Living in the Pacific Northwest means we have access to a myriad of gorgeous running trails. You can take your pick of easy park paths or a more technical forest climb. But with the increase in horror stories of people and wild animals attacking runners and hikers lately, you should have a plan for keeping yourself safe.
Admittedly, I am a huge scaredy cat when I run trails alone. My overactive imagination starts thinking about creepers hiding in the woods. Or that a cougar is stalking me from behind. Since I am starting ultramarathon training next week, this is something I need to get over. And soon.
I started brainstorming ways to not only keep myself safe in the forest alone but to also keep my mind at ease while I’m out there.
Some people successfully carry mace with them. It seems like a solid defense system. I have a little clip on mace canister, but I’m scared to take it with me. I just know that in a moment of panic I will end up spraying myself in the face.
Amazon even sells hand-held mace canisters that many runners use. If you are comfortable carrying and using mace, it can work well on dogs, wild animals, and people.
2. No headphones
I know—sometimes the thought of a challenging run without the extra motivation of music makes me cringe too. But being able to hear what is happening around you is priceless—especially on the trail.
If you can’t bear the thought of running without music, I would suggest investing in some AfterShokz headphones. I have a pair I bought for Hood to Coast and they work pretty well. They work on bone conductivity so you can still hear what is going on around you.
3. Run with friends
Running with a friend or two is not only fun and extra-motivating, but it can help you stay safer on the trails. Wild animals are usually scared off by human noises, so laughing and chatting through the workout will help alert any bears or cougars of your presence.
4. Tell people where you are
This is a good rule of thumb every time you head out for a run whether you are running trails or road. A note, a text, a statement—just make sure someone knows which route you are running and when you expect to be home. If you break a bone on the trail, they will eventually notice you didn’t come back and they will look for you.
5. Run with a dog
Running with a dog is a great thing to do. You are getting fresh air and exercise and so is your four-legged buddy. Dogs love to run and they love being with their humans. I know my dog would risk his life to save mine, and when he was still able to run with me, I loved having him close to my side.
6. ID or ID bracelet
Never leave home without your ID. Stick it in a legging pocket or your running belt. My husband purchased an ID bracelet a few years ago that I love. It has my name and his phone number on it in case I’m found by the side of the road somewhere. Not a happy thought, but it’s better than being an unidentified person.
Personally, I always have my phone on me when I run. There have been times I noticed a weird vehicle driving by me a few times and I have taken pictures of the car. I also set up an easy emergency call system on my Samsung phone in case there is an emergency, I can hit the home button a few times and my phone will call a specific number.
7. Bright clothing
Bright clothing helps with visibility for cars, bicyclists, and other runners. The most important reason to wear bright clothing on trails, however, is so you are visible to hunters. Always run in bright orange, red, green, or pink during hunting season. You do not want to be shot accidentally because someone mistakes you for a deer.
8. Above all – stay present in your surroundings
No matter what measures you take to stay safe on trails, make sure you are always present with what is going on around you. Stay alert for anything out of the ordinary.
Stay safe out there, fellow runners, and I hope to see you on the trails!