I think one of the questions I get most often when it comes to trail running is, “How do you feel safe being out on a trail by yourself?” And truth be told, I wondered that for a LONG time too and it kept me from getting out there on my own. I felt so held back from trail running because I was always having to wait for a time when Adam or another runner could go too. But, overtime I’ve learned more, and simply gotten more comfortable and familiar with it and wanted to share a few tips and tricks that have helped. I hate that as females we even have to consider our safety beyond what the average male has to, but it is what it is and we simply can’t be naive. Best to just embrace it and get out there!
Bring Pepper Spray. I keep the cutest little pink mace in the front pocket of my Osprey pack every single trail run.
Clip On a Personal Sound Alarm. I’ve had a personal sound alarm in my cart for forever and need to just order it. You clip it onto yourself or your pack and if you pull the clip a siren goes off, and the siren doesn’t stop until you put the clip back.
Carry a Knife – With Caution. I know a few ladies who carry a small knife in their pack. I’m not sure I feel comfortable with this for fear that it would be used against me somehow. But, it’s an option.
Don’t Run Alone on an Unfamiliar Trail. I think this is common sense – ALWAYS know where you are and where you’re going, or run with a buddy for the first time until you become more knowledgeable of that particular trail system.
Don’t Run In The Dark…Alone. If you opt for a night run, at least run with a group and STAY with the group. (Caveat – I know plenty of female trail runners who run in the early morning hours with a headlamp. I’m personally not super comfortable with that yet though!)
If the Parking Lot Feels Too Empty, Wait. This is something I always communicate with Adam – how full is the parking lot? Are there lots of other people out on the trail or is there just one or two other cars? I always feel safer knowing there are lots of other trail goers out and about.
Use Live Track on Your Garmin or Something Similar on an Apple Watch. This is my favorite feature on my Garmin Forerunner 45s. I’ve got it set to send Adam an email as soon as I start that contains a link to a live track of my run. He can follow along as I run, and then gets another email as soon as I stop my watch. It’s also got a safety feature I’ve mentioned in that past that alerts him if I take a hard fall.
Always Tell Someone Where You’re Going and How Far – Be Specific. I always, always, always tell Adam which trail I’m going to, how far I expect to go, and if my plans change for any reason I let him know.
Check-in During Your Run. This should be common sense too, but if you stop to take a break, text your ‘person’ and let them know you’re still okay. Check-in on occasion and stay in communication.
Run The Trail Most Traveled. Also common sense. Don’t veer off if you’re alone. Most trails that are designed for runners/bikers are clearly marked.
Don’t wear headphones. And if you do, only use one and turn it way down. I actually never wear headphones when I’m alone on a trail but I DO often listen to music on my phone that I keep in the front pocket of my pack. I keep it just loud enough for me to be able to hear it and still hear bikers and anything else in my surroundings. Don’t make yourself an easy target by not being able to hear anything or anyone.
Know Your Landmarks. This goes with a lot of my prior points but always keep an eye out for where you are and take note of any distinguishable landmarks you could easily convey to someone over the phone. Let’s say you fall and get hurt, or worst case you somehow get lost, if you can easily explain where you think you are on the trail it can help immensely!
Go With Your Gut. Always, always, always trust your gut. If something feels icky, turn back. If someone is creeping you out, shoot a text to your ‘person’ and let them know you’re heading back to your car. And remember, you can always call 911. Most trailheads will have a sign with instructions for what to do in an emergency and a clearly labeled map you can translate to first responders.
Hope this helps! You certainly shouldn’t be scared to run alone on a trail, you just need to be smart and use a little extra caution.
What would you add to this list?