Friday, February 3, 2012

Be safe, train smart

Falling Over Safety Block

Image: Stuart Miles /

A fellow fitness blogger recently posted something that made my blood run cold; her cousin in Montana went for a run one morning and never came home.

The very thought strikes fear into my heart. All living things have a life force, a will to live, which probably means that most people do not wake up and wonder if this will be the last day they walk out their front door.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts — locking our doors, moving to safe neighborhoods, having our cell phones at the ready — evil still exists.

I’m not suggesting we hide in our homes or live in fear but, rather, to recognize that we are vulnerable and remember that we should always pause to consider the risks and benefits of our actions.

Every issue of Runner’s World magazine features a “Rave Run.” Inevitably, these runs are on magnificent, breathtaking landscapes ranging from rocky shoreline trails to snow-covered single tracks in the mountains.But despite the varied terrain, these runs often have one thing in common. They are extremely remote.

Each month I drool over the Rave Run with a sense of longing and wistfulness, knowing that I will likely never run in such an environment — not because of geographical limitations, but due to my upbringing.

As a woman growing up in the Baltimore-Washington suburbs, I was taught from an early age that, in the interest of my safety and well-being, I should avoid remote and desolate places.

My home sits just a short distance from several gorgeous trails surrounding Piney Run Lake and the Liberty Reservoir and I often envy the freedom my husband has to run these trails at will. I realize that I, too, possess this freedom but I choose not to run these trails alone, understanding that, fair or not, I’d be putting myself at a greater risk than he.

I have thought of that female runner in Montana every day since reading that blog post. She left her home , a place where she’d lived for most of her life, and set out for a pre-dawn run on a trail in a field within a mile of her house, possibly something she did daily. But, on that fateful morning, she was sadly in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thinking of this woman, and mourning the loss of a fellow athlete that I did not know, has not caused me to hang up my running shoes or retreat to my treadmill, but it has prompted me to revisit the necessary precautions for staying safe when I exercise outdoors, such as varying my workout days, routes and times.

I once read an article on men who were interviewed after they’d been convicted of assaulting female runners and they were asked what they looked for when choosing a victim. The top answers? Women who were distracted, wearing pony tails, wearing headphones, running in the dark and running alone.

So, be safe out there and train smart. Listen to your intuition and don’t take unnecessary chances. And, if you must explore that inviting wooded trail, take a friend and leave the iPod at home.

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