Running Safe: 5 Ways to Stay Alive on that Next Run

Everyone is Vulnerable 

Running safe should be the goal of every runner. Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy the occasional late evening or early morning run. Running has become a way to re-set the body, soul and mind. Running, for some, brings on a euphoria and Zen like endorphin rush that many need on a daily basis.

Statistically, the chance of being assaulted while enjoying this popular exercise are extremely rare.So are plane crashes but I still need to medicate before I board a flight.

Speaking of plane crashes, I recently saw the movie “Sully” which does a masterful job at showing how quickly things can go south. He had just seconds to make a decision to save his life and all on board. I’m sure the last thing on his mind that morning was ditching his plane into the Hudson River.

Just like when Captain Sully told his passengers to “brace for impact”, so this article goes.  He didn’t say “hey guys, this landing may be a little bumpy, can you please put your seat in the upright position?”

Like Captain Sully, you will only have seconds to take the appropriate action to possibly save your life.

From a Cops perspective, there are several things that can be done to reduce the risk. Now before you start lobbing feminist grenades at me, hear me out. Women kick ASS! There are lots of them that can easily kick mine.

If you have read some of my other articles, I am upfront about the very bad things that could happen to you.

Several years ago a female runner was attacked while running on a trail in our City.  She survived but her attacker was never identified.  I still remember the lead detective saying before he retired how he regretted not solving that case.

Some women, even recently, have not been so lucky.

1. If you run on a trail, take a buddy with you.

Always remember that sexual predators, like most criminals, will typically take the path of least resistance.

If you have ever watched Animal Planet or National Geographic, predators in the wild look for victims who are alone.

Human predators are no different.

If all of your friends are non-runners, I would suggest joining a running club. Running safe is a priority when running off the beaten path.

Another option is bringing your dog if you have one.


(I wish sittercity was around when my kids were younger. They definitely take the stress out of finding one.)

2. Always tell someone where and for how long you intend to run.

This is important. Not so much for an attacker scenario but for general good practice. Several years ago,

my sister-in-law went for a long run in the mountains but didn’t let anyone know.

It almost ended badly.

She had decideforest-110900_960_720 to take several logging trails during her run and ended up getting lost. To make matters worse, the sun was going down and the temperature began to drop rapidly.

By luck, her husband, after frantically searching the area, found her huddled and shivering on one of those trails.

And the same goes for you guys out there. Trust me, being macho and self reliant won’t do you much good when you are lost in the woods with no shelter, food or water.

And no matches to start a fire.


3. Running safe means be aware of your surroundings.

Okay I’m going to talk Cop to you.

If you learn anything from me its this. Pull your head out of your butt!

Okay I know that stung a bit but a wake up call now is better than being caught off guard later.

Dr. Kevin Gilmartin, a former Cop now Doctor, spoke on a type of situational awareness in his book, Emotional Survival.  In it he talks about how Cops are overly tuned in when on duty, always scanning and observing for the proverbial ax to fall.

He refers to this state of consciousness as being “hyper vigilant”.

Now I’m not saying that you must adopt this strategy but it’s really not a bad idea if something seems amiss during that late afternoon jaunt.

Let’s look at this scenario.

Feeling guilty, you have decided to squeeze in one more run even though your boss kept you later than expected. You hurry home and quickly lace up your new Asics and out the door you go.


You decide to hit the trail that loops out into the woods behind the new high school. It’s a great evening for a run, 55 degrees, no wind, and a beautiful setting sun. As you near the school, you notice a dude that’s just standing near the entrance of the trail.

About two hundred yards out you see that this guy doesn’t look like a runner or a walker for that matter.  He’s wearing blue jeans, a dark hoody and a pair of cowboy boots he probably picked up at the local thrift down the street.

As you get closer something in your gut tells you something isn’t right with this guy.

So what do you do?

Trust a million years of evolution and pick another time time  to run that trail!

4. Cliche alert, cliche alert, cliche alert!! – Carry a whistle.

Crime prevention 101, paragraph 3 states “criminals don”t like to bring attention to themselves”. The piercing sound of a whistle at full blast will do a couple of things.

First, it’s hard for your attacker to concentrate with the shrieking sound that a whistle makes. Some studies have even shown that it replicates the sound of a wailing infant.


That’s enough to make most men, to include the sexual predator type, waive the white flag and retreat.Secondly, it tells your attacker that you are not just some naive doe prancing in the woods.

It shows that you have at least considered this happening.


This will make an attacker at least consider what other plans you may have for him.

5. Take your cell phone with you on every run.

Smartphones have essentially replaced the need for an IPod or any other music listening device. Most also have a fitness tracker app as well.

Some have graduated to a Fitbit or like device but you really need to carry your phone with you on your runs and here’s why.

running safe


I can’t tell you how many times I have tracked missing persons, suicidal subjects, and even murderers with this one golden piece of technology.

Here’s how it works.

Your cell phone, when it’s turned on, continually sends out a signal to both satellites in space and also cell receiver towers (not in space).

When the police have a need to what we call “ping” your phone, it must involve an emergency or some other exigent circumstance.


With most service providers a “ping” can be calculated to the location of your phone within just a few meters.  Some can even get it closer than that.

I know what your thinking. How in the Sam Hill am I going to dial 911 during an attack! Yes, it’s a tall order but the option is there. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to practice or make a shortcut on your phone to dial 911.

The most important thing to take away from this article is this.

There are bad people out there. They don’t play by the rules.

They will hurt you or even worse if the environment is right for them to get away with it.

You have probably noticed how I made no suggestion or instruction on self defense. That little baby has its own universe and will be covered in future articles.

Now lace up those shoes, put on your favorite EDM, and go crush it.

A 23-year veteran police officer, Bart spent time as a patrolmen and a violent crimes detective (specialized in strategic intelligence and research analysis). Aside from this experience in high profile case investigations, he has received training from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in Advanced Intelligence Analysis. Bart also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Strategic Intelligence (Magna Cum Laude) from Liberty University. As a father of four, husband and law enforcement officer, he wants to share his knowledge on safety with you. Bart is also a contributing writer for Law Enforcement Today.


  • Amy Jones November 2, 2016 at 11:30 am

    This was so helpful, for walkers as well as runners, and anyone else! Excellent advice and insight!

    • Bart Proctor November 2, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      Thank you Amy. The recent attacks in New York City motivated me to write this article. Have a great day and enjoy your next walk or run!

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