The world is a generally safe place, but some evil people would do you harm. As a solo sport, runners are often alone and away from home for considerable periods, which raises the risk of bad things happening.
Self-defense should be part of a runner’s training. However, it’s not about punching and kicking. Self-defense is first about awareness and preparation. Here are runner self-defense four rules to get you started:
Rule 1: Awareness
Be smart and think about the risks on your running route. Be aware when running in the dark. Be mindful when running in isolated places. Be alert when running alone. Minimize distractions such as music when in risky areas. Run in lighted areas when dark outside. Try partnering with running buddies for safety in numbers. Listen to your “internal voice” when it starts raising the alarm. Your senses may be unconsciously picking up danger cues.
Rule 2: Preparation
Bring your phone to call for help if you feel uncomfortable, get hurt, or need help. Enable Do Not Disturb mode if you do not want to be interrupted by calls or texts during your run. I carry my phone is a slim, water-proof waistbelt from Amphipod. When I don’t have my phone for runs, such as a track workout, I let someone know where I am and when I will be back.
Track your location for others. My Garmin Watch has LiveTrack, which connects with my phone and broadcasts my location. My wife gets a text message when I start running and sees my real-time location on a map. Strava Beacon is another option. I’m sure Apple Watch, FitBit, etc., have similar features. Automate this tracking so that it starts on every run. You are never alone when a family member, running buddy, or friend can find you.
Rule 3: Run Away
Run Away. If a bad guy confronts you, don’t stand and punch, kickbox, or pull a weapon. Running away is your best form of self-defense. Don’t be a hero: this real-life, not the movies. You never know if your bad guy has a gun or knife that will drastically reduce your survival odds. Assume the worst and run.
Runners are well equipped for self-defense when you realize that the first action in self-defense is running. When you encounter an uncomfortable or dangerous situation, let your body do what you have trained it to do. Turn from danger and run until you feel safe around others or use your phone to call for help.
Rule 4: Learn to Escape
You are in trouble if a bad guy grabs you because you will be thrown to the ground, pinned, and seriously harmed. If someone is yelling at you or coming to punch you, your best self-defense is to run away. If an attacker grabs you, you need a system to escape.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (“BJJ”) is a tailor-made runner self-defense system. In self-defense, the goal of BJJ is to defend yourself on the ground, get-up, and then run-away from an attacker. The goal isn’t to fight. Bad things happen if you try to fight someone. Your goal is to get-up and get away. I have trained BJJ for three years, and, albeit far from good, I am more prepared in a self-defense situation.
RUN SAFER website, owned by Track & Field Olympian and BJJ Black Belt Todd Williams, has technique videos that demonstrate BJJ in self-defense.
- Escaping a Wrist Grip:
- Using Feet to Escape an Attacker
Here’s another demonstration video from Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. The focus is on their women empowerment program, but the techniques work for everyone.
Visit your local BJJ gym to get started. Start in the beginner class and commit to attending three months, 1-2 times per week. You will level up your self-defense skills. And if you decide to stick with BJJ, great! You will next learn to take-down and submit opponents. But you do not need these for BJJ in self-defense!
Be Prepared. Get Trained. Stay Safe. Best wishes chasing your running goals,
PEREGRUNE Founder & Chief Vitamin Engineer
*Note: I wrote this article in March 2021 during the COVID pandemic. I have chosen not to train BJJ until I am vaccinated, hopefully in a few months. BJJ is a non-socially distanced activity, so use your judgment and stay safe.
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