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How to Run Alone Safely: What You Need to Know

Scared to run alone? You aren't the only one. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind.

A woman running along a sidewalk and casting a long shadow on a concrete wall
Getty Images/Westend61/Westend61

Some people turn to running to decompress from the day and focus on themselves. It not only provides moments of relief from day-to-day stressors, but it can also promote community through local groups, organizations or clubs. Although, this isn't for everyone; maybe you enjoy running alone. But is there such a thing as safety when running by yourself?

Bottom line: Running alone shouldn't be dangerous. Yet forces beyond our control make it impossible to completely eliminate risk -- for women, especially. 

Read more: Best Women's Running Shoes for 2022

Is it OK to run alone?

Yes, of course, it is OK to run alone. Some runners I know personally prefer to run by themselves. Not everyone has access to local run clubs or other running friends, especially if you have just moved to a new city. Even if you do, maybe you are training for a certain race and need to run longer distances than your friends. Either way, every runner will need to run on their own every once in a while. 

Running alone, however, doesn't come without its risks. A 2017 survey from Runner's World reported that 43% of women experienced some type of harassment while running, compared to 4% of men. In another Runner's World survey two years later, 67% of women stated that they were sometimes afraid to run due to the fear of being attacked. 

New stories about violence, and stats like those above, make running alone scary. But it shouldn't stop you from running alone. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind. 

Read more: What to Do if You Get Harassed While Exercising 

7 tips for running alone

Torso of a woman running alone with her Apple Watch
Getty Images/Guido Mieth/Stone

This is risk avoidance -- not risk prevention -- though these tips may give you peace of mind the next time you go out for a run. 

Know the area

If you recently moved to a new city, take time to learn the area before running. Take note where you see the most runners, ask around about the safest neighborhoods and avoid bad parts of town at night. The best running areas are usually well-populated during the daylight hours. 

Avoid running with headphones

Loud music can distract you from your surroundings. Especially if you are running alongside heavy traffic, you will want to hear if a car is honking or swerving toward you. The same can be said about running alone. Music can distract you from hearing someone behind you. 

If you can't run without listening to music, consider turning the volume down low or only wearing one earbud. 

Carry pepper spray

Pepper spray is an accessible and affordable self-defense tool. While running, it can be kept in a fanny pack around your waist or in a zippered pocket. My running friend keeps hers in a small zippered pocket on the back of her running shorts.  

Before running with pepper spray, know how to properly use it in an emergency situation. First, hold the spray upright with the opening pointing toward the attackers. Turn the safety off by turning the top counterclockwise. Press down on the top, and aim for the face. 

Make sure someone has your location 

This is a simple yet effective safety tip. The GPS or Find My Friends application installed on an iPhone ($310 at Amazon) or Apple Watch ($199 at Best Buy) can alert another of your location while running -- perfect for an emergency. The Life360 app on an Android or iPhone is also a great location tool. It can be applied to things other than running -- a good tip in general if you are going anywhere by yourself. 

Run with your phone 

Your phone is a great tool. It can record your time, speed and mileage and can be used in an emergency. A working cellphone, or Apple Watch, is also needed if you would like someone to have your location while running. 

Vary your daily route 

According to Stalkingawareness.org, nearly one in three women and one in six men will experience stalking at some point. Running at the same time, in the same location and in the same loop every day can be dangerous if someone is following you. Change up your running routine every once in a while. 

Be careful what you share on social media 

You shouldn't share your daily runs on social media for the same reason you should vary your route. Anyone can view your location and route data via social media if you choose to share it. If you still want to use running apps like Strava, change your privacy settings to "followers only." This way, your runs won't be public. Strava also will hide your starting and ending point for you. 

You are not alone

As a female runner, I'm scared, too. The news is often saturated with stories about women and men losing their lives while running. These random acts of violence don't make sense, and the victims cannot be blamed for what happened to them. Maybe they even followed tips on this list. Not every tragedy can be explained nor prevented. 

Runners shouldn't be shamed; they need to be safe. Whether or not you choose to run alone, you should feel comfortable exercising. 

I recently started running with my dog. I always have my phone on me. I try to keep my music volume low and my head on a swivel. I sometimes vary my route, and I run with a friend in the mornings when it is still dark out. I carry pepper spray. 

We shouldn't have to do all of this to keep safe. But in the meantime, I hope these tips prove helpful.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.