Safety and Self-Defense for Runners


On Monday night, Run Wild Missoula and the Runner’s Edge hosted a “Safety and Self-Defense for Runners” seminar.

Thinking about what you would do if you were attacked while running does not mean you’re paranoid, it means you’re prepared, according to Detective Jamie Merifield.

Merifield and Sergeant Jim Klawitter from the Missoula Police Department presented to a group of over 50 runners of all ages and genders at The Loft in downtown Missoula. The event was free and open to the public.

The officers reiterated that we a lucky to live in a safe community, but there a few things we can do to prevent unforeseen events and accidents.

A self-defense demonstration during Run Wild Missoula's runners safety class.

  1. Carry your cell phone. If something happens to you and you have cell phone service, it’s the easiest way to call for help. If it’s an emergency situation, call 9-1-1. If you can only give them one piece of information, give them your location.
  2. Before you leave for a run, tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
  3. If you must listen to music, listen at a low volume and use ear buds that will allow you to hear cars, conversations, or footsteps in addition to your music.
  4. Do you carry a water bottle while you run? Use it as a weapon if needed. Throw it at your attacker or squirt water at your attacker. Anything you can do to surprise the offender will give you time to get away.
  5. Carry a whistle in case of an emergency or sing loudly while running if you want to draw attention to yourself. This will scare away animals or a potential offender as it makes you seem confident.
  6. Run with others or your pets. Run Wild Missoula offers group runs and training classes, so there’s always someone to run with (although we don’t allow pets).
  7. Consider carrying pepper spray. If you do, make sure it’s easily accessible and that you’ve taken the safety cap off. Pepper spray will deter animals or offenders but won’t cause permanent damage. Using pepper spray is legally the same as pushing or hitting someone in self-defense, and self-defense laws in Montana will cover the use of pepper spray.
  8. If you are attacked, use your knees and legs as force and try to get away. Aim for sensitive areas such as the face, neck, and groin and let your adrenaline kick in. When you get away, find people immediately and call 9-1-1.
  9. Avoid running alone at night or in places where there are few people.
  10. Look confident while you run. Look up, hold your shoulders high, and make eye contact with people as you pass them so they know you’ve seen them and can describe them. Most of all, trust your instincts. If you see someone who seems creepy cross the street or make efforts to get away from him or her.

The chances of an incident occurring are slim, but it’s important to keep talking about how runners can stay safe. The Runner’s Edge sells products such as reflective gear, lights, and pepper spray. Run Wild Missoula also offers free identification tags to any member who wants one.

Do you have ideas on how Run Wild Missoula can keep our running community safe? Contact


Planning to run the 2012 Missoula Marathon? Check out Eva’s post about the marathon training program.

Stay in the loop with Missoula’s running community! Check out the Run/Walk It archives for more posts from Eva and other Missoula runners and walkers.


Eva Dunn-Froebig is the executive director of Run Wild Missoula and has been running since the seventh grade. She moved to Missoula 12 years ago from upstate New York to attend the University of Montana’s Journalism School graduate program. Eva never dreamed that she would have a running-related job and feels lucky to be a participant in Missoula’s vibrant running community.