TAT CN Header

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Runner's Risk

It seems that within the past week, I have heard -- from several different people -- how running poses such a huge risk. No, they weren't talking about ruining one's knees or having a heart attack while running; they were talking about assault.

And, it does seem true that on the news, runners (especially women) are the victims of violent assault or rape. The stories are often frightening enough to prevent some people from engaging in the sport. Because I'm a runner, and a woman, who often runs in the dark, well-meaning friends and family are often warning me about engaging in such a dangerous activity. Generally, I am appreciative that everyone cares for me in this way, but in the end, I am dismissive of their worries.

Don't get me wrong, I don't run in areas I'm unfamiliar with and I don't run through poorly lit neighborhoods. But while I take such elementary precautions, I also simply trust that when I go out the door, I'll be fine. And that's because I have to. If I started worrying about all the risks I am undertaking by going out for a run, I'd never step out the door.

This idea of a runner's level of risk has been stewing within my brain for a few days, and I wanted to check some statistics about it, and here's what some very basic research has revealed: I can't find an actual statistic that reports a runner's risk for assault (if you can find one, thanks, go ahead and post it in the comments), but I can find statistics for a runner's risk of skin cancer (which is pretty high since only 50% of us reported using sun block on a regular basis); I also learned that while a runner has a low risk of being hit by a car, he or she has a pretty high risk of dying in a car accident in which he or she is either a passenger or a driver; I also learned that while 1 in 78,000 runners do risk having a heart attack during an endurance race, engaging in intense physical exercise, like running, reduced a person's chance of a heart attack by 50%. I also learned that while the number of cases of assault and rape are higher now than they were 50 years ago, statistically, violent crime has remained static. But if you are a victim of assault or rape, your chances of your assailant being someone you know are 84%.

So, is the runner's risk of being assaulted like the elusive urban myth of razor blades in Halloween candy? ("Time" just had an article about parenting fears and the magazine reported that there has never been a recorded report of poisoned or tainted Halloween candy. Never-ever. Oh, and a child's risk of being kidnapped is 1 in 1.5 million; whereas, a child's chances of being killed in a car accident are 1 in 6,668.) I'm not sure. Certainly violent crime with runners as victims does exist, but we run risks by doing nearly everything. Even remaining inactive by staying inside and sitting on a safe couch gives us the fairly high risk of becoming obese and dying of heart disease or diabetes.

So, in the end, certainly it's wise to take head of basic safety precautions (we all wear seat belts, right?), but as is the case with most fears: We can't let them imprison us.

23 comments:

Marilie said...

Here, here! Very well written. We definitely have to take the basic precautions. After that, it's kinda up to fate. You could be sitting in your house and someone could break in and assault you. I don't want to live my life in total fear, either.

Wes said...

Very very true... Well spoken. The secret is avoiding trouble in the first place, something I've worked hard to impress on my daughter.

RunningLaur said...

Very well said (your English Professor-ness shows well).

There's another statistic I've heard on safety as well. I can't remember the publisher, but I do remember that it was reputable - helpful, right? The result was that the chances of dieing while running a road race was considerably lower than the chances of dieing in a car crash on the same roads had they been open for the time of the race. Basically that it's safer to race than to drive, and that races saves lives :)

Aka Alice said...

I read that article in Time Magazine about over-parenting. I like the connections you make to risk and running...so true, so true. I know of one woman who was hurt while running because she was hit by a car, but I know of loads of people who have gotten into car accidents.

So, while I have no problem running around my neighborhood by myself, I have a really hard time just letting my kids run around the block by themselves even though we live in a safe, but semi-rural, neighborhood, which is close to two freeways. Too risky? Probably not...just me being an overprotective mom.

Crystal said...

Yeah, people at work freak out about me running in the dark too and I always brush it off. Hello-it's the winter months so I have no choice but to run at night and I like it!

Furthermore, I watch my back and my surroundings, watch when crossing streets, etc. That's about the best one can do. Not gonna keep this girl cooped up!

N.D. said...

it is kinda scary - we just have to be smart!

MCM Mama said...

Interesting. While I feel like I live in a safe neighborhood, the combination of lack of lighting, lack of sidewalks, and heavy traffic keeps me from running when it's dark out. Not that I would anyways as I have an irrational fear of the dark, regardless of where I am. Thankfully, the treadmill and my husband's work schedule generally mean it's not an issue for me.

RunToTheFinish said...

gosh you know what's sad...I just try not to think about it. I figure if I live my life trying to avoid things that might happen, I'll never do anything.

It is scary though and I do try to make sure I'm in good areas or turn off my headphones around certain people

Rio Runs said...

I agree! My mother and I talk regularly even though we live in different states. I love her, but she is and always was, quite the worrier. She kept telling me to "slow down" and to "not run so much, it's not safe out there." It was such a downer, that I now talk to her about everything except about my running. Although I can't control everything around me, I do what I can to protect myself and live my life.

lifestudent said...

From what I understand, an attack on a runner is usually not "random". A woman doesnt always know her attacker, but women attacked while running are often the victims of a serial rapist/murderer/etc. They are stalked prior to being attacked.

I do my best to run in populated and lit areas. But more importantly, I change my route, day and time that I run as often as I can. You dont want someone to know when to expect you coming along...

Krissy said...

I agree 100%, one idea (which I do as much as possible) is to take a different route when you leave your house. Don't always run the same route & let your husband know where you will be headed when you leave the house. That is just a quick tip but I am sure you do those things already!

Heather said...

Great post. I agree. If we just sit in the house worrying about everything that could happen if we leave, then the psychos out there have won. Also generally the same theory I have about parenting.

diana said...

Such a great post. I can't wait to share this with my fiance, who fears every time I leave the house that I will be attacked, hit by a car and left for dead or eaten by wolves. And I must agree, that if you start focusing on the risks of a particular activity, you won't ever get out the door.

Kate said...

I am totally of your mind on this - my mom worries about me so much because I'm a young female who runs at night in college, and she has reason to, but at the same time I keep thinking that I can't let her worries get in the way of me doing something I love. Yes, there is some risk... but isn't there risk in all things worth doing?

Carly said...

Great post Jess.

I try not to worry about things that COULD happen. If I did I would never ever leave my house.

I am more afraid of being assaulted walking to my car at work (usually in broad daylight) than I am running after the sun disappears.

Jess said...

I think this is a really great post Jess. For me, running outside when it's dark just makes me jumpy and I can't even enjoy the run. I'm constantly wondering if that crunching leave is someone sneaking up behind me. I never really worried about it when I lived back home in PA, but there's just too much crime in DC for me to feel safe by myself in the dark.

Razz said...

THIS is basic research for you? Geez, that'd take me a semester to do that.

Interesting stuff!

Marlene said...

Interesting topic and stats. It's definitely not something I think about, besides the obvious precautions. It's the same with everyday life - I refuse to go about my days paranoid that I'm going to be kidnapped/raped/hit by a car/etc. The risks will always be there, but we have to go on living.

shellyrm said...

Great topic. Things to think about...as I am sure we runners often do. I agree that in every choice there are risks. I just choose to be as aware and prepared as possible and live my life doing the things I know add to my life.

Viper said...

One advantage we do have is our endurance when it comes to running away from danger. Good post. Cheers!

Running Jen said...

Good points! I have trouble running outside in the mornings while it's still dark. I used to do it, was always fine, but lately, I don't know, I just feel scared. So, I wait until right before sunrise, and out I go (or, do the gym some mornings). We had a runner here in Orlando that was killed about 18 months ago, and it really bothered me, as she was running on a trail at 6pm on a summer evening, a time of day that this park should have been pretty active.

Agate Lake Girl said...

Don't forget getting attacked by vampires... and the occassional werewolf... :)

sarah said...

i don't fear assault by a human; more by an animal (stray rottweiler . . . fox . . . coyote) with no awake humans nearby to here my cries for help.

maybe this is just as unlikely? i hope so but i admit it's on my mind when i run in the dark!