The coronavirus crisis is a rapidly developing situation. For the most up-to-date information, check in with your local health officials, and resources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) regularly. This story will be updated as new information becomes available.
Running safely is always at top of mind. Back in November 2019, we launched the Runners Alliance, a national advocacy initiative from the editors here at Runner’s World and Women’s Health, in partnership with Hoka One One, originally designed to combat harassment against female runners.
Runners Alliance is committed to altering perceptions about what it means to run while female, and provide all runners and communities across the nation the tools and solutions needed to make running safer.
But now, in the midst of a global pandemic, our focus has expanded to include how to run safely while social or physically distancing especially when running solo, which is necessary to help stop the spread.
As more people begin to run, and more runners go out alone, the mission of Runners Alliance has become even more relevant and essential.
This week, we held a Virtual Run Safety Workshop with Molly Ritterbeck, Runner’s World nike air max 1 air attack pack; Liz Plosser, Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health; Kelly Herron, Assault Survivor and Self-Defense Advocate; and Nicole Snell, Girls Fight Back International Speaker and Self-Defense Expert.
We weren’t able to answer all of your questions live, but we wanted to make sure we addressed as many as possible, including the most relevant ones for runner safety. Below, you’ll find answers to most of the questions asked.
Is it safe to run outdoors during coronavirus?
Yes—as long as you’re alone. When people congregate together, like during a group run, and someone sneezes or coughs, droplets get onto objects that people touch, and then people often touch their face, David Nieman, Dr.PH., health professor at Appalachian State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus explains.
Scientists and researchers are still debating the exact details of how this novel coronavirus is transmitted in the air when in motion during an activity like walking or running, but outdoor exercise, when alone, is considered low risk and has not been banned. The CDC does recommend wearing a face covering to help stop the spread.
The best plan for running right now is to go out for a solo run and enjoy the outdoors, in non-crowded areas, and time your run for when you know the route or trails will be less crowded or maintain at least six feet of distance from others.
[Want to start running? The Big Book of Running for Beginners will take you through everything you need to know to get started, step by step.]
Do I need to wear a mask while running?
CDC guidelines have recently been updated to recommend “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” So, if you’re running solo in an area where you won’t encounter others, it’s likely not necessary. But, if you’re running in a crowded area, it’s a precaution you want to take.
Wearing a Buff gaiter or other moisture-wicking face covering while running as well as maintaining at least a six-foot distance from others may help cut down on droplets being spread to others due to heavy breathing if you’re in an area where you may encounter others, Nieman says.
“The purpose of the mask is not to protect you, but to protect other people from you,” says Brian Labus, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “If that is the goal, going out solo and avoiding other people altogether is the best thing you can do.”
However, wearing a cloth face covering is not a substitute for hand washing, physical distancing, or remaining at home when ill. The WHO has more resources on how to properly use masks. Check your local government recommendations for guidance.
Are there apps that can help family or friends track me while on a run and alert them if I need help or should I wear an ID bracelet?
There are several apps that allows friends and family to monitor your location while you run. We like AllTrails Lifeline or RoadID, which alerts your chosen contacts if you stop moving or go off course and don’t respond to the app’s alerts. Herron recommends the Run Buddy app, which allows you to send both automated and manually activated alerts to your friends or family if you sense or the app senses that you could be in trouble. (Ed note: For disclosure, Herron liked the app so much, she later invested in it.)
Wearing a RoadID bracelet with your information and emergency contact info can help medical personnel in an emergency.
How can young girls stay safe?
All young female runners can benefit from the Runners Alliance Tool Kit, which includes advice on how to handle harassment and how to make routes safer.
During this pandemic, if possible, suggest young girls run with someone else from their household. While running in groups is currently not an option, two members of the same household are permitted to be outdoors together.
If they want or need to run alone, suggest running on a well-lit, public path that allows for social distancing and that they are familiar with, and utilizing tracking apps such as AllTrails Lifeline, RoadID, or Run Buddy to notify contacts of their whereabouts and add an extra layer of security.
How do I stay safe if I encounter wildlife?
It depends on the type of animal. In most cases, you should stop running and avoid turning your back on the animal, so the animal doesn’t see you as prey and chase you down. Snell also recommends yelling “No!” at the animal and making yourself appear big by exending your arms. This guide offers tips on how to handle encounters with a wide variety of wildlife.
If it’s an aggressive, unleashed dog, first and foremost, stop running because continuing on will increase the canine’s aggression. Instead, Kate Kuykendall, a spokesperson for the National Parks Service, suggests speaking to the dog, not turning your back, and avoiding direct eye contact, as the dog may view direct eye contact as a threat or challenge. If the dog continues to charge, she recommends dropping a piece of gear such as a jacket or a bottle between you and the dog to distract the animal and lure it to bite the item instead of you.
How can solo trail runners who run far from crowds and cell service or without a phone stay safe?
Run on trails you are familiar with, and let someone know when you are heading out and when you expect to return. Additionally, look for trails or routes with good visibility—trails with fewer switchbacks or less vegetation.
You should also prepare for an emergency. Carrying a small first-aid kit will ensure you have basic medical supplies on hand. If it’s a long run, bring enough fuel and water with you (or ensure you’ll have access to some) to avoid bonking or becoming ill and weak.
Is there an alternative to wearing headphones to listen to music while running?
Both Ritterbeck and Herron recommend using open-ear headphones like AfterShokz Aeropex, which won a 2019 Runner’s World Gear of the Year award) to stay aware of your surrounding while still being able to enjoy your favorite playlists or podcasts. They utilize a bone conduction technology to deliver sound without obstructing your ears.
If you’re running in a remote location in which you won’t encounter others, another option is playing music aloud from your phone’s speakers or a mini speaker.
What self-defense classes do you recommend?
If you want to feel like you’re more prepared to defend yourself in a emergency situation, self-defense classes like Krav Maga are one good option. Herron used moves she learned from a self-defense seminar at her office, which was taught by Fighting Chance Seattle instructor Jordan Giarratano, to fight off her attacker. Snell is a self-defense instructor for IMPACT Personal Safety, which offers a wide range of class options from workshops to online courses. You can also check local offerings in your community.
How can you be prepared to protect yourself against someone grabbing you from behind?
Since many attacks start with a grab from behind or an attempt to push or pull you off balance, the first step here is to have a plan ahead of time for the possibility of an uncomfortable interaction or a violent attack. “The body can’t go where the mind has never been,” says runner and self-defense instructor, adidas towel large size women pants chart. “You have to think about how you would respond to aggression and not just out on the run—do it ahead of time.” By practicing—even in your head—your response and your actions will become habit, allowing your instincts to take over when things get dicey.
Next, if possible, try to run away and get out of there. “We’re runners, that’s our super power—so run,” Morrill says. Start screaming to draw attention. As a last resort, fight back with these basic Krav Maga tips. Simple self-defense techniques can save your life.
Is it a good idea to run with a weapon or other deterrent of some sort, such as pepper spray?
That’s entirely up to you, and it depends on the laws in your area and what makes you feel comfortable and confident. Runner’s World and the Runners Alliance believe that women should not have to carry a weapon of any sort to go for a run, but if the knowledge that you have it makes you feel less anxious or more confident, then do what makes you feel protected and most comfortable. If you do decide to carry something, just be sure you know how to use it.
How can men be better upstanders as opposed to just bystanders?
Herron recommends that men be good citizens, which makes them good run citizens. For example, if you’re a male out on a run you run through an area that feels like it could be unsafe but see a woman running that direction, give a heads up. Or follow these tips on how to be a good ally to female runners.