Runner Safety Fail

in All Posts

I was so proud of myself this evening.  In between patients at the clinic, I slipped out of my work clothes and into running gear and went on a 30 minute run!  My morning was pretty busy, and I thought that I had missed the opportunity to workout, but I made it happen.

IMG_4840 IMG_4836

(For what it’s worth, it’s freezing here and I barely broke a sweat, so changing back into work clothes was no big deal.)


HOWEVER, once I got ten minutes into the run, I realized that I was being a royal idiot.  I was in the middle of a nearly deserted and shaded park, in the pitch dark, didn’t have my cell phone, and I was wearing earbuds.  Practically begging to be attacked.  I popped out my music so I could hear my surrounding and high-tailed it to the nearest busy street.


On the street, I realized another mistake:  I was wearing nearly all black.  Zipped-up black hoodie, black pants.  Thank goodness I had a white hat on.  But no driver would’ve been able to easily spot me crossing the road in that get-up.   And although the road was busy, I had unknowingly chosen a street with no street lights, so I couldn’t even see my feet.  I nearly tripped on the sidewalk a dozen times.


A+ for exercise effort, F for running safety.


So – what could I have done differently?


CLOTHING:  It would’ve been wise to select a lighter shirt color, but I really should’ve been wearing a reflective vest, like this one.



HEADLAMP:  I should’ve been wearing a headlamp – this is something I really, really want to invest in.  Plus, headlamps make you look totally badass, don’t ya know?  I am coveting this one.  Alternatively (and more cheaply), I could’ve carried a flashlight.



COMMON SENSE:  So hard to come by, and yet – totally free!  Hah.  I really should’ve just taken another route – something busier and more well-lit – or run with a buddy.  Running in the dark isn’t the worst idea in the world as long as you’re smart about it, just don’t do it in creepy alleyways and deserted parks.


What safety measures do you take when running?  Do you carry a defense spray with you?  I used to have pepper spray on my key chain (I had it because I walked home alone from the closing shift at the bar I tended); however, I tested it out once and only ended up spraying myself in the face. Not good.



  • Ingunn December 1, 2011, 7:38 pm

    When I run in the woods near my house, I always turn my music off and bring my dog with me. I’ve come across some squatter’s camps in there before, but I figure my fearsome 17lb pup will keep all evil away. :o)

    I always bring a headlamp if there’s a chance I’ll stay out after dark, and I never go trail running in the mountains *alone* at dusk or after dark…not because of humans, but cougars. :^o

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) December 1, 2011, 7:45 pm

    I’m not a runner, but reflective gear is definitely helpful for others to see runners! I’m glad you were ok and at least you learned from your mistake.

  • Mel December 1, 2011, 7:45 pm

    I am guilty of running my lab 4 days a week at 5 am wearing all black and my earbuds…but I love it!! I run on well lit, busy roads, and there are always other runners and walkers out, as well as police officers driving around. Also, my lab is my security system- she alerts me of everything! However, I would never run in a deserted area in the dark.

  • HTPDad December 1, 2011, 7:48 pm

    only ended up spraying myself in the face

    hahaha – I want that post!

  • Kat @ Balance & Spice December 1, 2011, 7:52 pm

    Thanks so much for this safety reminder! I always let someone know when I’m running and when I expect to be back, run with my phone, and if I choose not to bring my phone for some reason, wear my road id (, for more info – super helpful!)

  • Christine @ BookishlyB December 1, 2011, 8:04 pm

    I run inside on a treadmill. The only predators I have to worry about the dogs (and my husband).

  • Hillary December 1, 2011, 8:10 pm

    I rarely, if ever, run in the dark because I’m so afraid of people not seeing me! But I try to keep my music down low, run in well-populated areas, etc.

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen December 1, 2011, 8:11 pm

    I had pepper spray when I lived in a city right after college for a few months on my key chain but I got it taken from me at the airport (total fail in bringing it with me through security) and never reinvested in it again after that. My coworker runner/blogger has that headlamp and loves it.

  • Sarah @ The Strength of Faith December 1, 2011, 8:12 pm

    When I lived in Atlanta I was really stupid about running safety. Then one day I was running and this random guy started running with me (I think he was homeless and seemed a little manic). If I slowed down he slowed down and if I sped up he sped up. He kept running ahead and then hiding behind telephone poles. SO scary. So my husband bought me pepper spray and I ran with that from then on.

    However – now I’m in Massachusetts and apparently the firearm laws prohibit you from carrying pepper spray without a permit! So now I need to get one.

  • Army Amy* December 1, 2011, 8:15 pm

    I always run with my lighted hat and either my dog or pepper spray.*

  • Katie @ Peace Love and Oats December 1, 2011, 8:27 pm

    I’m often out on a run and then suddenly realize I’m wearing all black… My running tights are black and so is the long-sleeve top I usually wear over t-shirts. Although the path I take is walkers only, I have to run a half mile through the streets to get there! My safety is to try and run when it’s light out!

  • Chelsea December 1, 2011, 8:37 pm

    I have to say, I LOVE your leopard print shoes. Adorable! 🙂

    • Caitlin December 2, 2011, 11:04 am

      @Chelsea: Thanks 🙂

  • sarah December 1, 2011, 8:38 pm

    Unless you are running in the veldt or a penitentiary, I think pepper spray is overkill. I run in the early-morning (pitch black) and wear a reflective vest and a headlamp. I also bring an iPod, albeit sometimes with one earbud out. Obviously it depends where you are running, but I think the best safety precaution is your common sense.

  • Megan December 1, 2011, 8:47 pm

    Don’t spend a boat load on a “running” headlamp! I’ve been using this model for 2 years and works like a charm. Buy two to make the shipping worth it and have one at home and one at work 🙂

    • Caitlin December 2, 2011, 11:05 am

      @Megan: Oh thanks for this!!!

  • kathleen @ the daily crumb December 1, 2011, 8:48 pm

    i definitely don’t take enough… i think i take my “safe” neighborhood for granted and sometimes forget that anything can happen anywhere at anytime. i have run with ear pods in and no form of id/communication in the early morning dark a few too many times. the hubby finally axed that!

  • Cindy December 1, 2011, 8:56 pm

    I don’t run when it’s dark out. I am far to clumsy in the daytime, never mind when it’s dark. I run/walk at the middle school track and always feel safe, especially if I am there during school hours. There always seems to be people there as well, which is awkward as I always seem to be singing along with my ipod!

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife December 1, 2011, 8:58 pm

    I don’t ever run outside at night, but these are great tips! Glad you got back safe!

  • Lauren December 1, 2011, 9:05 pm

    I’m too afraid to run in the dark , i am a scardey cat. When I run on a track alone u take my earbuds out and make sure I’m super aware of my environment.

  • katie @ KatieDid December 1, 2011, 9:08 pm

    omggg you srayed yourself?! can I laugh… lol!! Must have killed.
    I just got back from a trip in Denmark where biking is huge. All bikes have to have flashing lights on the front and back by law which I think is a great idea. I’m usually in all dark clothing and only have a reflector on my bike when I’m coming back from work which is so not a good idea. I’m investing in a flashing light asap!

  • Keri December 1, 2011, 9:10 pm

    I so appreciate this post. All my life I have lived in such a small town, but last July we moved to Denver. Since the move, I’ve gained weight and lost fitness because I’ve been paranoid to run after dark,and I despise dreadmills. Maybe I just need the right safety stuff—and a running buddy! Thanks 🙂

  • Britt @ The Busy Bee Writes December 1, 2011, 9:11 pm

    I run with my 90 pound labrador. I also bought a belt that I put my driver’s license, health ins card, and cell phone in. Generally, I follow the same route(s) that my husband knows and I always tell him when I leave, when I should be back, and which route I am taking.

    I am guilty, though, of always running with ear buds, occasionally running at night, and wearing lots of dark clothing…

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey December 1, 2011, 9:11 pm

    Running in the dark is super scary. I’ve only done it once and won’t ever do it again!!

  • Meg @ Runridelove December 1, 2011, 9:15 pm

    If you don’t want a completely bulky headlamp, this is a great alternative:
    Its a baseball cap with LED lights in the brim! I have one and wear it running and on trails at night. Just enough light to see where I’m putting my feet, and makes you super visible.

    • Caitlin December 2, 2011, 11:05 am

      @Meg @ Runridelove: Awesome! Thanks for this link Meg!

  • Julia H. @ The Petite Spiel December 1, 2011, 9:23 pm

    Back home, I always run in on sidewalks/streets lined with houses. And during daylight. Safety safety!

  • Jessi @ Quirky Cookery December 1, 2011, 9:27 pm

    Wow, at least once you realized your errors, you tried to correct them immediately.

  • Sana December 1, 2011, 9:47 pm

    I am super paranoid and I never run alone, even in broad daylight!

  • Jenn December 1, 2011, 9:54 pm

    Omg I have been pepper sprayed once (LONG story) isn’t it seriously awful?!

    • Caitlin December 2, 2011, 11:05 am

      @Jenn: It sucked so bad.

  • Lindsey December 1, 2011, 10:13 pm

    If running by myself I stay in busier residential areas, and try to avoid quieter trails or treed areas. If I do through trees I take out my iPod. I also only run in daylight. Where I fail when it comes to safety is carrying my phone – I never do it, it drives my family nuts!

  • Nicole December 1, 2011, 10:20 pm

    When I’m running outside by myself, I always wear a green top! If anything were to happen, my family, friends, and boyfriend will all be able to describe what I was last wearing!

    • Caitlin December 2, 2011, 11:06 am

      @Nicole: Oh good idea!

  • Laura December 1, 2011, 10:30 pm

    I’ve stopped running at night by myself. I had one freaky incident and swore it off. Now I force other people to run with me. Depending on where I’m running I will or won’t run with music. If I’m running in low light I wear light reflective clothing. I also carry my phone and wear a road id when I’m by myself.

    These things happen when you are raised by a cop. He’d prefer I also run packing heat, but it’d be slightly awkward. Sometimes I just make him run with me as my bodyguard.

  • Caroline H. December 1, 2011, 10:33 pm

    Guilty of running in black. Whoops! If running by myself I rarely wear earbuds, even in the daylight! I am also pretty chosey about wear I run; well-lit, heavily trafficked, yadah yadah yadah. And not being judgmental but when I notice an unsavory character (I love downtown) I often cross the street if possible or pick up the speed when passing. It’s worth it to me to haul tail and suck wind later. I think your intuition is one of the best tools you have. If it makes you feel icky, then bail. Lastly, I always tell my husband where I plan on going and for him to get a good look at what I’m wearing (he likes that part–hah!) so that if, God forbid, something happened, he can recall those details.

    I also asked for one of those ID bracelets for Christmas after reading about HealthyAshley’s accident and the role it played in contacting her loved ones after the accident. Helpful, for sure!

  • Ashley @ Cooking for John December 1, 2011, 10:53 pm

    I really want to get in the habit of running before work, which would be around 6 am for me. It’s still dark then, and I’m scared to run alone in the dark. I do have that headlamp though, it is badass! I also bought two of these lighted arm bands at a running expo-

    I would be running with my dog, so I guess I wouldn’t be totally alone. Plus I plan on driving to Michigan State University, my alma mater, which is right down the street from my house, for those early runs. I just gotta get started!

  • Deva @ Deva by Definition December 1, 2011, 11:13 pm

    I have a reflective vest and love it. I want some firefly lights for my wrists.

  • Angela December 1, 2011, 11:21 pm

    I bought my trail-running-marathoning stepdad that headlamp this year for his 60th birthday and he LOVES it. Highly recommended 🙂 i’m considering in investing in one myself as well

  • Kate December 1, 2011, 11:57 pm

    I was on my way home from work tonight and had to slam on the brakes when a runner was crossing against a red light. He was wearing dark colors and I would have barely seen him if he was on the sidewalk, let alone running through a red light! Scary. I rarely run in the dark, except for the very occasional early morning. I should definitely invest in one of those headlamps- I’ve totally fallen and eaten it on dark bumpy roads 🙂

  • megan December 2, 2011, 12:29 am

    I have that vest and I love it. Also, I got a headlamp at Eddie Bauer for $5. Keep your eyes peeled, especially if you wear a stocking hat, because pretty much any kind will do in that case!

  • Khushboo December 2, 2011, 12:46 am

    I avoid running in the dark unless there are a lot of lamps around…it makes me nervous and I spend the whole run jumping at every last noise and thinking everyone is out to get me–> some runs just aren’t worth it!

  • Marissa C December 2, 2011, 1:05 am

    I’ve done group runs in the dark in the early morning, but there were at least 10 of us and we all had flashlights. I think runners and bikers underestimate how invisible they actually are to drivers. In my neighborhood, sidewalks aren’t an option and people run in the street…I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wanted to stop and tell people I almost didn’t seem them until it was too late…even if they were wearing reflective gear. Just 2 weeks ago, I almost hit 2 people on bikes WITH lights because a car was parked on the street, blocking any view I had of them…neither one of us did anything wrong, but the situation just wasn’t good at night. Not worth it.

  • Heather @ Bake, Run, Live December 2, 2011, 3:51 am

    I see too many runners running in the dark with dark clothing, no lights, etc. We need to be concerned for our own safety- not assume drivers are going to be able to see us.
    When I run in the dark, I tend to go overboard (bright clothes and lights flashing all over!), but I know people can see me.
    Oh and my LED flashlight that I carry was more expensive then the headlamp 🙂 But man is it bright!

  • helen @ change comes from within December 2, 2011, 7:08 am

    Running with a buddy, or my running club and making sure one of us has a phone. We all high-viz to the max. I have a vest, a reflective armband and some have armbands with little LED flashing lights. Also we tend to stick to the same routes so where know where the trip hazards are!

  • Laine December 2, 2011, 7:13 am

    I am such a safety nerd! My parents used to make me wear an orange reflective Miss America-type sash when my friends and I would walk to get ice cream at night. Talk about emotionally scarring! (I’d usually shove it in the bushes before we got in sight of the boys…) Alhtough one time one of them found it, held it up and said “whose is this? it’s so ugly!” I grabbed it and said “It’s mine, and it’s a lot more attractive than my head would be if it splattered all over the road because a car hit me!”

    Now I love my orange vest, I have one of those bright yellow jackets for when I bike at any hour, and I use a flash light too if I walk at night.

    I so want to hand orange vests to be people who walk at twilight or dark in dark clothes. It is so dangerous! They are so invisible.

    My town is super safe so I don’t worry about pepper spray.

  • Rebecca @ Naturally Healthy and Gorgeous December 2, 2011, 7:28 am

    I get scared when I have my headphones on because you can’t hear anything around youl

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin December 2, 2011, 7:55 am

    That’s a good idea to wear reflective gear. Sometimes when I’m driving at night runners just seem to pop out of nowhere and I don’t even notice them until they’re a few feet away from me!

  • Jazz December 2, 2011, 8:13 am

    We have a path by the river here I run on in the pitch dark at 6 30 am. But I don’t really take any precautions because I figure no one will be waiting out there in -20.. and our city has a TON of runners so you usually see someone every few minutes.

  • pantsleflint December 2, 2011, 8:27 am

    I would give you some credit as once you were aware you made smart decisions to be safe… removing music and moving your run location. Both were A+ moves in my head. you would have failed had you kept on running and not done anything.

    • Caitlin December 2, 2011, 11:07 am

      @pantsleflint: 🙂 Thanks!

  • Melissa December 2, 2011, 8:37 am

    I’m not disputing the importance of running safety, of course…but…”begging to be attacked?” I’m in the camp that saying attack victims were “asking for it” is…well…a no-no.

    • Caitlin December 2, 2011, 11:08 am

      @Melissa: Yeah, poor word choice on my part – but you know what I meant!

      • Melissa December 2, 2011, 11:15 am

        @Caitlin: Yep, I know what you meant. And you’re right that safety is important!

  • Hannah December 2, 2011, 8:38 am

    I swear by my Petzl headlamp (the Petzl Tikka 2! I actually need to replace the batteries because the light was fading fast on my early a.m. run today. I also have some ankle wraps (made by Brooks) that are neon yellow with reflective strips. I haven’t invested in a full reflective vest yet, but that might be in my future as the days are getting shorter…

  • Lindsey December 2, 2011, 8:47 am

    I run in the morning and used to high tail it (and high knees it not to trip)down my street because we only have a few street lamps. By the time I got to the main street my eyes would adjust and there are more street lights which made me feel OK. When I drove to the track one morning and passed a few runners running my normal route I realized how difficult it must be for drivers to see me in the morning. I had been considering getting a headlamp but worried that it would wobble on my head and didn’t want to make an big investment and not wear it. I tried out a $15 one from target and it works great! You can see, and can be seen by drivers- WIN! I wear mine with a hat or visor and there is no wobble. This is the one I got: . You can find them in the camping section. A great stocking stuffer!

  • Shannon December 2, 2011, 9:28 am

    In winter (i.e. when it gets dark at 4:45 where I live!), I pretty much always run in the dark. I have a reflective vest and carry my phone, but always felt unsafe until now. I JUST ordered myself a pair of Knuckle Lights. They are amazing! Check out their website! I’m also planning to do a review of them on my blog soon. (I also had them in my holiday gift guide post a few days ago.)

  • Lindsey December 2, 2011, 10:04 am

    My mantra for dark running (or after hours as I like to call it) is if you have to think or ask if the car can see you, then they probably can’t. I wear reflective stuffs and stay on sidewalks and off the roads in the dark. As a clutz, one of my biggest concerns is tripping over something.

    Sometimes the uncertainty and perceived danger of running in the dark really encourages me to run faster and not stop. Fear (rational or not) can be a good motivator!

  • Laura December 2, 2011, 11:10 am

    Hey Caitlin, love you blog!

    I took a long run last weekend without telling my bf and he totally freaked and came looking for me.

    His dad is a retired cop, I’m pretty sure I’m getting pepper spray for xmas. 🙂

  • Elana December 2, 2011, 11:20 am

    Have you ever heard of the website Warning: it’s addictive–a new deal shows up about every 20 minutes for an outdoor gear item (you only have that time to buy it). But the reason I’m telling you is there are headlamps CONSTANTLY when I click over to it–multiple a day, often for really great prices. So if you’re looking to buy one, you might want to keep an eye on that website!

  • Chelsea December 2, 2011, 11:43 am

    I always run with music on my armband, but without ear buds. I’m like a running boom box haha ;D I can’t imagine running in the dark though. That would creep me out wayy way too much. I’m such a baby and always fear someone is following me (I guess it’s not a bad thing to be defensive though right?). I also run with my keys (biggest one) between my fingers. That way if they come close I can give a nice jab into them and then run off lol.

    At least you knew better and high tailed it back home, right?!

  • Molly @RDexposed December 2, 2011, 1:33 pm

    I saw quite a few runners out last night with headlamps on-so helpful with spotting them!

  • Amber K December 2, 2011, 1:46 pm

    This is why I’m so grateful for the gym. I feel uncomfortable exercising outside during the day, let alone at night!

  • Mary December 2, 2011, 2:17 pm

    I have A headlamp that I wear when I run with friends in the dark. Remember that time I got followed home? good for you for realizing your #fail and Taking out your ear buds 😉

  • Julie (A Case of the Runs) December 2, 2011, 2:25 pm

    I’m a wimp and don’t really run in the dark that often, but you’d better believe I bring pepper spray, RoadID, and my phone along with me.

  • Nina December 2, 2011, 3:11 pm

    I never listen to music while running outside. It is not only saver when running in the dark, but always. I can just hear everything around me, including ambulances and police cars.
    Also, I have a blinking runner light.
    Have you seen the Nike Vapor Flash Jacket? I would like one of these, their just so expensive.

  • sara December 2, 2011, 4:24 pm

    my dad wanted to give me pepper spray to keep in my car but he gave me a huge can of wasp spray and said “it gets better distance”

  • Lisa December 2, 2011, 4:43 pm

    Do you ever worry that some driver will fixate on trying to figure out what you are and accidentally hit you? Look at how many emergency vehicles are hit each year. Sometimes I think I’m safer to play ninja, stay on the sidewalk, and avoid crossing when there are cars. I can do that in my neighborhood. DH thinks I’m nuts. 😉

    • Caitlin December 2, 2011, 4:44 pm

      @Lisa: This made me LOL

  • Danna December 2, 2011, 4:50 pm

    So glad to hear that I’m not the only one who’s pepper sprayed themselves on accident! Oh vey…

  • Laura December 2, 2011, 6:07 pm

    Thanks for the safety post. It’s hard not to run in the dark during the short winter months. I usually take my dog with me when I run in the dark but my husband has been pestering me to wear the reflective vest I bought for Hood to Coast when I go. To be honest though I HATED wearing the vest, headlamp and blinking LED lights during Hood to Coast this year. The vest and lights flap and the headlamp gets all sweaty and gross on my forehead.

  • Caitlin G. December 2, 2011, 6:08 pm

    The Chicago Area Running Association (CARA) introduced me to Nite Beams (google for the site!) a few weeks ago. They were created buy a guy after he almost hit a runner. I haven’t purchased anything yet, but I saw the products at an event and really liked them. They are all LED lights and can be seen at least 1/4 mile away. They had these super fun rings that you put around your ponytail that light up and flash! I don’t see them on their website yet though 🙁 Anyways, lots of stuff worth checking out for nighttime running.

  • Lica December 2, 2011, 7:16 pm

    Thanks for this post. I walk my 2 dogs daily for about 50-60 min after work,around 7 or 8 pm… and its completely dark, but that’s the only reason I do it..b/c of the dogs… I ALWAYS carry my phone. But I need to get a reflective vest as well.

    I walk in areas where there are street lights and not shady, but it can be scary anyway. My mother in law tells me I should carry a spray, which is a good idea!

    I often see drivers on their cell phones NOT paying attention even when its the pedestrian right of way. I will check the the vest you linked here!

  • Lisa December 2, 2011, 7:23 pm

    Cyclists and runners need to be VISIBLE. As both a cyclist and runner I get majorly annoyed when I see people wearing all black with nothing reflective on! It’s stupid. Stop being “stylish” by wearing black and wear bright neon colors. Who cares what it looks like if you’re dead, right?

  • Terry Miller December 3, 2011, 2:13 am

    I Love Petzl headlamps. I have the one you mentioned, but I plan to get this one next
    It can be recharged with the outlet I use for my phone in my car. It’s more money, but the money you save not buying a bunch of batteries will pay for itself, not to mention the convenience of not starting a run and finding out the hard way the batteries are dead. I always keep the headlamp in my car for general convenience and safety, not just for running. Very helpful.
    Be safe!

  • Allie Q (Fit Geek) December 3, 2011, 12:55 pm

    I have pepper spray that I take with me during nighttime walks. Funny story: One time I was walking with the pepper spray, and I was practicing pulling it out of my pocket fast and spraying it. I didn’t actually spray it, but I put my finger on the button. Well, a few minutes later I scratched my nose and my whole face felt like it was on fire. It SUCKED.

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