Last week a female was attacked on the St. Tammany Trace. (For those not familiar with the Trace, it is a former railway that was converted to a cycling/jogging path that spans 28 miles in southern Louisiana. It is very popular with local runners.) The female was walking in between Lonsome Rd. and Koop Dr. when a male approached her from behind and grabbed her around her neck. Luckily a cyclist was nearby and scared off the male. The cyclist called 911 and the male was apprehended a short while later by police.
What if the cyclist was not there? Could the female defend herself? What was the male’s intention? Robbery? Sexual assault? Worse?
Many Northshore citizens were outraged with this news. Any type of crime is a rare occurrence on the Trace but it sparked dialogue among local runners about how they would defend themselves in a similar situation.
As some of you know I am a police officer, and a runner of course. Some of my fellow runners reached out to me for advice. I would like to share some tips with you:
1. Don’t run at night. If you must, run in a well lit area or with someone else. The same with secluded areas.
2. If you frequent the Trace the safest areas are near the Mandeville Trailhead. The stretch in between Koop Dr. and the Abita Trailhead is relatively safe but very secluded. Be vigilant if you are running in the area between the Abita Trailhead and Covington. This rate of crime in general is increasing in this area and a few robbery incidents were reported on the Trace. I don’t run on the Lacombe or Slidell portions of the Trace so I can’t give advice on that.
3. Do run with your cell phone. I put mine in my Spibelt, which goes around my waist. You can always use your phone to call 911 in an emergency or report a suspicious person.
4. Tell someone (parent, spouse, friend, etc.) where you are going running and about how long you will be.
5. If you run with a music device have the volume at a reasonable level. If you have Britney blasting in your ears you won’t hear a potential threat coming up behind you.
6. Be VIGILANT! Watch your surroundings at all times. Look over your shoulder periodically. If you get that tingly feeling on the back of your neck turn around, cross the street, or do whatever you need to do.
7. Don’t be a target. There is no reason you need to wear enough jewelry to rival Liberace while you run. Leave the valuables at home.
8. Your set of keys can be a nuisance because you have to find somewhere to stash them while you run. Your keys can also be used as a method of self defense. Just the look of jagged keys coming out of your fist can be intimidating to your attacker. If you must strike, here is the proper technique below. The top hand is incorrect, but the bottom two hands are the correct way to hold the keys. (Photo credit: Think Like a Black Belt.)
9. Pepper spray (mace). This is a good, easy, inexpensive tool to have with you. If you can point away from yourself and spray then you can use this form of self-defense. Easy! There are many types of spray and many forms to carry it. Here are some products for runners:
10. Electronic Control Device (Taser, Stun Gun). I am not this biggest fan of this option. Most civilian products for sale require you to be in close proximity to your target, unlike police models where we can shoot from several feet away. I have been “tased” already as part of training and I was able to fully bounce back 100% as soon as the electric current stopped. When I was sprayed with pepper spray I was completely blinded and disabled for about 20 minutes. I was in pure agony. So my vote is for the spray but here are some options for a stun gun:
11. Handgun. #1 rule: If you don’t think you can shoot someone then this is not the option for you. #2: There is no such thing as shoot to injure so you have to have the mindset of shoot to kill. You are not Billy the Kid and unless you are a sharpshooter and have nerves of steel, you will not be able to shoot someone in the foot, leg, or other “non-lethal” area in a heated moment. This is why shooting ranges have center mass (head and chest) on their targets. Louisiana is an open carry state so if your gun is properly holstered, visible, and you are not a felon you are good to go. If you have a concealed carry permit, even better. Another logistic to consider is training. Do not carry a weapon unless you have shot at the range and are versed in gun safety. Last but not least, this option is probably the least practical and comfort-wise, for running. I have ran already with my Ruger LCP .380 and it is not the most comfortable but I am glad to have it on me. It is light and compact. Here is a picture of the gun I have:
12: Hands-on. You don’t have to be Chuck Norris to fight off an attacker with your hands. Just screaming and throwing your hands towards your attacker is better than nothing. Hitting an attacker with the palm of your hand on the face, knee strikes, kicking their shins and/or knees with the bottom of your foot, and striking with the meaty part of your forearms or elbows are some basic moves. You at least have a chance if you fight back.
I hope my tips are helpful. Safe running to you all!