After Mollie Tibbetts’ murder, experts offer tips for staying safe while running outside

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The tragic murder of an Iowa College student provides a stark reminder that violent attacks can happen anywhere.

While all the details of what happened to Mollie Tibbets are still coming to light, there’s plenty runners and cyclists can do to limit the risk of becoming a victim.

Lisa Manthey feels there’s nothing quite like a good run.

“I love the freedom of just being able to put on my running shoes, walk out my front door and run,” said Manthey.

But working in law enforcement, she’s keenly aware of the risk running outdoors can bring.

“Be aware of who you see when you’re out, what you’re doing when you’re out, what you hear and be able to protect myself if something should happen where I’d have to get out of a bad situation,” Manthey said.

Lisa Manthey

She said it’s key to always let someone you trust know your route and how long you’ll be gone. And if you’re a regular runner, change your routes often so someone can’t take notes to know where you’ll be and when.

“Really truly getting comfortable is a big mistake. We need to always be aware of our surroundings and what`s going on,” Manthey said.

Running coach Eladio Valdez said that starts with not wearing headphones because they limit your ability to hear what’s happening around you, and try to find a running buddy to tag along.

“You find people to run with, even just one person, that will dramatically lower the risk of anything happening. And if you do like to run by yourself, pick well lit, highly populated roads with other pedestrians or cars,” said Eladio Valdez, coach with the Runner’s Edge.

Should you spot anything suspicious, experts say trust your gut. And if things escalate:

“Make a lot of noise. Do anything you can to draw attention to yourself. Do whatever you can do. Use your hands, use your knees, use your feet to get away from somebody and just get away from the threat to get some help to get out of that,” Manthey said.

When you’re out running, it’s also a great idea to look for locators like addresses or street signs, so if there’s an emergency, you know how to tell responders exactly where you are.

And Manthey strongly encourages anyone who loves outdoor exercise to take a hands-on self-defense class to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

“You really need to make the decision you’re the one that’s going to go home. You’re going to go home, and you have to do everything you can to get out and get some help,” Manthey said.

Many local law enforcement agencies offer self-defense classes for free, and some running stores offer them at a low cost. The courses offer tools you’ll hopefully never have to use but could end up saving your life.

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