The tragic story of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts being killed while out for a run resonates with many people in central New Yok, where we have a large running community.
We spoke with some local runners on Thursday about whether or not they feel safe when they’re running, and we spoke with law enforcement about how runners can decrease their chances of becoming a victim to such a crime while out on the trails.
A lot of the safety tips may be common sense, such as running with a partner and running without headphones, but you can’t always find a partner and some runners can't run without music.
Jessica Covey, one of the 2018 Go The Distance runners and now a member of the Mohawk Valley Hill Striders running club, had a frightening “that could have been me” moment while going to school in Buffalo.
"I used to go running and walking by myself at a hiking trail near my apartment," Covey said. "Then we heard on the news that a lady was running and got murdered from somebody that attacked her while she was alone on the trail, and I never went back there by myself again."
Covey still runs, but she now runs with the Mohawk Valley Hill Striders and rarely runs alone.
But when she does run alone, "I stay on one busy road and I stay that one route on a main road where there are always people driving by and other people running or on their bikes. You feel a little bit safer,” Covey said.
We met with Joe Wilczynski, longtime runner and president of the Mohawk Valley Hill Striders, at the top of Valley View Golf Course on Thursday.
“It just scared me when I came up here and I saw a lady running alone,” Wilczynski said.
The Hill Striders run together three times per week, and three times per week they hear their coach’s safety admonitions.
"I emphasize runner safety constantly at every beginning of our runs, especially to our women and our kids,” Wilczynski said. “We have to be conscientious. It's a different world today. So we have to be conscientious. Run in pairs, don't have the ladies run alone.”
Law enforcement says there’s research that backs up that last directive.
“Well, obviously, I mean, statistics do show that females are more susceptible to violent crime,” said Oneida County Sheriff’s Deputy Lauren Marleau.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
“Never go alone,” Marleau said. "Family pet, even. Others include having a plan, knowing your route. You never want to be able … you never want to get lost."
Wilczynski and Marleau are also in agreement on another safety tip.
“Personally, I would take one earbud out,” Wilczynski said. “Music is all right, but two ear buds and you can't hear anyone around you, you can't hear the intersections even on a private setting. You can't hear somebody coming up behind you.”
“I highly discourage wearing earphones,” Marleau said. “Everyone loves listening to music while they're running, but when you're not fully aware of your surroundings, that increases your chances of having that violence against you.”
“If you can't hear or see what's going on around you, it really does hinder the chances of you being able to create time and distance from somebody or calling 911.”