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Top 10 Tips for Running Trails Solo and Safe

Posted by Filed Under: Running Tips, Trail Running

trail runningI was nervous when I started running trails solo. Seeing other women in greater frequencies out hitting the dirt gave me some added confidence to make the trek without a partner or group. Men and women both have safety concerns they need to be aware of, though women are more likely to be victims and should take a few extra precautions.

While this list is written with the intent of solo trail running in mind, it’s also a good list to follow if you are running with a partner or trail running group.

  1. Wear the proper shoes. Trail running shoes are a good idea since they provide more stability, traction, and often water resistance. Go get fitted for a pair at REI or another store that carries trail shoes.
  2. Bring enough water and food. It is very easy to get lost on a trail or end up out there longer than you planned. Bring more than you think you’ll need.
  3. Use the buddy system. Tell a friend where you are going and for about how long. Call them when you get back.
  4. Don’t wear headsets. This is hard for most of us, so if you must, make sure you keep the volume low so you can still hear people, animals, bikers, etc.
  5. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. You should be constantly scanning your environment to keep an eye out for predators (feline and human). Sometimes your best defense is just to be aware.
  6. Carry a cell phone. Good idea for emergencies.
  7. Carry pepper spray. Can be invaluable against human—or animal—attacks. (Note that some states have laws governing use of pepper spray.)
  8. Don’t run the same route every day. This gives a would-be attacker an added advantage—especially if you also do this at the same time every day.
  9. Consider leaving your dog at home (in mountain lion country). Running with a dog is often a mountain lion attractor and can give a false sense of security.
  10. Carry ID or Get a RoadID. In a worst case situation if you pass out or become otherwise injured and unable to talk, having proper I.D. can be extremely important.

About Jessica

Jessica lives in Orange County, CA, home to hundreds of miles of trails and 30% green space along with the Santa Ana Mountain Range. After moving to California from artic Minnesota in January of 2005, she quickly became addicted to trail running, and upon meeting Dean Karanzes at a book signing was inspired to run her first marathon, and subsequently ultra marathon. She completed here first 50K race in July of 2006 and has 50 and 100 mile aspirations. In a short amount of time, Jessica has been active in the Orange County running scene by re-igniting the Saddleback church running group, founding a trail running group, and starting in 2007 launching a series of trail races throughout the county, beginning with the Twin Peak Ultra Marathon in February. In 2002, Jessica had open-heart surgery to repair a leaky mitral valve. Aside from running, Jessica is also a published author and an independent filmmaker. She works as an Information Security Engineer and part time at the flagship Nike Women store. When not out on the trails, working, blogging, writing, making films, or promoting races, Jessica can be found relaxing with her friends at the movies, lounging by the pool, or sharing a tasty meal and a good bottle of wine.



5 Comments
  1. Mia on September 7th at 7:23 pm

    Jessica, these are all really good tips. When I’m reading them, they sound like common sense. Yet, at a glance, I can honestly say I’ve broken them all, at one time or another, on the trails near my own house. I wonder if a whistle is helpful? Like if you get lost, and can’t get cell reception? That would be easy to pack on yourself, but it’s not something I ever considered before reading this.

  2. Karen in Calgary on September 8th at 3:14 pm

    My favourite trail shoes the last couple of years have been Trail Addiction by Books. Lots of stability, and my ankles and arches don’t ache as much as with road shoes.

    Check the weather forecast. It’s hard to duck into a 7-11 to avoid a thunderstorm in the middle of trail country.

    It also doesn’t hurt to bring along a long-sleeved shirt tied round your waist and maybe even a small, folded-up garbage bag in case you get trapped out in rapidly-changing weather. I keep a small key-chain flashlight in my trail belt, as well. You never know…

    Keep a change of warm fuzzy clothes (even shoes) back at the car in cooler weather – you might not want to wait until you get home to change out of damp clothes.

  3. Jessica on September 10th at 10:32 am

    Mia & Karen – those are both great tips I’ll have to add to my list 🙂

  4. Loping LouBob » on September 10th at 3:50 pm

    […] Not what I have but what I do is my kingdom. –Thomas Carlyle  I headed out for my (ha ha) long run this morning with the intention of  going at least five miles before it got too hot out.  We were in Saskatchewan at a horse sale yesterday and didn’t get home until well after dark so there was a couple of things that I had to do before I actually ran.  I had to feed my pond fish (who have multiplied from 5 to at least 40, ever tried counting swimming fish?) and check a wound we’ve been treating on one of the horses.  When I went out to the horses I noticed that my new horse had a jaw twice the size as it should be.  It appears like he got bit by a rattlesnake, at least that’s what I hope it is (that will heal up in a few days).  I had to go back to the house to tell the Bossman, then I had to go back to get my cap, then I had to go back to get my Garmin and then I forgot to change socks and ended up running in cotton ones that I hate (maybe deep down these were all stall tactics).  The dog and I were accompanied by a couple of coyotes most of the way while we ran and shared Gummy Bears.  I was reading a to do and not to do trail running article in the C.R.N. this week and thought I could add one tip.  Don’t run and eat Gummy Bears, slow down and make sure you chew them well so you don’t choke while you’re out there alone or with a dog that’s just interested in what you cough up!    […]

  5. Abby @ Planet Mace on October 24th at 2:09 pm

    My one and only suggestion is not going alone. Even pepper spray or a dog can fail.

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