Kristy Wilson
Trail run along Lake Superior in Minnesota.

Runners love putting on running shoes and heading out the door. When their feet hit the road or trail, runners can start to breathe in the fresh air and take in the surroundings. An enjoyable run clears out heads and helps work out stresses, and the miles can be enjoyed. Also, running helps relaxes a runner's mind. Runners push their bodies for fun, health or goals. For the time they are out running, they are as free as we want to be.

The last thing runners want to consider are dangers they might be running into. However, in the world we live in, this is sadly something all do need to think about.

It’s important for any runner to keep this in mind. Just because you are not hearing about people being harassed or attacked doesn’t mean it isn’t going on. The fact is, unless a serious crime is committed most encounters go unreported.

Veteran runners understand when running alone the possibility of dangers increases. For safety reasons running alone should be avoided. However, for those who love to run, there will always be times when you may decide to go solo. For women, the hazards of running alone are much higher than that of men. A few precautionary steps should be taken to help reduce your vulnerability.

• First, consider your options. Join a running group, invite a friend, have a family member ride along on a bike or have someone follow you in a car or if possible take a dog with you.

• Only choose streets, neighborhoods or populated trails that you are familiar with, and make sure you always tell someone where you will be running and when to expect you back. Try to run where there will be plenty of people around at all times.

• When running alone, never wear headphones, which prevent you from hearing people, vehicles or even a stray dog coming up behind you.

• Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to places an attacker could be hiding. Keep a thought of who is in front of or behind you. Consider what an escape route would be if you were to be attacked. Run around and keep your distance from parked vans, bushes or other areas an attacker could be lurking.

• Take a cellphone with you. If you run into any problems, you can always call for help. Also some apps will map your route for you. You can have the information sent to a friend or family member who can track your run.

• Look strong and confident. Be on the lookout when running through a bad area or when you see people acting oddly hanging out on a trail. No matter how tired you are, hold your head up high and appear strong and alert, and speed up if possible. Don’t let yourself look like an easy target; instead, look like a fighter.

• Carry mace, pepper spray or tear gas. When in questionable areas, pull out the unit and make it obvious you are carrying it. Make sure you test it out beforehand, so you will know how it sprays, the distance it sprays and the accuracy necessary. But keep in mind, if attacked the unit could also end up being used against you.

• Alter your routes and mix up your schedules — even in your own neighborhood areas.

• Don’t go running at night. If it does start to get dark, stay in well-lit areas.

• Trust your senses. If you sense danger, get out. Don’t dismiss an intuition!

• If you are on a trail and do sense danger, pick up a large stick that you can carry with you until you are safe. You may look ridiculous, but you’ll look like less of a target to an attacker if you appear prepared.

• Last, if you feel like solo running is going to be your thing, it wouldn’t hurt to take a self-defense class to pick up a few techniques, which will help you out if you should ever need them.

Don’t take chances — they aren’t worth it. If you are attacked or harassed, make sure you report it. By doing so, you may help save someone else. Always remember, just because you are in shape, healthy or fast, doesn’t mean you are invincible. Be smart and take precautions, so you can always enjoy the thrill of being a runner.

Kristy Wilson lives in West Valley City where she runs a wedding decoration company and trains to travel every few weeks or so to a new state to run a 26.2 marathon. She is in the process of running a full marathon in each of the 50 states plus D.C.