Daily Chatter

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Confident Woman Runner

On a recent post I received the following:

Jessa commented; I'm a regular reader and find your blog so inspiring; thanks!

As a mom of young children, I would love to run in the early morning. Unfortunately, I have anxieties about running alone as a woman, especially on quiet roads or if it's dark. So much so that it keeps me from going, or I just go to the fitness center and run on the boring treadmill.

My question is: What do you to to feel confident and safe as a solo woman runner?

First off, Thanks Jessa for reading.  I am so happy that my adventures in my version of normal can inspire you.  Jessa doesn't have a blog currently so I was unable to answer her question directly and after some thought I realized that there was more to the answer than might first appear.

What do I do to feel confident and safe as a solo woman runner?

The answer goes back to my version of normal and your question is a reminder that it often goes unsaid that my path through life (and all those I read and am inspired by) are not to be copied.  That is not my intent in sharing.  I wish to inspire others to realize that whatever their dreams are, they are achievable.  It's not about everyone running every day.  Or about everyone giving up road racing and hitting the trails.  Or a 5k being a race that's too short. 
My journey and what I want to share is the reality that there is no limit to the number of roles you can own in life.  Your dreams are not limited by the adjectives you can use to describe yourself.  Neither are they excuses for not reaching for the things you want for yourself.
Just because I am a mostly-single-parenting-full-time-working woman does not mean that ultra-trail-running-adventure-racing-AT-hiking athlete can't join the list.

Now that we understand that the description woman does not create a limit to what we can do or how we can do it.  I will remind you that what I do to feel confident and safe may not be sufficient for you to feel and BE the same. 
But here are a few things that help me.

Having lived my entire life in my small hometown I have the luxury of knowing nearly everyone who lives along my typical routes.  The majority of those road routes do not cater to "through" traffic so even the passers-by in cars a typically neighbors and cause me little worry.  I run at night in the dark and often turn off my headlamp because I can usually see better without it, I run in the snow, I run in the rain, I run in the fog of the morning.  All because I am so familiar with where my feet are landing.  I know which cars I will encounter at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m.  Familiarity.  I can be confident and safe because I know my area having lived there so long.

  One thing to remember is to not allow familiarity to lessen your awareness of your surroundings.  Simply because I know who should be coming or going for work at the times I run does not allow me to be an unattentive runner.  I run into traffic when I am running on the road, in that I mean I run against the flow of traffic.  It is my job to make eye contact with that driver.  I don't allow it to be their job to notice me.  I keep alert for things along my way that are out of the ordinary.  But the number one way to stay aware is listening to my gut.  If I get a feeling of uneasiness about a road I am on or a trail I want to take, I listen to my gut and get out of that situation.  Even if it means calling for a ride home.

The Plan
Although this applies to when I run solo it also applies to when I run with the kiddos.  Even at 2 1/2 years old, LBM knows the plan.  What's the plan?  The plan started when I used to push my oldest in a stroller and it has been shared with each child as they have taken their turn going with mommy.  The plan is what to do if mommy is hurt during a run.  Sound like a creepy thing to talk about with an almost 3 year old but I'm from Mennonite country where kids are driving tractor at 2 slight exaggeration.   LBM is honestly old enough to understand what to do if something goes wrong.
We have a worse case scenario plan.  It's simple and straight forward.  I have talked with the neighbors along my weekly routes about what my kids would do ifThis simple plan helps them and me feel as though we are safer by simply knowing how we would handle an emergency situation while "on the road."
I'll bore you with the details of The Plan in a later post.

In my early days of my running, safety equipment was usually leaving a note behind with my scheduled route and anticipated times on the range hood of my stove back at the house.  Although I still do write a note if I am leaving an empty house I also typically carry my cell phone, wear my Road Id and have told at least one person when and where I'll be and confirmed a check in once I am back.   

The Reality
The reality is that no amount of planning, awareness, equipment or familiarity will ensure that as solo women runner we are always safe.  Additionally, there are many things that you as a runner can do that I do not do. 
Because why?  Because we each are running in our own circumstances.  Remember what works for me may not work for you so keep an open mind and ask for advice from many runners.  You can run with a group or a partner.  You can choose to run only in the day time.  You can choose routes that will put you in populated areas.  You can carry a whistle or "pepper" spray.  You can take classes on self-defense.  There are many options to help you feel more confident and safe. 

I think the best way to stay safe is to be confident. 
Run with Confidence!
Run like you know you should be there. 
Run like you know where you are going. 

Don't allow what might happen to keep you from making your dreams happen!


  1. This is a great post! I love that you have a plan. Little ones are little in size and experience but not incapable of rationale thought.

    I agree entirely about running with confidence. Don't act like prey. Even if you are scared, fake it and look like you know what you are doing!

  2. This is a really smart post. Once I start running with my little guy, I'm definitely going to teach him what to do if there is an emergency. It's also worth mentioning that if you carry your iphone, you should definitely install the "find my iphone app." A loved one can locate you instantly if you give them your password.

  3. Safety is so important, and being aware of your surroundings is huge, I think a lot of runners (myself included, sometimes!) find it easy to zone out. I always carry pepper spray when I run in the dark but I think I need to remember to inform someone about my runs. My husband usually leaves for work while I am running so nobody would realize I was gone if anything happened to me until HOURS later when I didn't arrive at work - thanks for the great suggestions!

  4. Great post! I run trails with my dog and she's been know to go after anyone who gets in my space. I can't take her on road runs, though, and since I run isolated routes, I try and mix it up, though this is hard since there are only like three roads in this small town.

    I think the smartest thing is what you said about trusting your gut. If it feels wrong, get the heck out of there, fast.

    Thanks for a great topic plus the safety reminder.

  5. I love this post! I really want to know about the "plan" because it sounds like such a great idea.

    I just was on the JFK 50 mile race site and they have a link for the Fire on the Mountain 50K and the webpage has a huge picture of you. I was like "Hey! I know her!" :)

  6. Great safety post and yes, it is awesome for kids to know the plan. I even added my daughter's name and blood type on my RoadID so in the worst case scenario, emegency support will know my name and know her name and critical information.

    As a running mom, I do tend to pick different, safer courses when running with my daughter. Areas where she knows the neighborhood and knows my running routine. But I do like your tip about letting someone know where you are going and typically, my hubby is the point person but on days I run with my daughter, I should still have a contact person.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. I LOVE this post....so well said as always! Thanks for sharing. This gives me ideas of what to respond when people tell me that I am not being safe when I run.