Before Running Alone, Read This

Running in the woods by yourself sounds a little dangerous — especially to your mom — but depending on where you live, your running ability, and your personalty, a solo run in the woods is the perfect idea. Here are some ways to ensure your safety when hitting the trails on your own.

  • Bring your dog: OK, so technically you're not alone if you bring your pooch, but if you're nervous about hitting the trails by yourself, a furry friend will offer you company and protection. Put a bell on the collar so the noisy jingle can help scare away critters.
  • Tell someone where you're going: If you saw the movie 127 hours, you know that the whole ordeal might have been prevented if he just told one person where he went. Pick up the phone on your way out the door and tell a close friend or relative where you're running and what time you should be back. Make a deal that you'll call, text, or email them once you return, and if you don't and they can't get in touch with you, they should seek out help. If you're heading out before anyone is up, leave a note with your route and ETA.
  • Bring a cell phone and ID: If you're on your own, find a trail that has reliable cell service and always have your phone and ID on you, just in case.
  • Carry mace: If you're worried about being attacked, keeping mace or pepper spray on hand will make you feel safer. If you have good reason to worry about this, trust your instincts and run in a more populated area or at the track.
  • Leave your headphones at home: You want to stay completely aware of your surroundings, and that means relying on your sense of hearing as well as sight. Headphones will dull your ability to hear an animal or person, so save the tunes for your treadmill runs.
  • Check the weather: You don't want to get caught in a storm so even if skies are blue, check the weather report. That way you can save the run for later if a thunderstorm is on its way, or you can bring an extra layer if they're predicting light showers.
  • Stick to easy trails you know: Solo running is not the time to scope out a new trail. Choose trails you're used to running on so you don't have to deal with any surprises.
  • Choose a short loop close to a road: There's a 10-minute woods loop near my house that's perfect for solo running. I feel safer since it's surrounded by roads and houses, so if anything were to happen, like a sprained ankle, I'd be close to help. Plus repeating short loops is much safer than one big loop — I'd rather realize I need to get home halfway through a 10-minute loop than halfway through a 40-minute route.
  • Wear good sneakers for traction: Trail running shoes offer a rugged sole that's better equipped to grip uneven or slick surfaces. Get a pair that's waterproof if you'll be trekking on muddy trails to prevent falling.