An incident involving a runner in Ottawa last week led to one teen being charged with assult with a weapon. Erin Blaskie tells iRun how you can still confidently head out for a run when you keep these five safety tips for runners in mind.
Erin Blaskie left for her early evening jog in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa, last week feeling strong and motivated.
Out for a quiet run on her usual route, Blaskie, a digital and social media strategist and mother of a two-year-old, was startled when she heard “a light hammering” sound coming from behind her. It didn’t take her long to realize that the sound she was hearing, was actually a result of shots being fired.
“I could hear the sound of bullets whizzing over my shoulders and hitting bushes around me. It definetely felt like someone was intentionally following and shooting at me.”
As Blaskie put it, when you live in suburbia, it’s hard to imagine an incident like this to be real.
But it was, and after Blaskie was able to speed up her pace and changed her direction, she made it to somewhere secure, a mini-mall parking lot, where she felt safe enough to dial 911.
Following an investigation within the area, Police determined the source of the firing to be a paint ball gun, and not long after they arrested a teenager, seized the gun, and charged him with assault with a weapon.
“At the end of the day, it was only a paintball gun thankfully, but what if it had hit my eye? Or my daughter was with me? Paintball guns are strong, and they could hurt a small child. In some ways I’m glad I was alone,” said Blaskie.
Blaskie, who had previously been running 3-4 times a week hasn’t run since the incident, and now it’s making her think before she’ll head out for her next run.
“I never thought of this before – I mean I don’t run in complete darkness and I’m not naive to things happenning if I’m by myself, but at the same time, you just don’t think something like this will happen to you.”
Blaskie says there is a lot to learn from her experience. First of all, parents whose children have access to these sorts weapons need to remind their kids that they’re not toys.
But this sort of incient is also a reminder that when you are a runner, you need to leave your house keeping your personal safety in mind.
Here are a few things that Blaskie was reminded of and that she’ll be keeping in mind when she goes out for her next run, because in her own words, after you know you’ve been followed, and even targeted, you don’t easily forget what it’s like to have your safety compromised.
“It’s unsettling to have those feelings instilled in your mind.”
These five tips from Blaskie will help make you a safety concious runner:
1. Change up your route
“I won’t run the same route twice again, not by myself.”
One of the things you should always keep in mind is that it’s important to change up your route. Don’t become a fixture on a certain pathway, and in the very least, don’t run the same route at the same time each day. It’s important to change it up, so your routine is less likely to become known to people who may not have the best of intentions.
2. Run with a buddy
“I’m more aware now than I used to be. Usually my husbund and my daugther are with me, but sometimes it’s just easier to go out by myself,” said Blaskie.
Blaskie was struck with the running bug about 5 years ago. One day she just got up and started running. For many of us, it’s a similar story; running is a personal achievement, an individual goal that we’re seeking on our own. It’s also a time for people with busy lives, to have some time to yourself. Despite this, it’s worth it to think about recruiting a running partner – think about making it a date, or a social event with friends for the week. If you have to run alone, try to take a route where you’re running with other runners – like a downtown, well used and well lit trail.
3. Don’t run with headphones
“I usually play music from my phone when I’m running,” said Blaskie.
We all know that music can transform your run. It’s motivating, it gets you moving or in the zone. Blaskie, who doesn’t run with headphones in, will play music from her cell phone when she’s running. It’s a double benefit – you get the music, plus you have your phone with you in case you need to make an emergency phone call.
4. If possible, take your cell phone with you
“The weird coincidence was, I usually carry my phone with me. But the other day, I had decided to run for the first time ever without my phone. I liked being liberated from it. For some weird reason, on this particular run, I decided at the last minute to bring my cell phone with me.”
Call it coincidence, call it intuition, but Blaskie was grateful that she had brought her cell phone along with her. After the incident, Blaskie made it to somewhere she felt safe where she was able to use her phone to dial 911. Running with a cell phone gives you that extra level of security you can fall back on, especially if you are in a more rural route. On that same note, it’s been a while since I’ve taken note of a payphone, but if you can’t bring your cell phone, at least have enough money to make a call, or make sure you pass through areas where you’d be able to ask someone to make a call on your behalf.
5. Don’t run after dark
“I’m a mother of a two year old and I run my own business, I tend to run when I can fit it in, which usually means later on in the day.”
In a perfect world, we’d all be free to go running at any point of the day, but the reality is, when you head out for an run in the dark, your level of safety goes down. You’re less visable to traffic and to bystanders. If you love to run at night, find a friend or family member who can go with you.
Thanks for staying Up to Speed & thanks for keeping it safe!