In light of recent attacks in Rodley and the upcoming winter months with their dark nights, Jill Buckley of Kirkstall Harriers running group asks: what can we do to best protect our personal safety?
Statistically women are more likely to be the victims of a sexual assault such as those which occurred in Rodley but men are also affected; nearly half a million adults are sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year according to the charity Rape Crisis.
So here are some tips we could all make use of while we are out and about running and walking, not just in terms of possible offenders but also physical safety:
- Make sure you let someone know where you are going, your anticipated route if you are running or walking, and how long you anticipate you will be gone. Send a text, leave a note, but don’t post on social media before you go – potential perpetrators use social media to these ends. And make sure you yourself know where you are going! I have been guilty in the past of finding myself lost and in difficulty and this can make you vulnerable.
- Take your phone and make sure it is charged. Even if you don’t have a fancy smartphone and don’t want one just a standard pay as you go device to keep in a small bag or pocket would help you out if you needed to contact family or friends or the emergency services if you felt in danger or had a fall. Most would fit in a small waist bag if you are out running or walking and can be fairly cheap to buy. Perhaps also put some money in with your phone or if you have one a bus pass so that you could get home more easily if you feel threatened or find yourself in difficulty.
- If you want to listen to music keep the volume on low or only use one headphone. Being able to hear someone approaching could give you vital seconds to prevent an attack. There are also a lot of cyclists on the canal and being able to hear them approach might prevent any accidents.
- Mix things up a bit and use different routes when running or walking. If it’s possible run or walk at different times. Not all attacks are random; many are premeditated.
- If you feel threatened in any way take appropriate action. It could be that it is simply someone out for a walk or run as you are but if you at any point feel unsafe don’t feel bad about taking action. Your instincts are probably right. And don’t be frightened to make a lot of noise to attract attention if you feel at risk!
- Join a group or find a partner so that you are not on your own. There are lots of running and walking groups in West Leeds which are either free or cheap to join. Try Kirkstall Harriers, Bramley Breezers, Pudsey Pacers or Farsley Flyers, all friendly local clubs who all have running groups of different paces.
“Don’t stop running”
I also consulted with my fellow runners at Kirkstall Harriers. Rose George had some sage advice, but also says that whilst we should stay safe it shouldn’t stop us getting out there:
“Wear an ICE wristband, carry a whistle, download a safety app on your phone which gives your real-time location (e.g. Glympse, or Strava’s new one), tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to be.
“Don’t run somewhere you can’t get away from a threat (which is why I don’t like the canal). But don’t stop running.”
Armley defence classes
There are also self-defence classes in the area which can give you more confidence in protecting your own safety. Stephen Patterson runs classes in Armley. He said:
“I teach a self defence program based on a kung fu system developed by a woman about 350 years ago. Self defence is important because people who choose you as a victim usually do so because they think you are weaker or a justifiable target.
“Classes are all about building confidence, overcoming fear and knowing your own ability to enable you to reach your full potential and really look after yourself.”
Classes are held at Interplay Theatre on Armley Ridge Road on Sundays from 7pm.
For more information on joining one of Stephen’s classes, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whichever action you choose to take, make sure you stay safe!