Scared to run alone? Women runners share their best safety tips

Get the Better newsletter.

By Nicole Spector

I used to like to run by myself in the evening, away from the busy streets and bright lights. Then, one night I was followed by a group of men. Fortunately I made it home unscathed, but my appetite for solo jogs was spoiled after that. I guess it was the last straw. I was already exhausted by the aggressive male behavior I had to endure: catcalling, heckling and lewd propositioning.

These disturbing incidents were random, uncontrollable and at times terrifying. I’ve known so many women who can relate, and now I know even more after researching this article.

None of these women succumb to fear. They recognize that they can’t control what others do, that there’s no such thing as “asking for it”, and that you can take all the safety precautions in the world and still end up a victim. But they don’t give up what they love, an attitude that inspires me to get my sneakers back on and go for it, with some handy tips in mind.

Risk aversion is the key here — not risk elimination (which is impossible)

Part of what helps women runners stay confident is taking safety precautions. This doesn’t mean they’re guaranteeing their safety (that’s not possible), or that anyone who has been hurt or worse while running could have been spared had they taken more precautions (that’s victim-blaming).

What it does mean is that they’re having better, less stressful workouts by practicing risk-aversion.

“It is probably smart for women to have a certain level of risk aversion while they run because they are vulnerable targets to predators,” says Laura Dugan, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland. “With risk aversion, they can make decisions that will reduce their vulnerability and consequently allow them to enjoy their running.”

Here’s how to practice risk-aversion when running alone as a woman: