To Carry or Not to Carry? Our Most Frequently Asked Question

by Julie Morrill

Following the news of the tragic death of Molly Tibbetts, women inundated running sites with questions about safety while running. In many cases, women asked, “what should I carry with me to be safe on my run?” I’ll address the issue of carrying weapons and alarms on a run in a moment, but the best approach is a mindset of safety. What does that mean? See our previous post about the 5 tips for safety.

Now, about weapons. I get this question in every one of my self-defense workshops. Here is how I respond.

Weapons are great, useful tools in a security emergency. They can indeed enhance your ability to defend yourself provided two things.

1. Are you trained and proficient in using the weapon you are carrying?

Pepper spray is effective but not if it’s tucked in your fanny pack or pocket. Also, have you tested it? What is the range of the spray? Do you know what it feels like if the wind causes spray to get in your eyes? Can you keep fighting or running if you have pepper spray in your eyes? If you carry a knife, can you get it out quickly? Do you know how to use it to defend yourself?

2. Are you willing and ready to maim or kill an attacker with your weapon?

Pepper spray is only likely to temporarily blind someone. The stakes aren’t as high as carrying a knife or gun, which can be more lethal. You must be psychologically prepared for the fact that you might have to seriously injure or kill someone to keep yourself safe.

When I’m running in areas of the world where rape and assaults against women are high risk, I carry a knife. It is in my hand all the time. I am trained in how to incapacitate someone with it – cutting critical tendons and ligaments to prevent them from running or striking. I have also prepared myself to severely injure or kill my attacker if I have to for preservation of my own life or the lives of loved ones.

What are your options if you aren’t able to carry or train in the using a weapon? I coach my students to think about how they can use everyday objects as improvised weapons. What do you carry with you regularly that you could use? Keys? A solid cell phone? A heavy water bottle? Again, these tools need be readily accessible, and you have to be committed to injure or kill your attacker in order to preserve your own life.

What about other types of safety devices like whistles or audible alarms? These can be useful tools to startle your attacker and draw attention to the situation from potential bystanders. However, are you carrying the tool so that it is available and ready? Also, an alarm might help if there are other people around to hear it, but we are so inundated with noise in modern society that it could just as easily be ignored. An alarm alone is not a safety plan.

The bottom line is this: just carrying something won’t make you safe. A safety mindset and basic training in self-defense is more likely to help you.