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.