For Your Safety: Can You Whistle and Run?

While researching a future blog topic that MommaFargo has graciously agreed to participate through a guest post, I read the following article on the sad and recent murder case of Chelsea King in San Diego:

The sound came from the bushes.



The small group of female cross-country runners at Trabuco Hills High School was training last summer on a dirt path in Mission Viejo when a man appeared and exposed himself, and then started chasing them...

He never stood a chance against the speedy teens.

But for girls' cross-country head coach Dennis Kelly, the episode was another reminder that danger, even during a supervised group run in broad daylight, can be just around the next switchback.

The killing of 17-year-old Chelsea King, which police believe was at the hands of a sex offender while she was running alone near Lake Hodges in San Diego County, has generated deep alarm and concern among Orange County runners, whose passion often takes them to remote areas.

"You can't constantly keep your eyes on everybody – it's impossible,"' Kelly said of training nearly 100 cross-country runners. He also is head coach of the girls' track and field team. "This news is pretty much the worst nightmare of any running coach."

"You can never assume that 'nothing will happen,' '' said Michelle Barton, an elite trail runner who coached the girls cross country team at Laguna Beach High School for three years...

Runners and cross-country coaches all agree on the cardinal rule of their sport:

Never train alone...

Of course, adult runners also are vulnerable to being attacked...

(Emphasis Added)...Another local runner, Michael Muenzer, 50, who participated in the search for Chelsea King's body, suggested that runners wear a safety whistle.

Barton, 39, of Laguna Niguel, urges runners – especially females – to always carry pepper spray and a cell phone.
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The guy in the story recommends a whistle for a trail runner?

Really?

The article discusses how these athletes would likely be in remote locations--and I am supposed to believe that a loud whistle is going to help fend off danger?

I was trying to envision someone running as fast as possible to avoid an attacker, while also coordinating their breathing to blow as loudly as possible into a whistle--it doesn't seem reasonable.

Further, if bystanders hear loud whistles in the woods, will they even be concerned?

Or, would they respond to the whistling with curiosity--like: "I wonder what that noise is?"

I would rather equip my daughter with a personal handheld alarm that she can activate while running and screaming as opposed to a "loud whistle."

Screams for "help" accompanied by loud noises are less likely to be confused when heard by someone passing by.

Obviously, underage students are restricted in what they are permitted to carry, but for adults, I'd suggest the alarm, mace, an edged weapon (even a pen), a cell phone, or, for those who feel comfortable, a firearm--as any of those would be much better tools for runners who experience an attacker in the woods as compared to a souped-up version of something used to referee sporting events.
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The photo was used from here.

41 comments:

kathryn said...

My God...this is so sad...and so scary. To think that doing something you love that should better your health can also lead to your death...

Jayne said...

It really bothers me that being anywhere alone runs the risk of the crazies out there. We're told that we just *hear* about these things more now but even in our 'safe' and sleepy little island a woman has been attacked on a popular cliff path near my home. Basically I think it unwise to walk or jog alone anywhere isolated nowadays. So sad.

I agree with you - definitely at the very least carry a screech alarm ... and maybe jog or walk with a very large dog.

Audrey Allure said...

I agree, I don't think a whistle would be a good idea. Might as well just scream while running. Pepper spray might help fend off the attacker though.

Thank you for your sweet comment. I really appreciate it. <3

Matthew Rush said...

I have to agree with Slam that a whistle seems a little ... ineffective. The idea I think is to be more prepared than having nothing, but a personal alarm or even pepper spray would probably be better than a whistle.

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

Very good point about the breathing and whistling...I can barely breath period when I run. I only run at the gym or from my house to City Hall through their park during heavily populated times so there are lots of people all around. I know I say this a lot but it is so scary to see what the world has become today.

Tamika: said...

This is horrible. It's important to remember to never train alone. Broad daylight use to be a determent, but not for today's criminal.

Herding Cats said...

We had whistles in college that attached to our keys. We called them "rape whistles" (mature right?). The only way these really worked is that the whole campus had been trained that if they heard the whistle, they needed to call 911. I can't imagine hearing a random whistle in the woods would help though...

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm a runner. My first instinct would be to run not blow a whistle. And if I heard a whistle I wouldn't respond, unless there was reason for me to think someone was in danger.

Maybe the danger thing is part of the reason I don't run while listening to music. But then again, I'm usually so lost in my thoughts about my writing (I get some of my ideas while running) that I wouldn't even notice someone approach. Sad but true.

Luisa Doraz said...

When my son was in cross country, he got lost once on a trail. I was sooo mad! Luckily, he found his way. I have always told my kids to run in a group and never alone. Always have ID on you and a phone. What a story! :)

 ALH said...

I can definitely relate to this post. Even running around campus on our "safe" trail I feel unsafe running alone in the city. It's often difficult to coordinate a running partner when the mood strikes to go for a long run in the middle of the day. What a sad loss to hear about. Thanks for the reminder about how dangerous running alone can be.

Bob G. said...

Slamdunk:
I am really amazed at how such an innocuious thing as biking or hiking can suddenly be turned into a crime scene.

We've all but allowed the inmates to "run the asylum", by the looks of things.
First, it was kids having kids, then drugs, then it all went real south...real fast.
I also like the OC spray.
A handful of cayenne powder in the face (old ninja tactic) can be even cheaper and be just as confusing to a perp when second count in evasion of an attack.

Stun guns are less expensive, too.

As to the whistling thing...there are sevral "ways" of whistling, and ONE method CAN be done when breathing heavily...I've done it. It's not the typical "outward blow", but involves the lower lip, bottom teeth and tongue.
Takes practice, but it IS the loudest of the several ways.

Carrying a whistle might be used as a LURE to get peoople to come (and become a potential victim)...
The perps aren't THAT dumb these days, sadly.

Good post and comments.

Stay safe out there, Ladies (and gents)!

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

Nice. I run all the time and this is one of my fears. My hubs? Says I'll be fine, but this PROVES me right. Yes to weapons, yes to pepper spray.

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, chilling story. I'm with you though. If I heard a whistle, I wouldn't think, "Someone's being attacked!!" But maybe any kind of sound would be enough to make the attacker stop. I don't know.

Nikole Hahn said...

Whistle and run? Definitley a firearm. If they see it, they run in the opposite direction.

A Doc 2 Be said...

I recently moved to a new home (or rather, a very old home in a new city). The home is small but perfect for my life right now.

As the movers were unpacking my furniture, the internet installer made sure to warn me:

"There's a level 3 around here. Best you be seen with those large dogs of yours."

It was the first time I was afraid of living in the city. Where I came from there were no level 3 offenders (yes, money buys many things including the ability to keep level 3's out of the area).

So, I am now seen often with my great danes. Two of them. 350# of dog, teeth, and paws.

This story is so sad. What has happened to society.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
Alone is the big one and so is habit. If you run the same way every day, you risk the lie-in-wait or trap too.

I think pepper spray is probably good but a crowd is better. I also think many runners don't want to carry a lot of gear, and cross-country runners don't want a lot of society. So again, another loss for the honest. They'll have to sacrifice freedom in the name of safety.

Ann T.

looking for beauty said...

Screaming help is OK, but I've heard that yelling "Fire" is much better because people don't want to get involved with personal battles, but everyone wants to see a fire!
So maybe, "Help, Fire!" might attract more attention.
I blame the television series that spell out what these guys do - kidnapping, torture, killing, etc. They give all the gory details and show how it's done - then you get copy cats.
K

Aphrodite's Mortal Friend (ME) said...

OK- I have written umpteen posts- and deleted them- about Chelsea King. I ran competitively for years- it helped me (paid for) through college and made me a "super-star" in high school- and I ran ALL THE TIME out and about just like her ... WHY THE hell ... this situation nabs me to the core ... it makes me so damn mad ... SHE SHOULD have been allowed to go for a run! (on a side note, this is one of those things that brings me back to my struggle with God and all- becuase I think Free Will sucks and it just makes me so mad!! ;-( Anyway, GREAT post!! I'm glad you wrote this- oh, but the whistle thing, nah, it just isn't practical- it isn't- I've been there ... NOTHING htat you carry with you works when you are surprised-or, when you think you are safe but your are not. That's my take ;-)

Kristen @ Motherese said...

This is a very sobering post - and a sobering set of comments. I used to be a runner and I would run alone, on the same trails, in a relatively isolated part of a city. It's sad that I have to consider myself lucky never to have been the victim of a crime. I shall definitely keep this tragic story in mind if and when I resume my running career.

Helen Ginger said...

You're so right. Women and girls need to be prepared whenever they go out alone, be it running, walking, or just going to the store. It's a scary world today.

Helen
Straight From Hel

WomanHonorThyself said...

Runner here too...nice to meet ya by the way and thanks so much for your words at WHT..please don't be a stranger eh?..:)

mappchik said...

I just don't see the whistle being a good idea. Pepper spray seems much better, or the super-bright flashlight/pepper spray combo I've seen advertised for night running.

A cell phone is enough me, since most of my running is done in my neighborhood, or one of several Starbucks-to-Starbucks loops from home, for long run days. There's an ongoing "discussion" as to whether I'll be adding a stun gun to my bag of gear or jersey on longer solo bike rides this summer. We have a beautiful bike trail just outside the city, but there's not many people after the first 10-15 miles.

Alex said...

Your post highlight the fact that this happens anywhere in the world, even in my country, Malaysia. Not only about jogging in remote places, but also going to and fro to work.

A few years back, there was a high profile case right in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, where the poor victim were on her way to work at 6 am. She boarded a bus which was empty. Along the way, the driver locked the doors, raped and murdered her right by the road shoulder of one of the city's highway!

As they say, prevention is better than cure, I think the general rule is that 'DON'T BE ALONE' If you can't find a trusted companion, AVOID DESERTED PLACES. Be with the crowd, and you'll be much more safer. And also avoid empty buses.

God bless you all.

Holly said...

I am so conscious of this...I do not run, but where I park, where I go. I check everything out...the perks and perils of being a police officers daughter. Another blogger (I read) is a relative of Chelsea's and it is just heartbreaking. I say do what you need to do to protect yourself. My Dad gave me a personal alarm of a different kind when I moved out on my own.

Lipstick said...

This is so disturbing. A whistle? Oh my goodness. If someone runs behind you, grabs you, and throws you to the ground (200 lb man vs 110 lb woman), a whistle seems to do a small bit of good. How will she have much chance to even blow the whistle?

I just can't imagine being alone like that, and even thinking that it is safe.

skicinshan said...

that is scary, I run on my treadmill because I have fears *insert paranoid face*

LisaF said...

A whistle? That's the best he could come up with for advice? I vote for mace and a self-defense class. A gun would deter would-be attackers, but probably not reasonable to have a teen run while packin'. Running with a (big, scary) dog would also be good. What dog wouldn't want to go for a run? Best to just avoid the situation and run with a buddy. Unfortunately this side of heaven, we need to take extra care. Good post to initiate some thought. Thanks for stopping by my place and leaving a nice note.

theycallmejane said...

Such a sad story. And true that even in broad daylight, with other people around - you can not fall into a false sense of security. My sister, an avid runner, was running the streets of Long Beach area one day. A car cut her off, brushing her leg and caused her to fall. From the ground she flipped the driver off. He slammed on his brakes and came after her with a gun. Luckily, she was able to run into a local store but she learned a valuable lesson.

carma said...

I agree - people might just think someone is whistling for their dog. An UZI might be a better suggestion.

I saw her parents on one of the morning shows yesterday. They have had the life knocked out of them. So sad and senseless....

beth said...

I wonder if there's an alarm app on a cell phone, or something like that to make it easier to constantly have one available? Of course, then you'd have to be able to get to the app quickly if need be...

(I like Jayne's idea--get a dog!)

Stephanie Faris said...

To be honest, even pepper spray is unlikely to work. I think runners get in a zone where they're less aware of what is going on around them...and by the time they'd realize it, it would be too late to find their pepper spray.

I don't know the answer. It sucks that people can't run without worrying about it. I used to walk at the park every day, earbuds in my ear, listening to music. I tried to go during high traffic times of day but sometimes I'd find myself on long stretches alone. Someone could have been in the bushes. The track at the Y was always safer...or a treadmill, but it's not the same as being outdoors.

tuckerfamily said...

I understand being prepared . . . but, truly, living in fear all the time . . . not going running or choosing to run indoors all the time because of the "what ifs" . . . doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Yes, run with your dog, run with a partner, run in a populated area, if you can, switch up your routes, be aware of surrounding, etc . . . but to constantly be in fear. You can be killed doing just about anything outside of residing in an indestructible bubble . . . all you can do is make the best of it and live life. I love running, I have to do it in the early morning hours, as the sun rises because I have kids I have to dedicate the rest of my day to . . . I run main roads that are lit well, with my Jack Russell (better than most big dogs :0) ) and I always have my cell phone handy, but I also enjoy great music on my ipod (hard to run without tunes) and I just trust and give the rest to God . . .

By the way, not trying to belittle the people affected by this tragic story!

Sarah said...

Ugh. I've followed this story on the news and it's so incredibly sad. Chelsea grew up a few towns over from where I currently live. I enjoy running and walking on a really nice trail near my house. I run alone, but walk with my dog. My head is always on a swivel, and I live in a nice area. I'm thankful I grew up the daughter of an overprotective paranoid Chicago cop. I NEVER wear headphones or talk on the phone when out on a run/walk. I carry a metal baton and sometimes a mace stick (illegal..shhh!). It may not stop something from happening, but it's the very best I can do. It's so important to be aware of your surroundings and protect yourself as much as possible. Call it paranoid, but I call it "safe".

T. Anne said...

I never run alone and that always cuts back my workouts. I guess I'll never know the freedom to head into the hills and go it all by my self.

BobKat said...

Well said! When I was a little kid in the 60's our biggest fear as children were the boogeyman and strange men who would pop out of the bushes and expose themselves. Neither I ever saw. And those were days when kids ran free.

In the late 1980's I was alone in a large serene park metal detecting (a hobby of mine). Few, if any other people were ever around this park, but one day a woman drove up beside me and said "thank-you"! - It turned out she was in the park walking alone and a man appeared who threatened her, by exposing himself and saying things to her. She told me when she looked over in my direction, the man did too, and he took off.

Another time while in Brighton MA, I was treasure hunting in another old park, and was surrounded by 7-8 juvenile males. It began friendly, but then they got bored because I wasn't finding any signals with my detector. They began to realize how much my metal detector was worth ~$1000 and valuables I might have on me, then they became threatening and tried grabbing at my detector. Thinking I needed to diffuse this unfortunate turn of events, I pretended to find a signal. I smiled, pulled out my 8" digger from my back pocket, which looks a lot like a huge bowie knife, though it is simply a heavy hand-held serrated shovel, heavy, but dull. "One of the group spied the "digger", and shouted, "he's got a knife", and they took off. I left with haste also.

I often was alone in isolated areas all around MA during the 80's. I was threatened more than once. I was glad to have that shovel some of the times, eventually I got a FID card and had carried mace. It raised my awareness of the dangers out there, living in the Boston area.

And how MORE people need to get out. The biggest change in our society is how we have seemed to abandoned the old places where we used to often gather and picnic... and we've become focused on group events instead, in "secure" areas.

Fact is, nothing is really "secure", and never was. But those rural roads are becoming less and less visited. Perhaps more dangerous. We do need to be vigilant and use common-sense. We can't always go with a friend.

Slams story was key that unlocked many thoughts, a very good post, thanks-you.

Candice said...

I think I'll keep to the treadmill. You're right, an alarm and screaming are the best options.

Gayle @ Mountain Mom said...

I hadn't seen these screech alarm. It is at times, a world that is not safe.

Kimi said...

Great post! I learned from a self-defense class that if you do walk/jog/run alone don't go in places that seem vulnerable or at the wee hours of the morning or evening and try not to go alone. If you are alone, carry pepper spray. For the ladies, if a guy attacks you don't be afraid to physically harm or fight him off you (if he corners you)--ever watched Ms. Congeniality? Sandra Bullock's character calls it SING. S-step on the guys foot; I-inject your arm into his stomach; N-shove your palm into his nose thereby breaking it; then kick him in his G-groin, then RUN like crazy and shout FIRE! Sounds crazy right? The point is to draw attention, to not be led away by the perpetrator to be harmed later and most importantly to stay alive. BTW, slam dunks, I will most definitely keep walking : ).

MONICA-LnP said...

I wanted to say I would probably freeze up if someone were to attack me especially if I was by myself-not even sure if I would be able to use any of the things suggested, sounds dumb but truthfully I just dont know how I would respond or protect myself-how do you even practice for something like that?

Momma Fargo said...

Your idea of an alarm is much better than a distressed person trying to remember to blow the whistle.

I'm all about pepper spray, too, in a small handheld can size.

Now...for those self defense classes. It's so much work sometimes to avoid being a victim these days. No more just enjoying a jog.

Same type of unsolved homicides happen here, too.

terri said...

I used to carry my cell phone while running but found it rather cumbersome, so I stopped. To top it off, like most runners, I often listen to my iPod while running. I take for granted that I am safe in my neighborhood. Thanks for the reminder to remain cautious.