Trail Sisters Half Marathon & 10k

September 14th • Buena Vista, CO

ASK TS: Awareness and Safety

Ask the Trail Sisters Panel of Experts is made up of inspirational and knowledgeable women who share a love for trail running, hiking, and the outdoors. These women volunteer their time and expertise to help others enjoy a better experience on the trails.

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How do you conquer any fears of running or hiking alone?  Are there precautions you take?

I can’t recommend a satellite tracker enough. I use my Garmin InReach Mini all the time. Knowing that I can communicate from anywhere and that my route is being tracked (make sure to send the tracker link to a friend/partner!) helps me feel much more confident about running in more remote areas alone. I think some of the newest fancy running watches have a tracking and buddy-alert system integrated now but I haven’t tried it myself yet. Do you have a dog or a friend/neighbor’s dog you could borrow for a run? I have always loved the company of running with a dog especially when I’m alone because it helps me feel more confident.

Starting a run alone in the dark is always a bit unsettling for me. I remind myself that I am likely safer on the trails than I am in the city, as other humans are the real predator. Maintaining situational awareness is paramount for both my safety and still feeling an element of control (even when I can’t see much), so I never run with headphones in the dark and stick to trails/routes I know well, when possible. I actually welcome the little bit of fear for the extra shot of adrenaline it provides when running in the wee hours of the morning or dark of night, as well as the reminder to stay alert.

Before I go on a run/hike I always make sure to tell someone where I am going and let them know the estimated time of when I will be back. This allows me to feel more confident when alone on the trails. I always research the trails beforehand and have a screenshot of the map in case there is no service. While on the trails I’m always checking on my surroundings, I have a plan in case there is an emergency, and remind myself that I am strong.

I actually advise a certain amount of ‘healthy fear’ or caution when hiking or running alone because it can help keep you safe and aware of potential consequences on trails. An important way to put fear in check is to educate yourself: learn to read the trail maps and carry one with you; learn about the wildlife that live in the area and what to do should you encounter them; let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back; pack more water and snacks than you think you need; take an extra jacket and a small first aid kit; plan your route ahead of time, and share it. Start out by going to places that you know and expand as you feel comfortable. And as always, trust your gut.

Because of when I run and where I live, I am often alone.  I made peace with this a long time ago, because I actually love that solo time, and my experiences have shown me that I can handle my fears well enough.  My mindset is strong, but not stupid. It takes time to realistically assess your risk when running in a new place.  When I feel scared, I make sure all my senses are unobstructed.  I have even stopped at times during a race to get my bearings. I remind myself why I’m out there, and then with increased awareness of my surroundings, move forward focusing on what is true, positive, and beautiful about what I am doing.  It’s not a time to zone out or daydream for me, it’s a time of more intense focus on my environment until I feel calm again.

The more I hike and run with friends, and get to know a route, wildlife, usual people I see, markings, etc., the more comfortable I feel in doing it solo. My biggest precaution when doing anything solo is letting my partner know my route, my start time, my ETA (finish), if I think I’ll have cell service, and leaving a note on my dashboard of my name, DOB and ETA. But also know there’s nothing wrong with also always hiking and running with someone, if that’s your preference, too! If scheduling/plans don’t allow, then stick to areas you are familiar with and let someone know.

So. Many. Precautions.  When I’m by myself I tend to stick to trails that I’m well acquainted with.  For my first outings, I tended to make them shorter so I can get more comfortable being solo.  I always call or text my “person” for that day where I am, how long I expect to be, what trails I’m taking, and I send them a map.  This allows me to feel confident that if anything happens I know I have someone expecting to hear from me by a certain time.  I also do not wear headphones or anything in my ears at all when I’m by myself. I want to stay aware of all my surroundings.  I carry a water filter, space blanket, emergency kit, a hard copy of the map, my cell with a full charge, pepper spray and my typical snacks for an outing.

I do many solo trail running or hiking, and I am NOT good at the directions.  If I go to the trail or mountain I am not familiar with, I study the trail descriptions and download the trail maps and set up GPS on my phone and keep tracking where I am.  This saved me a couple of times when I got off from the trail, I was able to track back on where I came from.  I will have extra clothes, foods, water, and survival essentials( my pack will be little bit heavy but it is for security for me). I try to find some other runners or hikers in my sight in the area if possible, for just comfortability (-:   To know what to do when you come across the wild animals can be helpful.

If I have to go on my own, I always make sure that my phone is fully charged.  I don’t wear headphones and ever so often check my surroundings.  My family knows where I’m going and about when to expect my return.  The first time I ever hiked alone, I was in college, and I absolutely loved the peace that came from so much solitude in the desert.  The first time I ever ran trails alone, I was a little nervous!  Over a period of a few weeks, I ventured farther and farther, and felt an incredible sense of accomplishment, not so much for running the trail, but because I overcame my initial fear!  I encourage you to have a spirit of adventure, as there are days when friends are not available to join you, and it’s great to have that confidence and experience to go out on your own, rather than have to miss out.

I would start with a group first, go for short runs or hike by yourself and increase from there. Always tell a friend where you are going and how long you expect to be gone for safety reasons.

Initially, when exploring new areas I try to find someone to go with me so we can get to know it together. But if that is not an option I try to know as much as I can about the area before I go and definitely let someone know where I’m going and my intended route. There is peace of mind knowing that someone else is aware of where you are and when you expect to be back. Have exactly what you need with you: clothing for weather changes, extra calories battery back up just in case it takes longer, and even a few items you hope not to need like a space blanket, headlamp or satellite phone (for backcountry). Being prepared and trusting yourself that you can handle the situations that may come up will also up your confidence.

To be honest, I find it disheartening & exhausting that women especially have to worry about safety (from human predators) out on the trails.  With that said, I do make sure that I’m as safe as possible.  Get on the trails with confidence; you belong in that space.  A few precautions I take:

  1. Make sure someone knows what your itinerary and planned routes are. 
  2. Avoid headphones so you can be aware of  your surroundings. 
  3. Greet people you see along the way. 
  4. Keep a fully charged phone on you & take note of where you have reception.
  5. Know your route & be realistic with how long it’ll take.
  6. Have the essentials on you in case you get injured or lost…food, water, first-aid, warmth.

About the Author

Ask the Trail Sisters Panel of Experts is made up of inspirational and knowledgeable women who share a love for trail running, hiking, and the outdoors. These women volunteer their time and expertise to help others enjoy a better experience on the trails.

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One Response

  1. Thank you for these suggestions/reminders. I run on trails frequently used by UTV and dirt bikes ( mostly riding in groups made up of mostly men) and that seems to bring me the most anxiety. I wish there was more out there to educate the men on what is appropriate when encountering a female runner to make them feel safer. Unfortunately we have much different anxieties than a lone male runner encountering these same groups. My husband understands but it took some time to even educate him. Thank you trail sisters

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Sept. 14th 2024

Buena Vista, Colorado

Half-Marathon & 10k

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