Fizio Reno recently hosted a clinic for runners concerning safety on the roads and on the trails.
In 10 years as a Sparks police officer, Eric Marconato has served on SWAT, worked undercover, and also serves on the FBI Innocence Lost Task Force. While he acknowledged the information he shared with us was common sense and not “all that groundbreaking”, his experience provided valuable insight for Reno/Sparks runners.
Run in numbers. “Numbers totally change the picture”, Marconato said. Most attackers are looking for an “easy pick”, and are less likely to pick you if you are with a group. One member of the audience relayed an incident where a group of friends was running along the river, and one of the woman was running several feet ahead of the group. An attacker attempted to go after the woman, but was scared off as the rest of the group approached.
Run during daylight hours. “It’s definitely safer… you can see more of what is going on around you, and there are more people out during daylight hours.” However, if you must run after dark, don’t skimp on lights and reflective gear. Run against traffic, and stay out of the street.
Stick to the planned route and avoid secluded areas. Alleys are probably not the best places to run.
Know your route and know your neighborhood. Marconato cited a popular Reno running path with tall willows on each side of it, an area familiar to most of the runners in the audience. To our surprise, he then described a community of men who frequent the area beyond the willows and solicit sexual favors. Marconato assured us that they likely are not violent predators, but they are out there. The anecdote illustrates that runners should always remain on alert.
Be vigilant. Run without earbuds, or with just one, so you can hear what’s going on around you. “If you hear a rustle in the bushes, don’t ignore it. Look back at it. It might be a raccoon, it might be the wind, or it might be somebody after you, and if you have that little of a jump on them, it’s going to help you.”
Look up. “Some people run with their head down, not looking where they’re going.” Scan the horizon, just as we were taught when we were learning to drive; ”don’t just look at the car in front of you, look ahead so you see a bigger picture. That will give you a reaction time.”
How about weapons?
Weapons are an option, Marconato said, but they can be cumbersome, and they require a level of responsibility and a commitment to use. There is always the chance a weapon will be taken away from you by an assailant in which case, Marconato said, you are not necessarily worse off than you would have been.
If you are attacked:
Scream loud, and “be obnoxious about it. You want to make a big deal so you get attention.” Marconato suggested yelling “help” or “stop” and repeating it loudly to ensure you will draw attention to yourself.
Defend yourself. As Marconato memorably stated, “go for eyeballs and balls”. Cause damage: pull hair, scratch, claw, and leave marks. Remember: if they assault you, they probably have assaulted or will assault others. Scratching leaves noticeable marks, and also leaves DNA under your fingernails.
Report it. Don’t be embarrassed. Get the facts out there. Remember it’s not just you. Don’t wash or change clothes, as that would wash away any evidence. “Call the police, then go straight to them.”
In addition to his law enforcement experience, Marconato teaches defensive tactics and hands-on combat, and demonstrated some basic tactics to the group of runners. He is an instructor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and recommends the martial art for those who seek instruction in self-defense.
Have you had any uncomfortable encounters while running? Please share your experience.