ASK THE GOAT: Self defense

Jan. 09, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

The year is young, but already there has been a rash of muggings, assaults and murders within the nation’s running community. Whether we live in “safe towns” or run through urban sprawl known for higher crime rates, we all, as runners, need to be aware there is a potential threat. I hate that I even have to address this issue, but it is becoming a clear and present danger. Here are some ways to counter personal confrontations when alone.

Carry some form of protection. Many runners use pepper spray, bear spray or mace. In most cases, the sight of that familiar tube being raised in their direction will deter further action, but even if you have to discharge the contents, the attack will most likely cease. The downside of sprays is that panic can lead to poor aim, spraying into the wind or otherwise coating both you and the perpetrator. At that point, the situation has gone from bad to worse.

Most states do not allow the carrying of weapons. There are various regulations governing knives, firearms and bludgeoning implements. In N.C., I often ran with an aluminum baseball bat sheathed in my hydration pack. In Texas, however, laws make it easier for one to carry a handgun than a stout stick. Know the laws of your area before deciding on a defensive method.

In addition, never carry something you do not know how to use. If you pull out a pair of nunchucks to deter an attack – know how to wield them. Otherwise, you’ve done your attacker’s job by knocking yourself out in a fit of wild swings and panic. In most cases, I would argue for a self-defense spray as a runner’s “heaviest weaponry.”

Most areas have self-defense classes, martial arts studios or instruction on fighting. I recommend everyone go through at least one defense orientation. Knowing how to fight is as much a deterrent as actually “opening that can of whoop.” Any seasoned brawler (and I think we can all agree that the bulk of attackers are at least somewhat “seasoned” in violent activities) can tell a victim’s skill level. Eyes show all. If you can take care of yourself; if you can face an opponent with resolve, you have a much better chance of not having to. Panic is an invitation to attack. Panic prevents logic, strategy and adequate defense from occurring.

If, at that first moment of danger, you can compose and fall into a defensive posture –whether it be a low fighting stance or simply pull out your mace and aim, your attacker knows this is a “hard-won fight.” He or she might still pursue, but it will be with a seed of doubt. Give the perpetrator every excuse to abandon this target. Make them reassess their role and wonder about the potential problems of continuing. Make them stop before it starts. Confidence deters. Panic invites. By knowing how to defend, you have the power to thwart most issues.

I hope none of you ever has to use force. I wish there wasn’t a reason to need defense. But the harsh reality is you can only avoid danger by training adequately for it. Find a class. Decide on a protection method. Train hard. Run safely.