Protect Yourself

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to finally take a self defense class. There was a fundraiser for an event that Rich’s tri-team was doing and it seemed like a great opportunity. It was a long time coming. I wanted to take one after the assault but I knew I wasn’t emotionally ready. Then, I had hip surgery and those types of kickboxing/fighting moves weren’t really an option. As life moved on, the assault case was closed and I was back to running “normally” I put the self defense class off. Out of sight, out of mind? I’m not really sure what it was, but I just didn’t take the time to do it.

I’ve openly admitted to yall that I still run and live with fear. I still run looking over my shoulder, I carry a taser in my car and I trust no one. I am very public about what happened to me and about runners safety and to be quite honest, I thought I was over what had happened to me and had moved on.

This self defense class was eye opening and rocked me to my core. The class was only two hours and was full of very valuable information. The first part was a lecture, the second part was hands on. I want to share what I learned with you from the lecture, first. I did my best to capture everything Nathan (instructor) went over and I hope it makes sense.IMG_8912The first thing you need to know is that self defense is not a “nice to know” it’s a NEED to know. It’s your responsibility to stay safe and the polices’ job to react. If you are a female, you need to take a female self defense class. We are built differently and need to know how to fight back.

1. Eye Contact: When out a run, walk, bike, etc. MAKE EYE CONTACT AND HOLD IT. Don’t glance up and look down. An attacker will look at you like you are insecure. You have to let them know that you are there and that you see them, so hold eye contact. Make note of the persons features and outfit as you pass them. (I had no idea I did this until I tried it after my run. I DEFINITELY look down. Now, I make sure to hold my head high and proud and notice the small details of the person I am passing).

2. Headphones: If you’re gonna use them, make sure it’s one earbud in and one out. Make sure that the one that is on your “outside” is open. An example, if on a running path and staying to the right, your left bud should be out to hear what’s coming up behind you. Also, make sure that your music is down low enough so that you can actually hear what’s around you, too. (I felt good about this one).

3. Pay attention to what’s ahead of you and what’s around you. Have situational awareness. Take notice of the things around you. If there is a biker stopped ahead, someone on a park bench, etc. Just like driving, sight ahead and see what’s coming up. (I felt good about this one).

4. Don’t go too far without support. Have communication on where you are and what your route will be. I know some people hate running with a phone, but look at it as a safety precaution. I ALWAYS run with mine and always let someone know what my route is going to be. I’ve mentioned it before, but the RoadID app is great for tracking where you are going and letting loved ones know (I use this when I’m out of town for work). Some of my friends think I’m crazy for running loops near my house, but I do it for a reason. I don’t want to be too far without support and that way my loved ones know where I am. (I felt good about this one).

5. Put a barrier between you and the attacker. This one was key for cyclist. If someone was to attack you, use your bike as a block/weapon. It can be replaced, you can’t be.

6. Use your tools (on your attacker). This is two part. Make sure you use your reflective gear and if you are a cyclist, a light. You want to be seen. If you are attacked…for a cyclist, use your bike tools as a weapon. If you are a runner, you can use your water bottle to try and spray them in the face and distract them to get away.

7. Always carry identification. Wear it on your body, not your shoe. A lot of people (myself included) will use RoadID shoe tags, but if something were to happen to you and you were to lose that shoe, no one would know who you are. Wearing a bracelet style ID is best. (Need to pull mine back out).

8. Know how to use the weapons you choose. This is one is tricky. After my assault, family members gave me a taser and pepper spray. In reality, these weapons can be used ON you. The spray may end up back in your own eyes and the same goes for the taser, especially when caught off guard. If you are going to carry either of these, practice using them and KNOW how to use them properly. They were actually more discouraged in the class than suggested for using during workouts. (somewhat guilty of this, I wear/carry them to appease my loved ones, but don’t think there is enough time to react to get it out and use it based on what happened to me).

9. Be careful what you post. Don’t share your routes, where you run, etc. on social media. If someone is stalking you, it is very easy to learn your habits. As a blogger, I am guilty of this. I often share where I do my runs, but you won’t know what time, the route, etc. I am good about changing up my routes every day but I need to double check my privacy settings from my watch data (guilty and need to change).

10. If someone takes you down, stay on your feet. If someone is trying to take you to a car, get on the ground and make them drag you. This is all about using your body as your defense. It will be much harder if you are on the ground to drag you than to pick you up and carry you. (interesting and I had not thought of this).

If you are attacked, you can fight back:

  • Ears- you can pull them off (literally) or if arms are free, hit them and bust the ear drum
  • Eyes- thumbs in and pull out
  • Nose- Use your palm, not a fist to bust their nose
  • Forehead- if they are hitting you, duck your head, your forehead will break their hand
  • Bite them (if attacked from front)
  • Turn their joins in the opposite direction to try and break them
  • Attack the knees or at the top of the feet
  • Use your elbows and the force of your other hand
  • Neck- go for the esophagus
  • Keep your attack low!

As the class went on, my emotions got to me. I tried to fight the tears back, but I couldn’t. I kept replaying my assault over and over in my head and wondering what I could’ve done differently. I was so thankful that Nathan is a friend of Rich’s and he knew my story. He was able to console me and calm me down. He reminded me that the likelihood of this every happening to me again was slim and that it wasn’t my fault. He also said he knew the day he saw my interview that I wasn’t over the assault. I didn’t have an answer of fight back, instead, I had a “there is nothing you can really do attitude.”

I KNOW deep down, it wasn’t my fault, but when you are sitting in a class for an hour listening to assault-type things,  how to fight back or avoid the situation, you can’t help but get upset. I think it was more upsetting that on that day, I didn’t know how to react. And I think, really, it was more a question of HOW do you fight back so quickly against someone so BIG (these are things I will continue to learn and work on).

Luckily, the hands on was next. I was scared at first. Intimidated. I didn’t want to look stupid in front of a room full of strangers (I’m sure they all thought I was crazy already with my sobbing). But, Nathan was very good at teaching each woman what to do.  Again, all the emotions. It felt good to get the tears out. I fought back so hard that my arms were bruised.selfdefense

I don’t really have a way to teach you what I learned here, but I can only STRONGLY encourage and ASK you to take several hours out of a week, month, etc. and take a class. A GOOD one. LEARN how to protect yourself, on a run or not.

I still have so much to learn and Nathan has offered to teach me the in depth class he normally offers. It will be worth every penny to know how to truly protect myself.  As far as my emotional state goes, the few days after the class were tough. I’m guessing I need to see my therapist again and really learn how to push past it (even though I thought I had). I’m also hoping that once I graduate from Nathan’s class, I will be able to really move forward and feel safe, too.

Are you guilty of any of the above? Did you learn something new?  Have you taken a self defense class? 

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  • Hey Elizabeth,

    This is Angela from Team Endured who sponsored this event (me being kicked by Nathan 🙂 above). Can I repost this article and link to your blog on the website under articles? You can check there for other articles and blogs that we have reposted. Thanks! Angela

  • Hi, thanks for sharing! I am new to Atlanta and found your blog while searching for running blogs in Atlanta. It’s been a concern for me running outside in a new area where I don’t really know anybody here. I’ve changed around my schedule because I usually run in the mornings and haven’t really felt comfortable running in the dark a lot. Was wondering if you could share the course you took for the locals? I’d love to look into it.


  • This is SUCH useful information. I think reviewing and practicing and repeating is the best thing you can do to at least TRY to be ready in case of an attack! I know it would be so incredibly traumatizing and shocking that I would only react on instinct, so having lesson, practice, and drills would be key. As a solo runner, I need to take a class for sure. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Thanks for sharing, a few things I am guilty of as well (need to do more eye contact). Also very helpful to know how to fight back. For a while I say I want to do a self defense class, but you know how it is, other things take over and this class keeps being pushed. I should make the effort.

  • I just did a binge-read of your whole history with the attack, and I can’t say thank you enough for sharing what had to be a horrible experience. Reading your story helped me realize that I should take safety WAY more seriously. Like, sign up for a self-defense class THIS WEEK before I lose the sense of urgency.

    Do you mind sharing where you took the class?

  • Just yesterday while running on a trail I use practically every day a guy on a bike came up from behind me, groped my butt and sped off. I was absolutely stunned… it was in daylight with people around too! It just goes to show you that you must be aware of your surroundings at all times, no matter how safe you think you are. Thanks for sharing these great tips… i’m definitely going to implement them going forward and will not let that coward deter me from doing something I love.

  • I love all these tips. As I was reading I kept thinking “oh, I do that, or I need to change that, etc” I will definitely be more aware from now on. I hate what you went through, but I love how you have come back from it and it has made you stronger. You are such an inspiration!

  • Like Sarah, I just read your story of the attack (just found your blog), and I remember hearing about that on the news! I’m also an Elizabeth from Mobile, and I live in atlanta now (well, for the next two weeks), and I just want to thank you for being so candid. These tips are incredibly useful, and I hope that they help bring you peace of mind.

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