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Kristen Tries: RunSafer

On Tuesday, my favorite local running shop, Fit Right Northwest, posted an event on their Facebook page: RunSafer, a one-hour seminar on self defense. It didn’t say it was for women, but these things always are. No one flashes a male jogger, it seems. I had no plans for Wednesday night, when the program would be at the university in my neighborhood, but I was still on the fence. Then I succumbed to the siren song that has brought many runners to an event: FREE T-SHIRT!

The seminars are taught by former distance running Olympian Todd Williams, who now teaches Brazilian jiu jitsu. I’ve got five years of aikido under my belt and a 50-pound dingo at my side every time I run alone, but it never hurts to have a few new moves in the arsenal.

And I definitely did get that. I’ve never practiced (in slow motion for safety) boxing someone’s ears or kneeing them in the groin, or getting my feet into someone’s hip creases to push them away from me if we’re on the ground and he’s trying to choke me out. That was all new, and very helpful. A couple of the moves were old hat for me, like turning my wrist to break someone’s grasp on it, but that’s only because of aikido. It seemed to be a hit with the other women in class, and it is surprisingly effective.

That's me in the blue hoodie. My partner is getting away and breaking my grip.

That’s me in the blue hoodie. My partner is getting away and breaking my grip while instructor Todd  Williams checks our style.

To be honest, I found the session a little heavy on scare tactics and mansplaining. I mean, did we need a montage of news reports from across the country on female runners being attacked or abducted? Was there anyone in the room unaware of that problem? I’d venture it was why we all bothered to show up at all, so a clip show of scary reenactments from TV news wasn’t necessary. And when Todd went beyond the basic techniques to show off his Brazilian jiu jitso moves, it seemed like a waste of our precious one hour of instruction. We’re not going to whip out an arm bar on the fly.

But having a name — any name — in mind to yell when you’re attacked is a great idea. The attacker has no idea if Doug is nearby or not, and he might not stick around to find out. And the practice we got with the most effective, easy-to-remember techniques was helpful. The fact that the seminar is only an hour long was a big plus; it’s easy enough to stop in after work and learn a few new safety techniques without having to change your clothes (I was wearing tights and a hoodie anyway that day) or spend an entire day  in a high school gym.

So yes, I recommend attending a RunSafer seminar if it swings through your town and it’s convenient. But steel yourself for some “I don’t want you to feel vulnerable, but you are terribly vulnerable” vibes. Then take your dog and go run your irritation out — and feel a bit safer when you do.


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