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Urban running safety tips for women

I have run three marathons and countless half marathons and shorter distance races. Being a runner is part of who I am. For years, I have started most days with a run before the sun rises. It is my Zen time and I love being out before the day begins. Generally I run solo in downtown Atlanta. I live in an urban environment and as much as I would prefer to run in nature, I don't want to take the time and spend the gas to drive there every morning.

However, as the economy has depressed, a new environmental factor has colored my running experience. More sketchy people are on the streets - both because they are economic victims, but there are unfortunately also more criminals on the streets - and both groups are more desperate. I do not want to give up my morning solo runs as they are essential to my health, both physical and creative. But I do want to run safe and smart. The following are street smart safety tips that I regularly follow. Running smart and running aware of your surroundings can literally save your life.

Attire - Wear light, bright and/or reflective clothing so you don't blend in to the surroundings and drivers will see you more readily. Do not advertise yourself as a target for crime when you run - don't wear jewelry and try to keep your gadgets that might attract a mugger's eye unobtrusive and tucked away.

City direction - When you are running on busy city sidewalks and streets, run against traffic so that you can see oncoming traffic.

Rely on ears and eyes - If you run with your iPod, make sure the volume is on the low side (for your ear health as well) so that you can hear any people, dogs, or cars who might be approaching you out of your line of sight. It's always good to look around you periodically and not just when crossing streets as hybrid and electric vehicles, being so silent, can sneak up on you without your being able to hear them.

Wait before crossing at red lights - It's not enough to assume that traffic will obey traffic signals. At least once on every run downtown, a vehicle runs a red light. Wait until all traffic has stopped before crossing.

ID and contacts - Wear an ID tag on your shoe or wrist that has your name and emergency contact numbers on it, or carry ID and emergency contact phone numbers in a pocket.

Accessories - Cell phones and mace might be strategic to carry, depending on your route and the neighborhoods you run through.

Route - Always let someone know the route you plan to run and how many miles or how long you plan to be running. Be smart about where you run as well. Especially when you run alone, avoid secluded areas, areas that are notoriously sketchy and dangerous, areas with a lot of abandoned or dilapidated buildings. If you run in non-daylight hours, choose routes that are well-lit by street lights and well-populated with foot traffic. It's a good idea to vary your route frequently so that if anyone is observing you over a period of time as a potential target, you won't be easily predictable.

Avoidance - I run in a neighborhood that has an uncomfortable amount of crime and sketchy early morning foot traffic for the first mile. So I steer wide from anyone I see on the sidewalks who appears potentially suspect. I give wide berth to people in doorways and to corners of buildings I cannot see around in case someone is lurking and might jump out as I pass. I also give dogs a wide berth, even if they are on leashes. I was attacked and bitten years ago by a rottweiler who was on a leash and seated next to their owner. She couldn't control him when he lunged at me as I ran by on the sidewalk.

Carriage - Think attitude and alertness. Run with attitude - do not shrink or appear scared. Run steady and strong and look tough when the occasion calls for it. Run with a vigilant eye, scanning your surroundings for any potential threats be they animal, human, automobile, or merely terrain issues that could cause you to stumble or fall.

Run smart. Run well. Run safe. But run. Don't let fear rob you of the joy of running.

Credits - WorldwideRunning.com would like to thank Go Articles for the permission to reprint the article "Urban Running Safety Tips for Women" by Liz Stubbs. Liz Stubbs is an award-winning writer and book author. She writes often at http://frompuccitopudding.typepad.com about marathoning, photography, travel, good health and fabulous food.


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