The sad reality is that even in the 21st century when a tough woman runner in a good neighborhood leaves her own house in broad daylight, there's still a good chance being raped or attacked is a more prevalent fear than being chased by a dog.
I know for me, I usually feel safe until a car of young men drives by screaming sexually-harassing things, honking, and hooting. Then I'm jolted back to reality where I start to feel very far from home, unequipped, and vulnerable. Should I flip them off, ignore them, change directions?
When I say “running safety,” ladies, I don't mean wearing a reflective vest (although that is a good idea). I mean not getting abducted or attacked. During times when I've been single, I would tell my neighbor or call my mom and say, “If I'm not back in 30 minutes, come look for me or call the cops.” I would tell them where I'd be running, and I would not deviate from that route.
Because I suffer from plantar fasciitis and my first love is track and field (not distance running), I feel safer running on the nice rubberized, well-lit track at the local high school. There is almost always other people running and working out there in the evenings who would notice if anything happened. I know a lot of cross country runners who can't stand running on a track, but—just think—you can save your feet and knees and safely listen to your headphones.
Some safety tips
Another running safety tip for women is to carry a whistle. Pepper spray and big sticks are too cumbersome to run with, but a whistle around your neck can be tucked into your shirt and forgotten about. In the book Stopping Rape, it says,
"The best way to prove that she is not willing is not by saying 'please don't,' or 'I have my period.' The best way to prove that the act is not consensual is by physical resistance."
Stopping Rape explains that women who prevented rapes ran away, screamed, and used physical force. The least effective strategies were pleading and crying.
The more strategies used, the better! If you've just sprinted up a hill after a three-miler, running away and screaming might be difficult, but puffing on a whistle requires less energy and accomplishes the same thing.
Dig deep and find your will to survive—you've hit the wall and kept going on jelly-legs before.
Final notes on running safety for women: