If you have been following my blog, reading the local news here in VA, or reading Shut Up And Run, then you know that running alone can be a dangerous choice. Across the country and close to home, women continue to be harassed, abducted, assaulted, and even murdered while out for a run. Before I go any farther, let me make something clear. These cases, near and far, are not up for discussion. Running alone, at night, in the morning, in broad daylight, on trails, along roads, or any combination thereof does not mean that a person is at all responsible for anything bad that happens to them. One hundred percent of the blame rests on the person perpetrating the crime, and no where else. As runners we do the best we can to protect ourselves and make decisions in our best interests while doing something that we love and have every right to pursue. With that in mind, I'll continue.
I live near two popular running trails, the W&OD and Four Mile Run. While not well lit by any means, they are well traveled most hours of the day. I've run both at night, sometimes alone but mostly with a friend. These trails, while great for runners and cyclists, are also popular with the criminal element. More specifically, rapists. I have lost count of the number of reports of sexual assaults reported on these two trails in the six years that I've lived here. While I will not let that deter me from living my life and continuing to train there, it is always in the back of my mind. I pay close attention to everyone I pass and everyone who passes me. I remember trail markers as I pass them, should I ever need to report my location to emergency services. But is that enough?
When I read about the most recent attack in Arlington, I got pissed but I filed it away and moved on. In my anger, I mentioned it to a friend of mine who shared my rage. We discussed what I was and was not doing to protect myself and what else, if anything, could be done. I also emailed the story to my running partner, who wrote back to let me know that she is now packing real heat. Legally. While she hasn't brought it with her on our runs (yet), I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me think twice. Turns out I wasn't the only one with the brain wheels turning, as the UPS man just dropped this gem off at my apartment. Male friends, it seems, taken action.
I haven't opened it yet. I know I'd need a holster that clips onto my waistband or fuel belt. But those details aren't why I'm posting about this. I want to know if any of my readers carry something defensive with them on their runs now, have in the past, or are considering doing so in the future. What are your opinions on pepper spray, rape whistles, or even guns? Are the odds of being attacked small enough that carrying something seems excessive to you? Has my friend overreacted? Are there alternatives to weapons such as self-defense classes that I should be considering if I am that concerned about safety?
I am still mulling over yesterday's post, and appreciate the feedback that I have gotten so far. Especially from you, Cris. You've given me a lot to think about. In the mean time, please let me know how you feel about what I've posted today. I'm really curious to hear what everyone has to say. Run safe, friends.