Friday, February 22, 2013

Safe Strides.

Last night was such an awesome experience! I went to a free female self defense program provided by the Pittsburgh Marathon.  It was so educational that I would have paid for it.  The Pittsburgh marathon does free events every now and then and I want to get the most out of them that I can. I just found out that they do these events, and this one was the first ever for female runners.  They had three speakers, one was of a girl who was a victim of an assault, a Mississippi retried Chief of Police officer and a Louisiana  Police Officer.  They all did a fantastic job and traveled so far to be here. 

The first speaker was a girl names Leah. She's from Johnstown, Pa,  about 30 minutes from where I live.  On June 15, 2010 she was taking her twin sister to a voice lesson and as they were discussing where she could go for a quick 25 minute run, they decided that she would go on a trail that she's been on many times.  I've been on trails like this, they're bike trails that are usually populated but on this day it wasn't.  As she was running at 3:15p.m,  she had decided to take her cell phone with her so that she could track her time. About a mile in she saw a man and veered to the left. As she veered to the left, he went with her. He put a knife to her and told her that if she let him do whatever he wanted, then he wouldn't kill her.  Bravely, she called 911 when he wasn't paying attention.  Once he found out that she had already called police, he ran. By the end of the night they found him and he'll be serving at least 8 years in prison. She got lucky that day because a lot of girls don't make it out unharmed like her. 

Her story was a huge wake-up call for me. Though, my family and friends always tell me to never go alone, it's hard not too. I don't have a running buddy. Every time I ask someone to go with me, they're busy so I go alone. I go on bike trails; where no one will be able to hear you scream, the park; where my sister had an incident there with an other person when we were 14, my town, our local high school; where I always feel the safest, and another park that I feel is pretty safe as well.  In a six month time period there was a man that was mugged at gun point on the bike trail, a shooting over drugs in a house on a route that I run, and a man was on the loose near a park that I run at. Recently, there was an armed robbery at a gas station down the street from where I live.  Like most people, I live in a safe town, or what was safe over a year ago. After the first three incidents, I decided that I needed a gym membership so I wasn't running at night alone. You never know when you'll be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once summer comes and I'm in hard core training mode, I won't have a choice but to run outside at night, so this educational class helped a lot.  It wasn't actually a "hit him in the nuts" type class. It was an educational, common sense that we probably never use type of class. 

Larry and Craig showed some great examples for what to do verbally and also showed what you should look for in a "bad guy":
1.) Grooming Cue: This person keeps touching their face. They'll scratch their face, swipe their noise, touch their chin.  
2.)Target Glancing: Hard glancing to the left or right.  They're looking to see if there are witnesses.
3.) Weight shift: Loading weight to one side ready to make a move. 
4.)Movement of the hands around the waist: If they have a knife or gun they'll place their hand where ever it's at ready to grab it.
How to avoid them:
1.) Ask to pass- You want to start off asking.  They may not be there to harm you.
2.)  Put your arms up and yell "back off"-  This is called "fence" you want to put your hands close to your face.  You want to do this if they are still coming at you.
3.)Swear at them- Luckily, I have the mouth of a sailor, so this is easy for me.  If they won't back off of you, screaming confidently, "Back the f*** off!" will completely throw them off and they will be less inclined to harm you. If you don't usually swear, this is not the time to use it!
You should always rehearse these methods so that you're ready just in case something happens. 
How to pass someone:
This was probably the best advice of the evening.  I couldn't figure out what else I could do to get away from someone, but when you're passing someone  that you aren't sure of, pass them with your hips turned towards them.  You want to be in a squared position, that way, if they do come towards you, you'll be in a better position to defend yourself. 
Weapons on runs
I've been told many times that if I'm running alone, I need to take a pistol or pepper spray.  I'm more of a love than a fighter, but if I feel threatened, I'll defend myself.  I've only ever shot a gun a few time at targets, not people. I've been told these things by non-runners. When you're running, the last thing that you're thinking of is a gun in your pocket. Craig made a fantastic point last night by saying that if you're going to take a weapon, make sure you know how to use it.  Also, pepper spray isn't always a good idea because while you're trying to spray it at the person and run away, you're very likely to spray yourself as well.  This was great information because I was contemplating buying new pepper spray to take with me.
Last bit of useful information
Something that I realize that I actually do correctly is let someone know where you're going.  They mentioned that when you're going on runs always let another person know:
1.)Where you are going
2.)When you will be there
3.)How long you will be gone
4.)When you will be back
5.)To start calling around if that person doesn't hear from you.

All in all, this was a very useful, informative program and I can't wait to go back in the summer for a hands on class. Always be aware of your surroundings and don't think that it can't happen to you. 

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