Between a rock and a mugging place
September 26, 2012 3:37 PM   Subscribe

I only have time to run at night. This makes me nervous. Am I just a nervous nellie, or am I asking to become the Central Park Jogger 2.0?

I can't run in the mornings because that's when I walk my (elderly) dog. If I get up any earlier than I do already, I will lose my mind. I'm trying to run in the evenings, but by the time I walk and feed the animal, it's well after eight, and dark.

I live in Echo Park (Los Angeles), I am a baby-faced 24-year-old woman standing 5'2" and weighing less than 100 pounds. But I also grew up in a city, consider myself pretty street smart, and nothing bad has happened to me yet.

My biggest pro-safety step has been to start running with contacts (the better to see strange men on the street). I hate running without music, but I have turned it down to almost nothing so that I can hear what's going on around me. I have some brightly colored running clothes. I've considered driving up the Silver Lake Reservoir because the path there is always well-lit, but part of the appeal of going for a run is that it's as easy as walking out my front door.

What else should I do? I realize that, from a pure numbers perspective, the odds of any violent crime happening to me are pretty small.
posted by ablazingsaddle to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Join a running group? Find a partner? Borrow a great big high-energy dog?
posted by jrochest at 3:45 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Runner's mace? A loud whistle?
posted by dfriedman at 3:45 PM on September 26, 2012

Best answer: My biggest pro-safety step has been to start running with contacts

I read this as you were jogging with someone else. I think that is a great idea, can you find someone (or a few someones, if your schedules don't always mesh) to partner up with?

I'm the same demographic (smaller than you, in my early 30s). For my part, I've jogged in urban L.A. for years often at night, never, ever, had a problem. I do make a point of being quite aware of my surroundings and making eye contact with passers by, when there is an overgrown area I will jog in the street (when safe). I have taken self-defense courses. Sometimes I visualize or practice how I will respond if grabbed/attacked. I run with purpose and confidence.

Also, I don't run anywhere totally dark, and choose streets that are not entirely deserted (so I go for busier roads rather than completely dead dark neighborhoods.
posted by arnicae at 3:49 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I read this as you were jogging with someone else. I think that is a great idea, can you find someone (or a few someones, if your schedules don't always mesh) to partner up with?

I meant that I used to run without any visual correction, and started wearing my contacts to go for a run. (Running with glasses is gross and foggy).

I would love to find a running buddy, but my schedule is pretty weird at the moment.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 3:53 PM on September 26, 2012

I would get a treadmill.
posted by 1smartcookie at 4:10 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: you may want to look on craigslist/facebook for a running buddy anyway - everyone has weird schedules, and sometimes those weird schedules collide into awesome things.
posted by koroshiya at 4:11 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

You couldn't pay me to jog alone in Echo Park at night. Sorry if that makes me sound like a wimp, but though the odds if anything might be small, the possibility does exist. Is there a nearby high school where perhaps the track is used by a bunch of people?
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:13 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Where and how are you running? I know nothing about LA neighbourhoods, but I used to run in Manhattan late at night. I would run down the middle of the street for maximum safety, moving to the sidewalk or bike lane only when there was traffic. Also, pepper spray and a self-defence course.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:16 PM on September 26, 2012

Response by poster: I would run down the middle of the street for maximum safety

Was this on a one way street?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:19 PM on September 26, 2012

Be careful how you dress. Don't look too sexy while running. Try to both cover and downplay cleavage, don't wear the shortest short shorts you can find, put the hair in a ponytail, etc.

Run where the streets/trails are not deserted. Potential witnesses will go a long way towards deterring potential criminals. The more traffic, the better.

Use neutral or defensive body language if someone tries to engage you in conversation rather than open and inviting body language. In other words, arms down or folded across your chest, not open like you might hug them. Turn away, not towards.

Don't take any disrespect off of anyone. Try to not escalate aggression, but don't go along with anything out of "politeness" either. If possible, walk away. If necessary, be curt and rude. If push comes to shove, take it seriously that you are genuinely in danger. Rapists will do crap like help you carry groceries into your house to be "helpful" and women who don't want to be rude find themselves alone in their house with a stranger intent on assaulting them. Things usually do not begin with physical assault. They usually culminate in it. There is usually social engagement of some sort first. When in doubt, look to your safety first, "manners" second.
posted by Michele in California at 4:24 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I grew up in LA, and I think it's actually a pretty safe city, but I don't think I'd jog alone in Echo Park at night, although it kind of depends WHERE in Echo Park. Personally, I get that driving to the Reservoir is totally a pain, but it will be worth it for your peace of mind if nothing else -- you can enjoy your run without worrying, for one thing. Who wants to go running and be stressed through out?

You can run in your nabe when it's summer.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 4:25 PM on September 26, 2012

Are you in a position in which you could legally carry a handgun? If so, that might be an option in the long run.

In the short run, I second Michele in California's advice "When in doubt, look to your safety first, 'manners' second."
posted by John Farrier at 4:28 PM on September 26, 2012

Was this on a one way street?

It's not hard to build a route in NYC so that you're always running against traffic, but even in NYC there isn't a much very late at night. This was before iPods and electric cars, but I assume cars still have headlights, so you know if there is traffic ahead or behind. I never had a near miss, and felt safe.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:35 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Be careful how you dress. Don't look too sexy while running. Try to both cover and downplay cleavage, don't wear the shortest short shorts you can find, put the hair in a ponytail, etc.

I'm running. I'm covered in sweat and snot and I look like shit, but so did the infamous Central Park jogger and lots of other women who get sexually assaulted every day. If you think that women are raped because they look sexy, you need to reexamine your thinking.

And as I said, I'm pretty street smart. I grew up in Boston, I lived in New York, and I handle garden variety street harassment well. I'm not going to carry a gun, but I might buy pepper spray. My philosophy has always been to avoid trouble, though, and I'd rather never use pepper spray or mace and do things like run in the street, run with a buddy, etc.

I'm going to drive to the reservoir and call it a day. My dog can handle being alone for ten extra minutes.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:36 PM on September 26, 2012 [35 favorites]

Would it help if you could switch around your evening routine a bit? Come home, let the dog out for a quick pee, change into running clothes that you laid out and had ready to go. Go for the run and when you get back home, grab the dog and walk while you are cooling off, then feed the dog when you get home after the walk. I don't know if that would be enough time to get you home before dark, but at least there would be more people around while you are running.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 4:49 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I run with my dog. Any neighbors who have a big dog who you could borrow in the evenings? Most owners would love to have somebody exercise their mutt for free.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:59 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

It's great that you're so dedicated to running and staying in shape. I fully understand the desire to be able to walk out your door and start jogging away. Unfortunately....I wouldn't do it in Echo Park. And I'm an average looking male. Now I have never lived in Echo park but whenever I drive through there my gut reaction is to immediately lock the doors. If you can find someone else to jog with(preferably a larger male) then I would go for that. And of course you could also drive some place else to run. Getting a treadmill would solve your problem here but it's costly and not the same as running outside in the fresh air. Others might think it's totally fine to jog in Echo Park and truthfully it probably is. But for me, I just wouldn't feel comfortable doing it. You'll figure things out...continue to stay in shape. It will help you live a long and healthy life.
posted by ljs30 at 5:05 PM on September 26, 2012

Personally, I get that driving to the Reservoir is totally a pain, but it will be worth it for your peace of mind if nothing else -- you can enjoy your run without worrying, for one thing. Who wants to go running and be stressed through out?

I'm going to second this. I posted in another thread today about how people shouldn't avoid Echo Park over crime fears, but crime happens there, especially recently. Don't run alone on dark streets in Echo Park at night.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:08 PM on September 26, 2012

I run around suburban streets at night. If I encountered any problems, I'm 5 metres from a house, or actually several houses. It's just footpath running. I don't run near business areas where there are lots of cars passing but no pedestrians.

Can you not run out your door and stick to roads with houses? I'm in Syndey's inner west which is a bit crimey, but I feel reasonably safe.

(I'm not a fan of victim blaming, you're absolutely right that what you wear and how you look have nothing to do with the likelihood that you will be assaulted. And nor should it. )
posted by taff at 5:24 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

There are so many people out on the main streets of echo park at night! Stick to main streets and you'll be fine.

I say this as a short lady who walks and rides her bike alone at night quite often in this general area.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:46 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, leave it alone. If you are not answering the question asked by the OP do not comment here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:47 PM on September 26, 2012

Do you carry a phone? People are less likely to approach me while I'm running if I at least look like I could be about to make a call. I also have the Central Park police precinct on speed dial.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:51 PM on September 26, 2012

Do you live alone? If so, make sure someone knows when you leave and when you expect to get back, and then let them know when you've returned. Just a quick text--no need to have several long, drawn-out phone calls.

I'd carry pepper spray, provided you know how to use it. The other things--low music, wearing contacts, those are smart steps. I'd even do these things in well-lit areas with lots of people around, to be honest.
posted by xyzzy at 5:55 PM on September 26, 2012

I just, I dunno, it sounds like you're letting the fear limit what you really want to do. Many young women move about echo park by themselves every night and are fine. I mean what are we supposed to do, not go out alone after 6pm in the winter?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:00 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anecdata: I am a 25 year old petite female living in Echo Park and my schedule is sometimes such that I go running outside at night. I take my dog with me, but he's 15 lbs and a huge baby. I don't wear headphones, I do carry mace, and I stick to Sunset Blvd and the nicer areas of Angeleno Heights. I've never needed the mace or felt particularly uncomfortable.
posted by justjess at 6:01 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a severe night-owl, and definitely prefer running and almost everything else at night, so I run almost daily by myself sometime between 9 and 11pm in Central Park around the reservoir track. People seem to universally think I'm 100% batshit or militant for doing so, and I frankly think they're nuts. Here's why: look up the actual crime stats for your neighborhood / jogging route. And look at actual rape stats regarding when rapes and sexual assaults happen and by whom: it doesn't happen any more frequently because it's night time, and statistically, you're far less safe in your own home and around people you know. There's exponentially more fear mongering about crime in the US than there is actual crime*. We are both safer and more terrified than we have ever been. And that's just weird.

Caveats: I am also not an idiot about this. I do not run with music or anything distracting or that anyone might want to steal - I rarely even take my phone. I know where every safety phone and quickest exit is at every point on my route. If I feel my senses tingling uncomfortably about anything, I go home (this has happened only twice, possibly with no justified reason - but I think it's always good to trust your gut). I know some very good hiding spots. The Central Park Precinct is literally on my jogging route - twice! They patrol the area pretty well. I too have taken a self defense class. I am physically pretty strong and in good shape.

Now: I just last month had my first and only incident of a man grabbing my ass just as I headed into the park, telling me I 'wanted it' along with the usual litany of verbal harrassment, and then chasing me for a clip. I was out there running again the next night. No way is that stupid prick going to stop me from doing something I enjoy when I enjoy it. I've had a lot of scary isolated incidents of almost getting hit by a car during broad daylight - would that stop me from walking around? Someone tried very hard to break into my apartment once - does that make me afraid of staying home? I'm of a mind-set that you do need to be smart about what you're doing, but not afraid. Women do not need to stay home after dark or always be in packs if that do. That is pure fear and control. Fuck that noise. Don't be an idiot, but don't be afraid.

*Yes, I am entirely and painfully well aware that rape is vastly under-reported. My points still hold.
posted by involution at 7:48 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: How funny, I was just thinking back to this thread on the same topic. Probably because I got back into running after a long hiatus, and run after work, and pretty soon that's going to be past dark. When I first started running, in my 20s, I worked as a waitress and sometimes had to do my run after 10 at night - so I know some of the concerns. Here's a copy of my comment from then (the "would't even consider it was a quote from someone else that I was disagreeing with).

I am a female and I run at night after dark and have for a long time. Don't let amorphous fears keep you from running when it works for you. Guys don't wait in the bushes for women to come along running after dark. Observe all the normal safety precautions that you would when running in the day or walking alone, but don't freak out.

Wear lots of reflective/light gear - a vest, reflective shoes, flashing lights. Try one of these headlamps (great for spotting potholes).

As said above, never assume a car can see you. Usually they can't. As always, run facing traffic, not with it. That increases your chances of seeing and being seen, and means that the driver of any car is going in the opposite direction you are. That makes it hard for anyone to slow down next to you and 'cruise' you.

Know your route. Walk it in the daytime and note where side streets are, businesses open late, stuff like that. Look out for hazards you won't see at night - sandy spots, potholes, curbs. Don't explore at night - know where you're headed and keep to routes you've scoped before.

Carry a cellphone. A friend of mine actually makes sportsbra for women where you can keep a cell. But you can just put it in a pocket or clutch it if it doesn't bother you.

Don't listen to music while running, or if you do, keep one earbud out or use earphones and set them just above or below your ear sockets. That way you'll still be able to hear what's going around you. Hearing is a lot more important at night, when your vision tells you less.

Carry a whistle. Maybe mace. Not because you'll need it but because you'll feel better, and if you ever did need it, it'd be there.

Have a check-in system - someone you can call, text, or email when you get back. That way, if you're delayed, someone will know to call you or look for you very soon.

Trust your instincts. If anything looks odd or weird, or feels odd or weird, don't worry about being polite or overrreacting. Don't give yourself a hard time if you look down a street one night and say to yourself "eh, feels weird" -- just skip it and do another lap around your home block instead. If there's a person acting funny or trying to stop you or paying too much attention to you, ignore them, cross the street, go the other way, or say "get out of my way" really firmly. Whatever you have to do - it doesn't matter. Don't worry about hurting anybody's feelings - you're a random stranger and they'll get over it. Avoiding weird situations is the best form of self-defense.

Be extra alert for bullshit on Friday and Saturday nights - plus Thursday in a college town - when idiots have been drinking. Maybe just don't run those nights if there is a noticeable drunken vibe.

You might try finding a running buddy on Craigslist or through a local runner's club if you still don't feel comfortable. Meet for coffee first and 'interview' them.

But on the whole, I've been running after dark for 20 years in cities, suburbs, and towns. It's all right. It's not stupid. Just prepare to take care of yourself and you'll be as safe as anyone else at any other time of day. I strongly believe that the world doesn't get safer for women when women stay inside out of fear and shape their behavior in response to a vague sense of threat. Women need to do stuff. They are entitled to.

Non-safety considerations: running at night, or any exercise at night, tends to really rev up the system. You might find it's really hard to sleep for a couple hours after running. If your bedtime is early that might be a problem. OTOH if you are into running at 11, you (like me) are probably more of a night owl and it will probably be OK.

If you don't like sleeping with sweat on your skin, you might want time for a shower after your run, too. Which can help settle you down, after all.

It can change the way you eat. Running right after a big meal is uncomfortable for me. You may want to have a lighter meal or snack in the early evening rather than a full dinner, then do your run, then eat something more filling when you get back.

If you are planning on doing a 5K (which is awesome and you should!), then do make sure to run a few times in the morning before you actually do a race. Your body won't be used to waking up and going right into 5th gear when you run at night all the time. Do at least a few runs at or near race time so you can feel how your body warms up and make a different plan for that.

Congrats on wanting to start running. Have fun!
posted by Miko at 23:15 on April 10, 2008 [+] [!]
posted by Miko at 7:51 PM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

Do you carry a phone? People are less likely to approach me while I'm running if I at least look like I could be about to make a call.

But they are more likely to steal your phone.
posted by purpleclover at 7:52 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I, too, think the presence of a visible phone is a total deterrent.
posted by Miko at 7:54 PM on September 26, 2012

If it's a smartphone, it's more of a target than a deterrent. In San Francisco, the police are falling all over themselves to try to get people to put their phones away when they're on the street. LA does not seem immune to phone theft.

I would never run without a phone, but I would never run with a phone visible, especially an iPhone.
posted by purpleclover at 8:30 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm fairly surprised. I have not heard even a peep about phone theft. At this point, in my east coast city, I would not go running without a phone.
posted by Miko at 8:38 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to run at night between 11 and midnight in downtown dc, right near the monuments. Just the right time for some tourists and lots of security to be out. Sounds like you don't have a similar cop-heavy area, but fwiw running near tourist attractions worked really well for me.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:52 PM on September 26, 2012

WRT headphones -- I just got a pair of Airdrives for listening to music during my (daytime, suburban) walk. They sit outside your ear and don't block external sounds at all. They work, believe it or not, exactly as advertised. If you do want to listen to music, consider something like these.
posted by KathrynT at 10:34 PM on September 26, 2012

It's very common for people to grab phones in NYC - even in broad daylight.
posted by valeries at 8:07 AM on September 27, 2012

Do you ever run races? Find a big local race, a half or full marathon, and go the day before to visit the expo. Every race expo I have been to has tons of safety gear for sale, including pepper sprays, bright clothing, and headphones that don't block other sounds. There is a lot more, most specifically marketed to women.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:24 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

May I just say - I wouldn't run without my phone, either. I'm helped in this in that I use Prey to secure my phone (send a little text message and suddenly they have an unusable brick which, depending on my mood, may shriek like an air raid siren or offer them $20 to turn around and give me my freaking phone back) and that I usually buy used smartphones on eBay, so the worst that can happen is I have to drop $100 on another smartphone.

Smartphone thefts are going down, from my perspective - all the carriers are cracking down on them and to me, they're briefly useful tools that turn into blocks of wood as soon as their owner manages to call their carrier.

I think the phone thing is a red herring.
posted by arnicae at 8:16 PM on September 27, 2012

« Older How to make therapy work?   |   The other kind of "shipping" Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.