Why I Run With Pepper Spray

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of the staggering amount of women who’ve gone for runs, but never returned home. For many us, running is a time where we can clear our minds. It’s our happy place. A place where we are at peace. Imagine going out for your run only to be terrorized mid run, and never make it home. It’s a terrifying and grave thought, but it’s now a worry that many female runners think about when they lace up their shoes and head out the door.

Today would have been Mollie Tibbets 21st birthday. I can’t translate what her life meant to her loved ones or tell her story in a way that deserves to be told, so I encourage you to check out This link. I made my decision to always run with pepper spray after hearing her story because I realized that my happy place was no longer one that was safe and sacred.

Awhile back, I was out on the town with a large group of my co-workers and friends. When running was brought up in conversation, I mentioned how I was excited to be able to get more of my runs done outside, but how that means an additional item to carry on me. Besides my insulin pump, energy gels, phone, and apartment keys, I carry pepper spray with me on outdoor runs. When I mentioned how I ran with pepper spray, one of my co-workers replied with: “Why do you run with pepper spray? You live in Fargo, North Dakota. Nothing happens here.”

But isn’t that how it always goes? It’s always a small, tight-knit community, much like Fargo, and the residents are always surprised about how this could have possibly happened in such a quiet town. It’s always someone who’s loved. Someone with a bright future ahead of them. Someone who everyone has nothing, but nice things to say about. It’s always someone just like you and me.

I know we all have the mindset that ‘it won’t happen to us,’ but what if it does? When I run, I try my best to run on busy roads and with my running buddy, but that doesn’t always happen. Often times when I get my runs in early in the morning, I’m the only one on the bike path. Sometimes it doesn’t work out for my running buddy and I to run together. Sometimes I’d rather run down by the river than down the busy street near my apartment. I never used to think much about running alone, but now it’s something I worry about it.

When terrible things like this happen, it’s never the victims fault. If I’m attacked on a run, it will never matter if I had my pepper spray on me. The ugly truth is that if someone wants to cause me harm, they will try their best to do it. They will look for a situation where I’m the most vulnerable, like when I’m running alone. There will always be awful people in this world, but I can be prepared. I can carry my pepper spray, run with one ear bud in, and do my best to be aware of my surroundings and give myself something to help me put up a fight should I come into contact with an evil person.

No matter what reason you clicked on my post, I hope you took something from it. Whether that may be the courage to be more open about running with something like pepper spray, always making a vow to run with someone, or simply just trying to be more aware of your surroundings when you run. Running is a safe and sacred place for many people, men and women alike. Let’s keep running, safely, for those who can’t anymore.

These are some* of the women who have gone for a run and never came back.

They are:

Laura Smither

Chaundra Levy

Ally Brueger

Karina Vetrano

Vanessa Marcotte 

Mollie Tibbetts

Wendy Karina Martinez

*I say some because I’m sure there are many more women out there for have not come home from their runs. If you know of someone I missed, feel free to leave their name in the comments. Their story deserves to be told as well.

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