Thousands of people are out on the roads daily training for cycle races or marathons. And many of them are women. Most people work to earn their living, so most of this training happens either early in the morning or in the early evening. Being out on the road in South Africa, is, at the best of times, risky.
Somehow, many people feel they are invincible while training. Possibly, because they are moving fast – even faster when on a bicycle – but the truth is that all people out there training are extremely vulnerable to attacks for a number of reasons.
The dangers of training alone
They are often alone, it could be quite dark, and they sometimes run or cycle in isolated areas. Women running or cycling are by no means exempt from attacks by rapists or muggers. It is very easy to trip a runner or to put a spoke in the wheel of a bicycle. If you have just run 10km, you are also unlikely to outrun someone who hasn't.
These attackers often seem to come out of the blue. The situation is very different to that of the attacker who tries to win your confidence or get you to drop your guard in some way by talking to you. While these attacks could be random, chances are that if you train in the same place at the same time every day, you have been watched and that the attack could be carefully planned. The objectives of the attacker could be rape, mugging, stealing your car or house keys, or even murder.
"Obviously getting away should be your main objective, but if you are attacked, fight back, as nine out of every ten rapists are not expecting resistance", says Sanette Smit, self-defence expert and author of The South African Woman’s Guide to Self-Defence.
"Four out of every five rapists attack a victim's throat. Do anything you can to escape as it is better to get hurt during an escape than a rape."
10 ways to train safely
- Train with someone else – preferably more than one person.
- Vary your route and your training time every day.
- Run with you keys nestled between your fingers – in an attack situation they will function like a knuckleduster (go for your attacker's most vulnerable parts – eyes, throat, face, groin).
- Wear reflective clothing or light clothing so that you are visible to motorists.
- Carry pepper spray or one of the many anti-mugging devices on the market. Make sure you know how it works and don’t be scared to use it.
- Do a course in basic self-defence.
- Carry a whistle around your neck so that you can raise the alarm in a crisis.
- Train with a dog – a large one, if you can.
- Tell someone exactly which route you will be following and when you can be expected to return.
- Be on the alert for strangers in the area – if you think you are being followed, run to the nearest place where there are people – a house, a petrol station or even just a busy road.
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