Trail Safety for Women
Updated: Feb 8, 2019
I WAS A DETERMINED GIRL, GROWING UP WITH A BIG BROTHER AND MY TWO BOY COUSINS. I ALWAYS FELT THAT WHATEVER THEY COULD DO, I COULD DO IT TOO. I NEVER FELT THAT BEING A GIRL HELD ME BACK. I WAS ALWAYS AT THE TOP OF THE HIGHEST TREE OR RUNNING ALONGSIDE JUST AS FAST AS THEM. I GOT MY THRILLS FROM ADVENTURE.
Fast forward to becoming a trail runner and I’m often asked, don’t you worry about your safety as a woman on the trails? Many women runners tell me they would love to run trails more but they fear being attacked or getting lost.
When I think about this, my first feeling is one of being that little girl that could do everything the boys can do. I feel cross I’m perceived as the weaker sex. In reality, I know that I have grown up and while I am far from weak; my frame and my strength are physically smaller than most men, so I have to consider my safety.
Personally, I feel safer on the trails than I do running in urban areas where it would be fairly easy for someone in a van to pull up grab me and drive me off somewhere. The only times I have been remotely harassed while running has been in towns.
So back to the question of how do you stay safe on the trails as a woman? I will not let what I think is actually a small risk spoil the happiness I gain from trail running and actually I think many of these points should be things you automatically do if you are a woman or a man.
A lot of this is common sense and managing risk, if you think ahead you will be more comfortable on the trails and get more enjoyment from trail running.
My best tip is to run with others come and play on the trails with She Runs Outdoors. Not only does this build friendships with other women in your area that also like running trails; you will also run with an experienced run leader who will organise the route for you and is first aid trained.
I love running with friends, I also appreciate the solitude of running on my own. As a busy mother of three. That time on my own is where I gather my thoughts and have some me time. Exploring on my own has come with experience, the more I do it, the more off the beaten track I venture. Some women have told me they think I’m brave doing this, I don’t think it is brave. I take extra care to plan and reduce the risks as much as possible. I do understand that safety is a genuine concern for plenty of women.
I take away the fear of getting lost by planning new routes online in SUUNTO Movescount or the SUUNTO App; I make sure I only plot a distance I can manage; I do this online so I can also check the elevation as I need to think about this along with the distance; a 10 mile trail run is not equal to a 10 mile road run. I really study the route, switching between map and satellite view and zooming in. Uploading the route to my SUUNTO 9 Baro watch to accurately guides me along the trails, the intelligent battery gives me the confidence that no matter how far I’m running, it will get me back without fail. Even if I haven’t planned a route, I can use the breadcrumb feature to find my way back.
I tell my husband where I’m running and email him the link to my route. I always take my phone, making sure I charge the battery, on long runs I carry a portable charger in my backpack. I have ‘find my phone’ turned on so that my husband can check my location, if I have been gone too long. I filled in the ICE (in case of emergency) on my phone this includes any medication blood group, etc. The emergency services or a passerby can access it if I have an accident, alternatively you could carry ID. The technology is there, we may as well use it.
I have Strava but it annoys me it is public by default. When I first used it, mine was public then I got comments from a man I didn’t know, he wasn’t even following me but it occurred to me he could easily follow me in real life from my regular routes and maps. I had hidden my house but the routes I ran often, away from my house were visible. Now I have turned on enhanced privacy so only approved followers can see all of my runs. I love social media, I love seeing other people’s running pictures and like sharing mine too but I save my post for after my run. I don’t put a planned route on social media and tell the world I’m going running there tomorrow.
Before going out, I check the weather forecast, making sure I have waterproofs, sun cream in summer, hats or gloves. My favourite shoes are Salomon Sense Pro 3, or Ultra Pro trail shoes for better grip. I always carry a small first aid kit. I carry sufficient fuel and hydration in Salomon Adv Skin 12 for the route I have planned. I often drive somewhere to run as it gives me the elevation I love. When I pull into the car park, I take a glance around to check there aren’t any suspicious looking people sitting in cars or vans, trust your instinct, if something feels off, it probably is.
If I’m running on my own, I need to be alert so I avoid listening to music or at least take one earbud out, this isn’t just the worry of being attacked; I want to hear if a dog is chasing me or livestock are coming. Likewise, I don’t sneak up on animals and always make sure I know my exit when in a field with livestock. As I’m running if I meet another runner, a cyclist or a walker I always say hello, or make small talk; that way if something happens to me they are more likely to remember seeing me.
*The products mentioned in this blog were given to me by my sponsors Salomon and Suunto, however I wasn't asked or paid to include them here, I only recommend products I truly love. I get messages all the time asking me about products I use and I think these items help me to stay safe on the trails.