TAMPA, FL (WFLA) — Whether you’re just getting some fresh air or training for a big race, running is a great way to stay in shape. Sadly, it can also put you at risk. From cat-calls to harassment to even being followed or approached, it can leave women feeling vulnerable.
A recent survey from Runner’s World Magazine found 43 percent of women experience harassment “at least sometimes” on runs. That compares to just 4 percent of men.
Tampa Bay runner Trish Trout has logged many miles when she trains for marathons.
“They’re long, they’re lonely, and sometimes it’s really dark out,” said Trout.
During those runs, she’s dealt with honking horns and unwelcome remarks.
“Honking horns is probably the scariest. It throws your rhythm off. You could trip. You could fall,” said Trout.
Trout knows the steps she needs to take to stay safe. On a recent pre-dawn run, she chose to run laps in a well-lit parking lot instead of on the sidewalk. Something caught her eye while she was running.
“It was a black pick up truck, and he just kept circling the parking lot. and I said this just feels weird. He wasn’t parking. He was just going really really slow. I’m in the middle, I can’t go anywhere to hide,” recalled Trout.
When she took out her cell phone and pretended to make a phone call, the driver left. Tampa Police Sergeant Susan Bridges-Preyer, an avid runner herself, says that women need to follow Trout’s lead and trust their gut. If it doesn’t feel right, call police.
Sergeant Bridges-Preyer takes her own measures to stay safe on runs.
“I run in more of a subdivision, so if I need assistance, it would be easy to divert off a road to a house,” said Bridges-Preyer.
She also urges women to stand tall while running. Keep your shoulders back and your head up.
“Run with an attitude. When you’re running, look confident,” said Sgt. Bridges Preyer.
Put technology to use, too. GPS tracking watches track your miles and pace, but they can also let others know where you were running. Use your cell phone to snap pictures of suspicious cars or people for future reference.
Sgt. Susan Bridges-Preyer reminds us that, “cat calling and bad manners isn’t a crime, but following, stalking, harassing is.”
Her other tips include staying away from running routes with high hedges and isolated areas where people could hide. She wants us to take out the ear phones, so we can listen for footsteps and traffic and be aware of our surroundings. Before going for a run, have a safety plan in mind of what you would do if someone approaches you.
Sgt. Bridges-Preyer runs with a whistle to let others know if she’s in trouble or possible scare off an attacker.