Tips for Walking & Running Safety in Charlotte

“So, you’re a runner! It must have been tough not being able to do that right now. A lot of people find it to be such a release,” my new chiropractor mused after I told him about an injury that had me sidelined since March. “Yup,” I choked out through the lump in my throat. I knew I had missed running and that I usually feel a lot better, happier when I’m running regularly, but I didn’t realize what untapped pressure was lying just under the surface of my “I’m doing ok” façade until that benign, but ever so accurate observation. I was not ok, had about 2 serotonin molecules left, and I needed to run.

Seasoned runners and newbies alike have found immense solace in this free and usually COVID-safe (as long as you’re solo) activity during the last few months. But with so many staying home, it has made streets emptier and my personal anxiety around running alone has increased. That spike in anxiety led me to an article that suggested women wear their hair in a bun rather than a ponytail while running because it’s harder to grab- what a incredibly realistic and probably true bummer. For anyone wondering, they also recommended not wearing baggy clothes for the same reason, but I’ve also seen recommendations to not wear tight-fitting clothes because it could draw the wrong kind of attention (*insert eye roll here*). 

Runners World Magazine surveyed its readers and found that a staggering 84% of women have experienced some variety of harassment while running. Y’all. Couple an instance of harassment with fewer witnesses, and it can feel a lot more threatening nowadays. Plus, soon the daylight hours will be shorter and you may need to run or exercise in low light. For tips and suggestions, I went to the local experts to give us their best advice on staying safe while walking or running outdoors.

Jeremy Brown, Treadstone Defensive Tactics

“Often the simplest things that we can do to greatly improve our safety are the things we dismiss. I’ve seen so many walk around at night by themselves and on their cell phones. We all know that this is not safe to do, and yet we still do it. We also do not listen to our gut, often because we do not want to offend someone. We need to get away from this complacent way of living,” says Jeremy. He goes on to assert, “No woman should ever be subjected to assault.  Unfortunately statistics show that approximately 1 in 4 women will be assaulted at some point in their life.  It’s an ugly reality, but there is hope. You don’t have to be a victim. Here are three tips that I want you to put to heart: 1) you can and should fight, 2) striking vulnerable target areas is your best option (eyes, throat, and groin), 3) go crazy and don’t stop until you get safely to other people.” Jeremy also encourages us to “be proactive about your safety. If you have the opportunity, you should seek out and get some training. I highly recommend a ‘reality-based’ system like krav maga. These classes are fun and a great group activity, so encourage your friends to join you- You won’t regret it.” And it could save you in the worst case scenario.

Sergeant Jerry Lecomte, Community Policing Division at UNC Charlotte

For those that have college students at UNCC, Jerry has some campus-specific tips as well as others we can all use. “On campus, download the LiveSafe app. It’s is free and has a host of safety options including quick dial access to UNC Charlotte Police and 911 as well as texting communication with our dispatch center on campus. The app has a unique GoSafe section where you can invite someone from your contacts to follow you on your route until complete. Another great option on campus are the Blue Light Emergency phones located in open accessible areas, as well as in all parking decks, parking lots, and even in some buildings. With the push of a button you will be connected to a dispatcher in our 911 center on campus. The best part is each is uniquely numbered for a rapid response from a UNC Charlotte Police Officer.”

“In addition to these options, we recommend our community, both on and off campus, to always walk in well-lit areas and if possible walk with someone or a group. Run or walk in areas where you can be visible to others for personal safety as well in case of injury. If possible, also choose well-lit or trafficked areas. Even when in the zone, be mindful of your surroundings and conditions.” He also advises to take special note of businesses that might have video cameras outside and prioritize those on your route along with police and/or fire stations- something I’ve never thought of before.

Morgan Salas, Fit To Fight®️ Charlotte

Morgan has these tips for our running gals:

  • Ear buds out, enabling you to hear and be more aware of your surroundings.
  • Change up your routes and times. Attackers will often stalk to get familiar with routines before making attempts.
  • Keep your routes and locations off of social media. Again, people often stalk before making attempts.
  • Have a running buddy. Running with a friend can make for nice accountability as well as safety in numbers.
  • Run during daylight hours. Although attacks can occur during daylight hours, nighttime does run a higher risk.
  • Listen to your instincts. You see someone who makes you uncomfortable, change routes to avoid them or cross the street. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t talk yourself out of your safety.
  • It’s ok to be rude and ignore people who are trying to engage. Politeness can be a sign of weakness which can tell an attacker you’re less likely to fight back.

“At the end of the day, you should be able to go and do what you want, when you want. Unfortunately, if someone is intent on doing you harm, they will or will attempt to. The variable you do have control over is you and your readiness. Learning a self protective skill set (krav maga, muay thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, etc) and continued training can enhance your survivability. Be vigilant and unapologetic when it comes to your safety. You’re worth fighting.” Ain’t that the truth, Morgan. You’re. worth. fighting.

Lucas Lepri, Lucas Lepri Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Fitness

Not only is Lucas the Head Instructor at this area BJJ training center, he’s a 9-time black belt World Chamption and has won every major jiu-jitsu tournament in the world. That’s right, every single one in this wide world. He took to some time to help Scoop readers understand how to stay safe exercising outdoors. Listen up, ladies.

  • Tell someone where exactly you’re going to be running or walking, the time you’re leaving to do it, and the time you’ll probably be finished.
  • Screaming to call attention to yourself is step one in any attack.
  • Go somewhere you already know, no new routes alone.
  • Go in areas where you have some other people around so you’ll have more opportunities to find help if something happens.
  • Do your outdoor exercises in the daylight, but if you have to run in the dark, look for a place that has good lighting.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, eyes up all the time, and if you see someone acting strangely, respect your sixth sense and change the direction you were going.

Lucas also wanted to let all Scoop readers know “It would be a pleasure to help everyone to defend themselves using Brazilian jiu-jítsu. It will help you know more about yourself in all aspects. Come train with us!” Who’s in?

Now that you know what to do from our experts, accessorize your street savvy with these must-haves:

  • Apps: All of these allow others to track you while you’re running: AllTrails Lifeline, RoadID, or Run Buddy… or just share your location on your iPhone with your most worry wort friend. They’ll keep you safe.
  • Pepper spray: make sure the one hanging out in the bottom of your purse from when velour was a new trend and not a vintage comeback (perhaps the final curse of 2020?) hasn’t expired.
  • Personal alarm: Birdie is a woman-owned company making a really sleek, compact version.
  • Open headphones: AfterShokz Aeropex is a popular model that allows you to be aware of the sounds in your area while also still being aware of the Lizzo you’re blasting. *adds to Christmas list*
  • Neck gaiter/balaclava: Hincapie Sportswear’s Legado neck gaiter is my new go-to. I’ve had others that are hard to keep up but don’t have that problem here. I also prefer a neck gaiter to a mask while running because it’s easy to slip on and off if, for example, you find yourself running through a group or closer to someone than 6 feet.

Check out even more trips for staying safe with the Runners Alliance virtual tool kit here. Stay safe out there friends, from COVID and from the bad guys.

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Nicole Brantley
Nicole is a native Charlottean that loves the Queen City almost as much as running, writing, and type-A organization.

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