‘Never run alone’ — runners give advice on how to be safe when going for a jog

2013-11-16 00:00

BE unpredictable when it comes to safety on the run, said Olympic marathoner Tanith Maxwell, speaking to The Witness after a woman was attacked and raped while jogging in Villiers Drive, Clarendon, Pietermaritzburg, on Monday morning.

“It’s about not being predictable, especially not being predictable in your routine,” says Maxwell. “Women tend to park cars in the same spot at the same time, and run in the same place every day.”

Maxwell advises changing your running route as often as possible. “And be aware while you are running. Don’t wear iPods. Lots of women runners listen to music on iPods. Wearing iPods is a real no-no. I also don’t wear any jewellery.

“I train two times a day and unfortunately there’s not always someone who can come with me. Sometimes people cycle along with me, but on longer runs I go on my own.”

However, because Maxwell is a full-time runner, she is able to run later in the day when the roads are busier.

She misses the days when one could safely enjoy running alone. “Then you could escape into your own world and think,” she said.

“Now if you can’t run in a group, you have to run on a treadmill indoors, and who wants to do that?”

Top KZN runner and Nedbank Green Dream Team member Cary-Ann Smith said she always runs in a group. “I’m fortunate in that I run with a group on morning runs in Kloof, where it’s pretty busy. I generally advise women runners to run with at least one guy. Some of my friends carry pepper spray, though I don’t,” she said.

“You must keep a good look out and be aware of what’s happening around you. Always stick to a busy road where there are more cars. And never run at night.

“If I see something I am not sure of, I turn around and run back. If something doesn’t seem right, rather turn back; it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Smith said many runners carry satellite navigation devices and other expensive items, which could make them targets. “But I would never carry a cellphone — people get killed for cellphones. It’s scary, but though I’m aware of the danger, I don’t think about it all the time or I would never get out and run!”

KZN Athletics president Sello Mokoena said women should not run alone.

“We encourage women runners to at least, if possible, be accompanied by a male runner or to run in groups. They are vulnerable alone.

“There have been incidents in Durban,” Mokoena said, “people stealing cellphones or shoes from runners, but nothing on the horrific scale of what happened in Pietermaritzburg.”

Mr Price Sport athletes team manager Cuan Walker said women runners’ safety is a key issue.

“Crime is bad and it would be better if people ran in groups. These days you need to know if it’s safe to run outside your door.”

“I’ve not heard of any rapes in the Durban area,” said Kevin Bradfield of Savages Athletic Club. “But there have been some physical attacks.”

Bradfield was emphatic that people should run in groups. “Absolutely! If you run on your own, you are asking for trouble.

“Yesterday, running early in the morning in Westville, a group of us came around a corner and there was an armed robbery in progress, with guys in balaclavas. We backed off.”

• stephen.coan@witness.co.za

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