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The dos and don'ts of runner's safety

Carter Evenson demonstrates during Beyond Running's self-defense for runner's class, April 30, 2018, in West Fargo. Chris Flynn / Forum News Service1 / 3
Carter Evenson, right, of Carter's Martial Arts Academy shows students how to break free from an attacker's grasp. Chris Flynn / Forum News Service2 / 3
Carter Evenson says, if attacked, runners should defend themselves by striking the attacker in vulnerable areas like eyes, throat and groin. Chris Flynn / Forum News Service3 / 3

FARGO — With the Fargo Marathon just two weeks away, the streets are full of people trying to get in those last minute training runs. Despite the long distances they run, avid runners might tell you it can be relaxing and stress relieving.

However, some runners — especially women — can find themselves harassed or fearing for their safety. According to a 2016 survey by Runner's World Magazine, 43 percent of women have experienced harassment during training compared to just four percent for men. While much of the harassment is verbal, it can sometimes turn violent.

It's one reason the owners of Beyond Running in Fargo offered a self-defense for runners class recently.

"I've been a runner for 20 years, and there are definitely times when you are nervous or by yourself and you want to feel empowered. I've always wanted to do something like this," says Beyond Running owner Sally Loeffler.

Loeffler brought in Carter Evenson of Carter's Martial Arts Academy to help runners, both men and women, feel safer when they run. Not only is Evenson a fifth-degree black belt, he's a triathlete who bikes and runs every day. He says he's well aware of the challenges and dangers runners face.

"It's a real vulnerable group," Evenson says. "They find themselves in isolated areas quite often. Doing a self-defense seminar like this is helpful, and I enjoy it."

During the seminar, Evenson showed the 20 students ways to defend themselves if someone attacks them while running.

However, Evenson says the best thing to do is prevent an attack from happening in the first place. He has a few do's and don'ts to share with runners.

Don't wear earbuds

"Most runners hate to hear this," Evenson says. "They want to listen to their tunes, and I totally understand that. But it does make you more vulnerable."

Evenson says not only is it easier to sneak up on runners using ear buds, but they're more likely not to hear dogs or even traffic noises. He says if you're really hooked on the ear buds at least take them out in areas of your route that concern you.

Don't wear loose-fitting clothing

Even says try to avoid wearing hoods or any item of clothing that can be grabbed easily. He also recommends women with long hair tuck ponytails under their hats or wear braids.

Do let someone know where are

Tell a friend or family member about your route and approximately how long it should take.

Do know your route

Understand the parts of town where you will be running. Everyone likes a scenic run, but if that run goes through dangerous parts of town, it's best to avoid it.

Do mix it up

Don't run the same route at the same time every day. If someone is watching you, they'll know exactly where you're most likely to be alone and when to find you.

Do act like you're not alone

Evenson says if you're alone and you think someone is following or could hurt you, act like someone is with you but just dragging their heels. "I tell them to turn back and yell, 'Hey, Brutus (or whatever name), hurry up,'" Evenson says. "It might just make a potential attacker think twice about whether you're really alone."

Do run with buddies

Many runners will tell you like they like to run with friends because it makes the run go faster — by talking or simply encouraging each other to keep going. Aside from the social and motivational aspects, it's also a lot safer. Evenson says there are some excellent running groups in town if you're not sure with whom to run.

Evenson says more than anything he wants runners to be aware of the world around them.

"When I'm out on the bike path I surprise so many runners by coming up behind them," Evenson says. "Knowing your surroundings — just being aware — that's the biggest thing."

Tracy Briggs

Tracy Briggs is a former TV anchor/radio host currently working as a features writer and video host for Forum Communications.

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