iRunFar’s Trail Running And Safety Survey

[Editor’s Note, Wednesday December 13: The survey is now closed. Thank you to those of you who took it.]

Welcome to iRunFar’s Trail Running and Safety Survey, created by the Trail Sisters.

Please take approximately three minutes to answer these questions. We’d like responses from as many women and men as possible, so be sure to share this survey with your trail running friends. We’ll be sharing the anonymous data we collect in future articles.

The survey is open until 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Mountain Time) on Tuesday, December 12.

Thank you to Runner’s World for allowing iRunFar to adapt for trail runners the survey that appeared in their “Running While Female” article.

Respond and Win (and a Note on Privacy)

While we hope you’d take the survey anyway, we’ve pulled together a bunch of prizes from great partners. At the end of the survey period, we’ll randomly choose the winners of the 20 prizes noted below from those who respond fully.

Please note that this is an anonymous survey. In order to enter into the gear giveaway, however, you’ll need to enter an email address in the survey’s last question, so that we may contact giveaway winners. Your privacy is paramount and we will not use the email address for any other purpose.

iRunFar’s Trail Running and Safety Survey


[Editor’s Note, Wednesday December 13: The survey is now closed and removed from this space. Thank you to those of you who took it.]

Trail Sisters

is a group of three women, each with unique opinions, ideas, and attitudes toward all things trail and ultrarunning. Pam Smith is a mom, physician, and lover of running who lives in Oregon. Liza Howard is a mom and 100-mile specialist from Texas. Gina Lucrezi is a Colorado-based short-distance speedster exploring the realms of ultrarunning.

There are 96 comments

  1. RunningScared

    Just completed the survey. For the record, what you would class as unintentional harm is usually what scares me the most ie. running close to hunting grounds (which are way too close to urban places in Spain) and when i see that sign or hear that shot, it’s what singlehandedly ruins my trail run. Also, I answered most of the questions in relation to my usual sub-urban run and the way the question is framed. For example, I’m never worried about dogs during my general run, but when I visit my village and run more remotely, (I’ve had a few run-ins with dogs) it’s always at the back of my mind. Also, I prefer to trail run during the day for the scenery but I would definitely think about safety if I were to run my usual route at night (although to be honest I have never had a bad experience caused by human behaviour). Ditto with having a weapon, phone or company, it depends on the run (The fear is there for exceptional runs just not day to day for me) if that helps.

  2. Amelia Boone

    Fascinating survey. What struck me is that I’ve never once feared for my safety from other humans on the trails, only from wildlife. Whereas if I have to run in the city or in an urban environment, I’m more more fearful. Interested to see the results, and thanks for doing this!

    1. Runnerbob

      I agree 100%. When I am trail running I have fear because of wildlife. When I run around my neighborhood and city I am fearful because of cars. Completely different safety concerns for me depending on where I run.

  3. Nelson

    Will the results of the survey be published here? It would make for a very interesting discussion. Great idea, btw. Cheers from another reader from Spain!

  4. Andrew

    When you talked of wild animals I live in the UK so no risk of wild animals but I do plan my routes to avoid farm yards – nothing scarier than a farm dog!!!

      1. BoulderRunner

        I can’t agree more. I live in Boulder Colorado and it’s almost impossible to avoid encounters with off-leash rottweilers, pit-bulls, etc when running the trails here.

  5. Nick

    For me, as a male, my fears while running are much different from a female. I generally am more alert and mindful of the wildlife that may be in the area as I run. We don’t get many black bear in my part of PA, but it’s always a possibility. Most of the wildlife I see are deer, buck, and the occasional horse and rider. I’d say I’m usually the most safety-conscious during the rut season when I see buck on the trail or a deer family. Maybe I’ve watched too many youtube videos of buck attacks… I’ve never had a negative experience with another human on the trail, but again I think that is because I’m a male and that type of occurrence is much more rare. I’d be interested to see what the results of the survey are as well!!

  6. E Selle

    I coach high school cross country, and it is not uncommon for our girls to be harassed on runs, particularly on the roads.
    They feel more comfortable running in groups and we have an adult with them whenever possible. Mainly we deal with catcalls from passing cars. We are fortunate to be able to run on suburban trails most of the time and we almost never have issues on the trails. Rattlesnakes are the most likely encounter with dangerous animals on the trail and we spot them a few times per season.

    1. shawn

      Sad that your high school running team has to deal with any harrassment during their runs, but running in pairs is probably a good idea for numerous safety issues — and can lead to more effective training anyway.

      I really hate to point this out, but you really should make sure you have clear policies about any adults that run with the student-athletes. As many scout groups and church organizations are now implementing, an adult and child should never be alone together. Scouts calls this “two deep leadership”.

  7. Geli

    Just filled in the survey – but missed a comment box… Feel like my trail running experience is veeeery different from most trail runners due to location: I’m based in northern Norway, so if I’d limit running to daylight hours, I wouldn’t be able to get out in autumn & winter. Also, I’m living in a village with immediate access to a lot of wilderness with very few trails, so running a lot off-trail, and hardly ever meeting anybody (and these people are then likely my neighbours…). So tried to think about what it’s like when I’m abroad with my running shoes…

  8. Amy

    The results will be interesting, but I’m wondering if you’re assuming that where we live is dictating our answers on where we run–the question about where we live came last.. A lot of my answers would change if I were thinking about running around my home, Bend, OR. But, I run all over the world, in “interesting” places, and many times changed my answer when I thought about other places I run. It’s one of the things I appreciate about coming home to the PNW–is that I generally feel safe running anywhere and/or what I’m afraid of on the trail is very different (remotely injury/being attacked by a cat vs. being mugged or harassed).

  9. txultrarunner

    As a male my worries are cars (having been hit by a car who ran through two stop signs), dogs not on leashes, mountain bikers/cyclists who think they’re in the Tour de France, and wild hogs (too many out lately). It’s interesting to see the comments about being more worried about animals than other people – I’d like to see numbers on that question.

  10. John Vanderpot

    I have an unsettling old man presence that has of way of making people who don’t know me a bit uncomfortable, and I regret it but can’t really change it, I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve made people nervous out there, even at events when I’m wearing a bib (several times volunteers have told me the aid station food is only for participating runners), so to all of you, I’m sorry, the one place it does come in handy, other than in public, is on crowded weekend trials, everyone gets out of my way and lets me by…


    1. Mark Y M

      You have a generous spirit in that you don’t take it personally when other people seem uncomfortable in your presence. While I enjoy seeing you out on the trails at local SoCal races – I get how some folks don’t see you as “fitting in” with the typical trail runner look. Maybe if you switched it up a little and wore a Salomon vest, a Buff and lots of spandex people would find you less intimidating….just a thought, JV….

  11. Shaun

    As a male runner I fear dogs more than people. In my 10+ years of running, I have never felt threatened by another person on the trail or road.

    Both on the trails and road, I find myself constantly worrying about being attacked by a dog. Over the years I have had many dogs lunge at me and have been bitten twice. The second time I nearly killed the dog and thought about attacking the owner. I have finally learned my lesson. I now carry pepper spray and will gladly use it on any dog (or owner) that I even feel slightly threatened by. After being bitten, I will now pepper spray ANY dog that comes running towards me. I don’t care if you tell me that your dog is friendly. I’ve had enough of this type dog/owner behavior. Put your dog on a leash. FYI, I have had dogs in the past and have always found aggressive or uncontrolled dog behavior unacceptable.

    1. BoulderRunner

      +1 to this one. For example, encounters with off-leash pitbulls are common here in Boulder, Colorado. I have had a number of bad experiences with dogs and their owners in the Boulder Open Space. I have even encountered an off-leash wolf hybrid.

    2. Patrick T.

      +1 I have had exactly the same experience after 15 years of running. I will pepper spray, kick, or hurl a rock at a dog that is charging at me, baring its teeth, and/or snarling. In every single instance that I have been attacked by a dog (three), the owner was nearby and reassuring me that the dog is “friendly” and “doesn’t bite.” I love dogs and have two. Genuinely, it breaks my heart to think about hurting one – but it isn’t worth a chunk of my flesh and an expensive trip to the ED. Keep your dog on a leash. No matter what.

      1. Spike

        100% agree, really sick of dogs! and not just trail running, even in parks, all the ones running up to small kids barking like crazy, very often the dog being bigger than the kids… i wonder how the owner would feel if i started running at them yelling like a madman

  12. Ben

    Interesting. These aren’t the concerns I have in mind about trail running at all. I’m more concerned about weather, trail conditions, wild animals, and whether or not I have my 10 Essentials with me when I’m in the mountains. Knowing wilderness first aids is also important. To me, every trail runner should know at least the basics what mountaineers know.

  13. Steve

    Done, looking forward to seeing the results.

    Have never considered other humans as a concern or something to be fearful of when out running, but I can see how that would be the case for others. Our trails here are usually very quiet and the few people I do come across are almost always friendly hikers.

    Primary concerns on the trails here in Cascadia are bear or cougar encounters, but much more common is the classic off-leash dog. “He’s friendly!”

    I would echo Shaun’s comments above regarding dogs 100%.

    1. BoulderRunner

      “He’s friendly” also then becomes “that’s the first time he ever did that” when the dog starts charging in and out, barking/growling and biting at you (or your wife or kid). Then the owner acts like it is your fault and generally gets defensive or even confrontational. Their dog is always innocent and often they imply it was something about you or what you were doing that caused it to go off. I had one dog owner tell me I should have stopped and turn around with my back to the dog when it charged me. My wife was bit on the sleeve of her sweatshirt one time we were running and the dog’s owner just lied incessantly saying the dog did not bite her, even though it clearly did (her sweatshirt was torn). The owners of the dogs can be really hard to deal with in these situations.

      1. Nick

        Don’t know the specifics about your encounters with off-leash dogs, but any time I see them I stop running and just calmly walk until the dog/owner pass by. At least in my experience it seems to deter the dog from wanting to chase or run up to me. It also gives the owner time to reign the dog in (if they have any trail etiquette in that manner anyways…). Luckily haven’t been bitten or lunged at yet, but again just my personal experience. Have you tried that?

      2. bob

        Right on BoulderRunner! I hate that “He’s friendly” comment from so many dog owners. Even if their dog ‘is’ friendly, the point is – I have the right not to be molested, slobbered on, or otherwise touched by your dog, people.

    1. Gordo

      Me too. Been charged by Pit Bulls, bitten by a Lab and a Shepherd. Threats(to me) from people and wildlife pale in comparison to our best friend. I usually carry a Kimber Pepper Blaster when I run the parks in town because of off-leash dogs.

  14. A

    When I was living in the SF Bay Area, I mostly ran on trails with running groups, because I liked the social experience but also due to fear of nefarious humans hiding behind bushes. I was also concerned about cougars, but less so than humans.

    Now that my local trails are the Canadian Rockies, I am more concerned about bears and cougars on the trails, more so than humans. The weather is more variable here also, so I’m more concerned about spraining an ankle and dying of hypothermia. Since relocating, I have preferred to hike and cross country ski, as I carry more safety gear in case the weather turns. I have only read of animal attacks on the trails here, while I read more of human attacks than animal attacks in the Bay Area. (Perhaps, even more than animal attacks here, I read of people falling off mountains or getting buried in avalanches.)

    Recently, I had a thought while cross country skiing, how ridiculous it would be for someone to attempt an assault in this weather. It was cold enough that someone couldn’t stop for too long. It may have happened before, but I have only heard of a cross country skier killed by a cougar. It just seems that the barrier is higher than in temperate climates like in the Bay Area. Recently, there was a conflict on the trails of cross country skiers vs fat bikers, so that may be another concern is crashing on a downhill ski due to off-leash dogs or other trail users. It reminded me of the conflict between hikers and runners in grand canyon that became a prolific online debate.

    Location, weather patterns, proximity to large metropolitan area, local news reports, and perhaps the local culture probably affects perceived dangers on the trail.

    1. A

      For bears, it is probably more accurate to call them “animal encounters” rather than “attacks”. Though every now and then there is a report of a stalking bear.

    2. A

      Another interesting perspective I noticed is that guys that prefer to run alone are less inclined to join group runs in the Bay Area. I know some women in California that run on the trails on their own, but I have also heard plenty insist that women should not run alone. However, since weather and animals affect anyone, I have heard more guys here in Alberta that prefer to recreate on the trails in groups for safety or their family members prefer they hike with a group.

  15. Nathan

    As a guy with long hair who wears pink pretty often I am mistaken for a woman on a semi-regular basis. Never had an issue with that while trail running, but I think I was harassed by some young drunk people in a car while running on a road at night once. Was difficult to make out what they were yelling.

    My two fears while running are cougars and transients. Depending on which direction I go to find trails I can pick which of them I want run in the same area as. It’s interesting, because I am much more fearful of encountering a cougar, and when running at night through the forest I’m constantly paranoid about them. Intellectually I know it’s much more risky running by camps of homeless people, but it doesn’t engender the same instinctive fear. I also sort of contemplate the things I run with while doing that. $100 headphones, $150 GPS watch, $600 phone.

    I think about safety quite a lot during my runs, but it’s difficult to know what’s best to do about it. Ideally I just try to run more often with the cougars in the daylight.

  16. Jon A

    My biggest issue is with turkeys. Seriously, if you’ve never had aggressive male turkeys chase you for a mile, you should try it. I ran by a group of 9 turkeys today, and armed myself with rocks and a branch for the return trip to pass them. I hate turkeys.

    1. Liza

      A full mile. That sounds entirely awful. (Also, I am exercising great control not sharing any of the turkey jokes I have leftover from Thanksgiving.)

    2. Meghan Hicks


      This comment made me giggle… in empathy. We have a lot of wild turkeys around where we live in Utah, and I haven’t yet met an aggressive one, but the wild turkeys in Minnesota where I grew up, whole different story.

      There is still some unidentified man in White Bear Township, Minnesota who I credit with saving me from being injured by a turkey years ago. I was being chased down a county road by an aggressive turkey, the turkey was fast gaining ground, and the man drove his pick-up between me and the turkey. Turkeys are not so intelligent and it seemingly forgot that it was chasing anything and wandered back into the brush off the road. Giggle. ;)

      Stay safe out there!

  17. Matt

    At my ripe old age, I’ve either been lucky or not registering on the scale of any trail reprobates. My sole running incident that changed how I think about running solo and with ditching headphones involved a daylight run in a popular Maine beach resort town as I was heading on a sidewalk out of town toward some trails. A carpenter’s pencil came flying out of a passing pickup and it hit me on the side of my face and bounced to the curb. I had my cell phone on my arm and I immediately went into “take a photo” mode though it wasn’t clear. It did however cause the driver to speed up and depart the area. Ironically, this all went down on a weekday morning in a town that is known for its very large weekend gay population. As I told my wife, I’d have to say I guess I was profiled for whatever reason. The police were a bit underwhelmed in terms of their reaction, but the local visitors bureau director went out of her way to make sure the rest of our stay was a bit more pleasant. As aggravating as it was, I was not out on some lonesome trail without safe or know areas to flee. Hunters in our home area are more my fear on trail runs, even if I am decked out in official safety colors. I once unknowingly ran through an unmarked bow and arrow range…I know now what to look for! I want to believe there is a special place in the underworld for folks who prey on those just out running, minding their own business and enjoying nature.

  18. anon

    Like others, I wish the survey had asked not just about wild animals but also about domestic animals. By far my biggest fear, and most common assaults, are from off-leash dogs.

    1. BoulderRunner

      Absolutely, it happens to me regularly here. It is also troublesome when I take my toddler out on the trails because I have to pick him up so often, when random dogs come running up to us. Yes, usually they are nice but we have had dogs growl and snap at him before. Also even if they are nice, I don’t want him to get knocked over and hurt by a friendly playful dog either. The dogs are basically always off-leash in hunting/chasing/playing mode.

  19. Jackie Lai

    Being able to run with my dog is a very important part of being safe for me. I run alone and before sunrise during the week before work. I know my dog won’t stop all bad things from happening but he is a deterrent for sure. I wanted to add “dog” to your list of “pepper spray/weapons”. I’ve already told my husband when my dog gets too old to run with me we are getting another one. I also vary my routes, never use earbuds when its dark, always have my phone, ID band and reflective clothing on.

  20. Chris

    Having completed the survey with the mindset that I never have anything to worry about whilst running on trails a few interesting encounters have since come to mind:

    By far my worst encounter whilst running was whilst I was running down a quiet country lane 2 miles from home. A car over took me going ~40mph, the passenger leaned out the window and slapped me as hard he could on my ass! I was more in shock than anything else, although it hurt… a lot.
    As a previous commenter mentioned, living in the UK the fear of wild animals is minimal, however when it’s 3am and you’ve been on the go all day, encountering a badger running full pelt directly at you from behind is enough to keep you on your toes!
    I have also been shot at twice by farmers, both with shotguns, whilst running on designated footpaths/trials.

    But all this pales into insignificance compared to the amount of abuse and fear that comes from being a cycle commuter!

  21. Matthew

    Thanks to the trail sisters for setting up this survey. It will be great to see some insights on our community!

    Cat calls from motorists are almost a weekly occurrence in all of the areas I have run on roads.

    Cougars are my number one fear when out on the trails. Getting mugged is my fear running at night though some bad parts of town. But the comments about unprovoked pepper spraying of dogs reminded me of another fear I have had.

    The situation usually plays out after sunset on some of the trails close enough to town where they see a lot of after work runners and walkers.

    I will be running on the trail towards a female runner with something in her fist and can’t help thinking how bad it would feel to get pepper spayed at the end of a long run.

    Then again, I can’t imagine the task of distinguishing between wild bearded attacker, and wild bearded trail runner would be pleasant either.

    Does anyone on the other side of the coin have any insights they feel comfortable sharing into their mindset on the trail?


    1. Liza

      Thanks for filling out the survey, Matthew! We’re hoping the article about the survey results will open up a a good discussion and be a forum to talk more about issues like the one you raise.

  22. Andy

    Also completed the survey. As a middle-aged guy, I certainly do not fear harassment or much else from people. Dogs off leash to some degree though, fortunately, I’ve not had bad luck with canines.

    The one thing none of the commenters mentioned — and that is my biggest fear — is being out solo (which I always am) on trail runs in remote areas, getting injured, and being stuck. I once tore my adductor on an icy downhill pitch (I knew I should have taken the ‘spikes) and had to hobble 5k back to my car. I was super lucky it was only 5k and that I could hobble, albeit slowly. Since then, on long remote runs I’ve taken to doing the unthinkable: I bring my phone with me!

  23. Paul

    Thanks for the survey. I agree with Andy, for me, the biggest danger is the trail itself. I’ve tripped and scraped myself up several times while I’ve never had a bad encounter with animals or people (although I did have to reroute around a skunk a couple times). A bad fall could be much worse then a few scrapes. I’ve also underestimated the amount of water I would need and found myself in a bad position, including having a ranger drive me out one time.

  24. Robert

    Interesting survey. I think one thing that I fear is those people who set up traps or dangers on the trail that really can’t be seen. I read an article a month + ago where someone put nails in pieces of wood on the trail. There was another story about a trail in the UK where they barb wire across the trail meant for cyclist but could as easily got a runner.

  25. Sam P.

    I would like to also see a survey about ‘unintentional acts’. Personally, I experience much more danger from hunters, mountain bikers and dogs than other trail users.

    1. Mike H

      Says you. Many cultures, scientists, and individuals disagree.
      You may be confusing ‘gender’ with ‘biological sex’ (although that is also non-binary, e.g. XXY syndrome).
      To be fair, while many folks are comfortable with more than one gender definition at a population level, others (for various reasons or faith) insist on two. That’s valid and part of the discussion. Sex distinction for race competition purposes is also topical with regard to gender.
      But your comment rather bizarre to bring up here, because the question *specifically asked how a person self-identified.* Shouldn’t affect you or me how a person self-identifies.

      It will be interesting to know if there are differences in perceived safety between various groups. I’m glad the survey included various possibilities because it’s free information that increases the precision and detail of the results.

  26. Peter Hogg

    Interesting survey. On roads, I have had cars try to hit me or throw things or yell. I have never had a significant problem on trails. But I would say I am more nervous on trails without significant traffic. I think about it on most runs even though I have never had a serious problem. I have encountered many hunters, many of whom look quite displeased to have someone running through their hunting area. I have been told by hunters I was lucky not to be shot. I have encountered people on the trails openly carrying guns or knives that were obviously not hunting. I have encountered numerous naked individuals in the woods doing who knows what. I have encountered numerous individuals or groups doing drugs. Another area that feels particularly scary to me are the parking lots or trail heads where people can park. There are a lot of people that park there to do things in privacy and then here I am running by.
    Again, no actual problem, but it makes me nervous about the potential. I do feel safer as a male, but still pretty vulnerable when I’m wearing only running shorts and shoes and have nothing to protect myself except my ability to run. I have also gotten a dog running partner for security for me and more my wife.

        1. Peter Hogg

          I live in Indianapolis, IN. I’m recalling mostly running in Indiana, but runs all over the country really.

          I want more elaboration on the story of coming across someone who had died!

  27. Max

    On the question of run during daytime, it’s a bit ambiguous. I tend to favor daytime but it’s not necessarily for safety reasons. Mainly nicer views, but also if I fall and hurt myself I’m more likely to get help faster.

    1. Sean

      I agree about the ambiguity of that question. I mainly run during the day because it’s warmer and easier to see (especially as we get into this time of year). It has nothing to do with safety reasons, but I’m guessing my answer to that question will be misinterpreted because there was no “why” to it.

  28. Meghan Hicks

    I just wanted to leave a note to say thanks to everyone who has left comments and feedback the last couple of days. We appreciate you sharing your concerns, your openness to a diversity of perspectives on trail safety, and you taking the survey. Happy weekend running, all!

  29. Laurie

    I fear dogs the most! That and mountain bikers and gun shots from hunters. I would like to see a survey about that as it seems to be a common theme among commenters.

  30. Patrick

    I think about how many other people will be on the route, but not to stay safer on a busy trail. Depending on the circumstances, I often prefer a trail where I won’t see much of anyone. It’s more relaxing to me, and If I have my dog I feel ok letting her off the leash, although judging from some comments here I may be putting her in greater danger of being pepper sprayed than I realized.

  31. Steve

    I run in a mountain range along the US/Mexico Border. Ten years ago I would routinely come across groups of illegals making their way across the mountain. One early morning, I was startled by a group of 8 coming up a canyon trail. The man in the lead had his hand behind his back and kept it there. There was a brief stand & stare session before I gestured that I was turning around – I walked a few steps and then ran a Killian like pace back up to the ridge line trail. The other encounters were not as intense – either we crossed paths or the illegals ran off the trail to hide until I passed by. On a run with an armed running partner we encountered a group that had ran off the trail to hide in creek bed. He wanted to get the gun out just in case – I convinced him that we should just walk by. We walked by out of site and continued the run. Running the border mountains has made for some interesting trail encounters.

  32. Enyaw

    On the Saturday before Labor Day this year, I began a run along the ridge of a free standing mountain near my home. The initial part of the trail runs adjacent to and at a higher elevation than an area where people do target shooting. I have run to the side of and high above shooters many times. Although I have felt some trepidation in the past, I have taken confidence knowing that the shooters are likely my neighbors in the nearby town and, like my neighbors exercise gun safety and respect the safety of others.

    On this morning as I ran up the trail, I heard a shot whiz over my head. I thought I was mistaken–until five or six more shots came over my head. I did not know how to react. I had nothing in my experience anything like this. Just as I stopped and turned to face the shooters (who were over 100 yards away and more than 100 vertical feet below me), they shot into the trail 50 feet below me, kicking up a plume of dust.

    I raised my arms and begged, “Am I going to be safe if I continue up this trail?” They indicated that I would. And they let me pass. As soon as the trail crossed the ridge (and I could not be fired upon), I phoned the county sheriff dispatcher. In a few minutes I got a call from the officer who had been assigned. He questioned whether I had misheard the shots because of echo or ricochet. I explained I was not wrong. He promised that he was on his way and that he would confront the shooters. As he promised, I could tell he would not; he was not any more interested in confronting people who would fire on someone else than I was. For an hour, I watched the shooter as I continued to climb up the trail. The county sheriff never arrived.

    Thank you for the survey. I felt compelled to share my experience because my responses to the survey do not reflect the potentially deadly situation I faced on the trail. (Also, it is worth noting that hunting season creates real threats to trail runners.)

  33. Mollie

    Humans on trails are often accompanied by their four-legged friends. I love dogs, but I think the dogs that accompany the humans are the biggest threat to my safety on the trail – I’ve been attacked/bitten (dog on leash but poorly controlled) and also just tripped.

  34. Julie

    When I completed the survey, I said that I had not felt threatened by a human while out trail running. But yesterday, while on a nice trail run with one of my adult sons, memories of times when I HAD felt threatened came to my mind…lots of them. Things like a guy on a motorcycle coming across me on a singletrack quite a few miles from the nearest paved road. He crept along with me for a while, acting both amused and nasty before he got bored or something and took off again. I ran another fifteen miles or so to get to my car, feeling shaky the whole way. That guy was the primary reason why for many years I carried a loaded revolver with me on back country runs. I told people it was for bears and mountain lions, but at its heart it wasn’t really for the critters. There were other, similar experiences. No need to elaborate, but it’s constantly in the back of my mind.

    Running with my son yesterday, a couple of semi-sketchy-looking guys, out for a hike, passed us from the other direction. I was comfortable with saying hello and complimented their dogs as they went by. After we had passed them, I told my son how nice it was to be running with someone who looks like he could own anyone who thought about messing with me. A past boyfriend once asked me if I wished I were male so that I could go into the backcountry without being afraid. I told him that I was happy with being female but wished that I could make myself invisible at times. I still feel the same way more than 30 years later.

  35. Nora

    Just completed the survey.
    Actually, I feel much safer trailrunning in the forest than on the streets in the city. Out in the dark in the rural area where I live, you can run for hours without actually meeting anybody. I have convinced myself that predators prefer spots with more potential victims around. I´d always choose a rural trail over a citypark run when it comes to fear of predators.

    1. Liza

      I have also often thought the same thing in on trails in Texas in the summertime. “Nobody is crazy/awful enough to be out here today to bother me.”

  36. Spike

    you forgot vampires, everytime i go running around in the dark, and nowadays it does get dark early, every single noise get me thinking…Why did i leave my cross and silver bullets at home?
    Seriously though, nothing like running at night hearing some noises in the forest near you and some oinks/grunts startle you, these boars can be scary, gets the adrenaline flowing, ever since the second encounter, i have been running with a headlamp.
    On some of the questions though the answer options were not satisfying, you seem to only think about sexual comments and violent threats, but i have heard many a weirdo comments that make me thing the people uttering them are not in their best minds, not threats, but just out of place comments that make you think twice/trice about the encounter and thinking there was no threat, but keep an eye out on the person in any case
    My wife doesn’t go running trail alone.
    And of course, as mentioned in a comment before, dogs……..

  37. Dan

    As I filled out the survey it really brought home the unfortunate difference for male and female runners. I think that if my wife filled out the survey she’d answer almost everything the exact opposite of me. We have to work to make the trails safe for all of us. I hope this helps in some way.

    1. Mike H

      Exactly (and sadly), Dan. That is the crux of the original RW survey, and it will be interesting to compare these results (trails vs. roads).
      Some of the personal anecdotes are interesting, I guess, and the ‘dog issue’ (I agree) is perhaps a bigger shared sub-topic, but any degree that women or anyone else changes their route/time to run because of being harassed, or thinks about what they wear, or feels like they can’t run alone — sucks. Just think, that is piled on top of whatever shared common hazards (falling/injury, getting lost, animal encounters, etc.) we all have.

  38. Peter Hogg

    I thought the exact same thing. So I had my wife fill out the survey. To my surprise, our answers were about the same. It makes me wonder if I’m overly paranoid. I don’t really change my activities due to fear except maybe not running trails in the dark as much as I might.

  39. Sara

    I agree with what some others have said… I take a lot of precautions while on the trails, but never due to fear of humans. I am much more cautious because of wildlife, weather, and getting lost. Would love to see how results would differ if you asked about these “threats” as well.

  40. eric

    So excited to see the results – I hope folks took is serious –

    Also… I hate how NY basically means NYC… I mean… its not considered Great Lakes, but the ENTIRE northern border of the state sites on TWO of the 5…… just spitt ballin here…… Not a shot at the survey… just commenting because I had some time :)

  41. Jon

    Can’t wait to see the results on this. As someone whose passion is trail running and career is survey research, I could not be more excited!

  42. John

    Running in rural Montana as a male I feel more in danger from cars than anything else. The lack of shoulders on these roads are amazing. That being said I almost always run trails given the choice and am certainly aware of the wildlife that we have around here. But to date (knock on wood) have not had any bad experiences with them.

  43. shawn

    I don’t carry pepper spray on the trails because I’d be too tempted to use it on a mountain biker. Amazing how rude about 50% of them are here in Colorado. And just when I’m so fed up that I want to jam a stick through their wheels, I’ll meet a great pair of riders who are friendly and have great trail manners. Faith in humanity restored.

    Sorry to see so many anti-dog experiences and attitudes in the comments. I know I don’t always follow the leash rules when I’m out in Colorado open spaces, though I do when I’m on trails where I can’t see very far ahead. I realize that telling you not to be afraid of my dog would be like you telling me not to be afraid of snakes, but it is amazing how dogs react differently to people who are already afraid. The only person my dog has ever lunged towards (and he was on a leash) was a guy who I know had been nipped by other dogs; as we approached he flinched backwards and threw his hands in the air — freaked my dog out.

    For those of you who aren’t from Colorado: please note that Boulder County has many trails where properly trained and tagged dogs are allowed to be off-leash. It isn’t a perfect system, but I have had mostly positive experiences with dogs on the trails, especially compared to some other commenters.

      1. Liza

        A mean dog in my neighborhood just gave me a bunch of trouble this weekend. Will take a look at the article. Whatever it recommends is probably more useful than my glares and huffing and puffing at the owner were.

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