached by someone, be confident with where you are, where you’re going + what you’re doing. Don’t fabricate lies, but be sure of yourself with your voice, words + body language. The probability of someone escalating things is slim, but if they advance…fight back + get in a little speed work. Also, do not engage with them if they immediately start yelling or being aggressive — just pick up the pace + get out of there.

Step one is obviously RBF (resting bitch face), which I’ve been perfecting since I was 5. As far as getting away, you can probably run for longer than most creepers, so just keep moving. Most creepers are lazy, and won’t want to bother. Worst case scenario, they will most likely give up before you do. To avoid attention, try running with a dog, or a friend. Don’t use headphones, as it makes it hard to stay aware of your surroundings. Most hydration packs have a “bear” whistle, which is basically the same as a rape whistle. Make sure you know where on your pack it is. Consider carrying a pocket knife, pepper spray, or a taser if it makes you feel safer. I hate to go full-Texas here, and I may get some hate mail, but if you’re comfortable with this, there are some great small pistols with holsters suitable for running. Check your state laws, and never get a gun without first being properly trained and COMFORTABLE handling one. Also, to effectively gouge someone’s eyes out, simply put the tips of your thumbs together, palms facing away from you but slightly at each other in a V (like moose antlers touching at the thumbs), aim for the bridge of the assailant’s nose, and flick outward upon contact. “Wow Lisa, that is a very specific description” – yeah I know. Don’t mess with me!

Creepers are the worst. I took a self defense course at one point, and there were a few things I picked up:

  1. Make sure you stay aware and alert, so if there is a creeper you notice them early.
  2. Remember that you’re already practicing the best form of self defense you can – running. Get the heck away from them.
  3. Act confident, make eye contact.  Let them know you see them and you’re NOT afraid of them.
  4. Don’t worry about being polite. Trust your gut, if something feels off, get away. Maybe they were just a nice guy trying to make conversation or ask for help, it doesn’t matter, your safety ALWAYS comes first.
  5. You can carry self-defense items, but if you do you should be confident and practiced in how to use them.
  6. If you find yourself in a situation where they have a hold of you or have you cornered fight with everything you have.  Think hard parts of your body (knees, elbows, heel of hand) and vulnerable parts of their body (stomach, groin, bridge of nose).  Yell, kick, scratch, bite.  And if you have a chance to get away get to someplace safe where you can report the incident as quickly as possible.

Remember too to let people know where you’ll be and when you’ll be back, so in the event that something happens people know where to look for you.  We shouldn’t let fear of something happening prevent us from doing something we love, but we can be smart and minimize risks for ourselves.

It’s terrible that we have to even go over this, but for sure you’ve got to be prepared for anything when you’re out on a run.  Just yesterday there was an article in our local news of a creeper chasing two female runners with a knife down a tunneled path that I travel regularly.  They got the guy, but what in the world would I have done if that were me?  I actually had a frighting experience at a trailhead with a man parked next to me. I had just pulled up and was hurrying to getting my vest on, watch set etc. (Had the teenager watching the kids!) When I went to get out of the car and glanced over at him, the cheesy ridiculous smirk on his face and where he had his hands told the whole story.  I quickly got back in my car, locked the door and took a breath.  Then I was MAD. How dare he! My cute little town, my trail time, and my horrified eyes. It took him a minute to get driving out of the trailhead parking lot.  I immediately called 911.  I wouldn’t recommend doing what I did next, but I’ll tell you anyway.  I followed the creeper with a little distance while on the phone with the dispatchers.  I was still so angry.  The parade when through a few neighborhoods with stop signs and red lights before the cops pulled him over.  Long story short, this was a convicted sex offender.  He went back to jail for 10 years.  I never really planned out what I would or wouldn’t do with this type of scenario, but I’m glad instinct and good timing allowed for that outcome.  So, plan ahead ladies.  What would you do? Create quick scenarios, get away spots, alternative routes or “safe places” where you’re running.

There is a certain section of trail where I live that makes me feel uncomfortable running through if I am alone. To avoid any potential unwanted confrontations, I take an alternative route around. Even though it is on the sidewalk with cars buzzing by, I feel safer and my nerves at ease. If you are running and someone flags you to stop, just keep running. Always carry a cell phone just in case.

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Showing 3 comments
  • George Pipe

    Thanks so much women for the advice, so good! I feel even for men safety is important. As a new runner and wanting to get in trail running, at the moment I run a lot of the time at night alone on the road. It can be scary but its what I love to do. I don’t want these creepers to scare me off of doing what I love so this information has helped me greatly.

  • Pam

    Thank you for telling people to ditch the headphones. You are in nature, for goodness sakes, and it is a safety hazard. No hate mail from me on the firearms suggestion. The training and handling part is key. So many people just buy or are given a gun with no training on how to use it, which is the best way to have it used against you. Building confidence and muscle memory is key with firearms and running. Thanks for going out on that limb, Lisa.

  • mary

    There’s an area I like to go run- I’ve introduced myself to the resident ranger and I know which cottage he inhabits- I also don’t hesitate to talk to families or other groups of women- I figure if they hear me yell for help they are much more likely to do something about it.

    In reference to Tara’s situation- pull out your cell phone and take a picture of the car/plates!

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