Friday, July 26, 2013

So You Think You Can Outrun Him

We took our kids to the park. And not just any park. One of those parks with the play-land that is constructed like a mighty fortress for kids. There are bridges made of ropes, chains, rubber and tires. There are towers and lookouts and slides and hiding holes. Tunnels and passageways connect a maze of fun that could keep any child busy for hours. It's a great place to wear your child out.

After watching our children play on their own I volunteer to chase our son. He returned the favor and after a bit of that Daddy volunteer to chase us both.

Our son and I started out at a mad dash and of course my husband caught up with our son presently. The tickling commenced and I stopped to enjoy the sights and sounds of my son and husband playing. Then my husband looked at me.

He had a look on his face similar to what I can imagine a lion has when he looks at a gazelle. I took off running and the sound of heavy footsteps behind me told me my husband did, too.

I squealed as I weaved through tight corners, ran across bridges and jumped over tires. I thought I was making pretty good headway until I felt his hands on my arms.

Down into the gravel I went and my husband jumped on top of me, tickling me.

Because we are both fighters and have a tendency to escalate even when having fun it wasn't long before I had my forearm across his throat and was trying to keep myself from elbowing him in the face while also finding a foot hold in his hips to kick him off of me.

All while laughing hysterically.

Somewhere in that process I lost my shoe and I had to ask him to stop before we ended up breaking my brand new glasses.

But I was also kind of ticked.

No, I'm no runner, but neither is he. He shouldn't have been able to outrun me so fast.

I decided we needed a second round.

I took off my glasses and my cell phone, put them in a safe place and bolted for it.

This time he caught me on one of the bridges. The tickle-fight commenced and I found myself, again, fighting the urge to elbow him in the face.

This got me thinking. I'm a pretty fit gal. I was wearing very practical shoes and jeans and a t-shirt. There was nothing that would be inhibiting me from outrunning someone dressed similarly to myself and with as little experience as a runner.

When discussing self defense incidents a lot of women claim they will "just run away" from danger.

So I decided to do a little googling when I got home and what I found is that men regularly outrun women. Or, in other words, take a man and a woman who are similarly trained (or untrained) and sans any kind of injury that would keep them from performing and the man will generally be faster than the woman.

Now, take into account that most violent offenders are male between the ages of 15 and 21. There's a reason the military and sports teams and police forces wants men in that age bracket. They are at the prime of their lives. They are strong and they are fast!

According to some running websites I have been look at, even with training, a woman can expect to be (on average) over a second slower on the 100 meter dash and up to three seconds slower at the 200 meter dash.

What's my point?

You, as an average female, aren't going to be outrunning your average violent criminal.

And if you're wearing impractical or non-running shoes or clothes that would constrict your movement at all then you're definitely not going to be outrunning your average violent criminal.

Are there going to be exceptions to that rule? Of course. You might be lucky enough to be an exceptionally fast female. You could have legs that go all the way up to Canada and have trained them for speed (note: I said SPEED, not endurance.. there's a mighty difference). You could also be fortunate enough to have a clumsy, overweight and slow attacker. Perhaps you have a combination of the two.

But if you aren't that fortunate you have to be aware that if you are in a foot chase you are likely not going to win it. Which means only one thing: You're going to have to know how to fight the guy when he catches up to you.

Does that mean you shouldn't try to run? Absolutely not! If you can run toward safety and have a chance of getting there then go for it.

But be aware that running also encourages a predatory chase response. And killing people who's backs are turned and fleeing has been proven to be psychologically easier than killing people who are facing you (per Grossman's research in On Killing). But I'm not going to get into that too deeply.

Knowing that my attacker is likely to run me down and it's psychologically easier for him to stab me if I'm not facing him does that mean I'm going to turn my back on a young man holding a knife? Should I turn my back on someone holding a knife anyway?

What if I'm not aware of any weapons. How does running affect my ability to fight if/when he catches up with me? Is it more advantageous to take him head on or risk him grabbing me from behind?

Certainly some things to think about.

I don't have all the answers but I'm interested in hearing your thoughts.

Have you thought about the fact that men are, in general, faster runners and what that means for your defense? Men, are you faster than your average 15-20 year old?

Greg Ellifritz wrote about the same issue a while ago and constructed a workout for speed. Check it out: Are You Fit Enough To Escape


  1. I won't pretend to tell you this doesn't apply to guys, as we get older the threat always seems like they are getting younger. Surprise him long enough to put me out of arms reach and set up for attack or defense preferably convincing him that he needs to be the one running with that little red dot in his eyes. Just a straight foot race puts my back to him with him probably gaining, it can only go down hill from that position. As long as I am facing him I know what he is doing and how to react.

  2. I've got a bit of age on you and your husband... and not that I couldn't be in better shape... but after four knee surgeries in my life and more than a few extra pounds... even with regular workouts and aerobic activity... each day I age there are more and more of the population that are faster, stronger, and have more endurance than I do... so I use intelligence, training, and tools to give me the edge... the equalizer... the crutch... I need... to be able and prepared to overcome and survive those that would seek to do me or my family harm...

    Dann in Ohio

    1. I'm young and "fit" but I have questionable knees. I can run short distances but it does a number on my knees and the kind of running required for escape is not an easy run by any means!

      I agree.. you have to be ready for the possibility of not being able to run.

  3. Great post. My sister in law always says she will run. I have wondered how she's going to manage that with two small children in tow. Once my nephew got away from her in a parking lot, to catch him, she had to put down my niece (in infant seat)! Stupid, stupid. Lives in total denial that anything could happen to her. Thinks I'm crazy for being prepared. I prefer having other options than just running away.

    1. That is the scariest situation ever! My one year old decided she wanted to get away from me once and my four year-old wanted to go the other way... Deciding who to chase was scary. At least I've trained my four-year-old enough that when I told him to stop and stay put he obeyed. My daughter on the other hand? She needs a lot more work. Yelling, "Stop!" at her induced a bunch of laughing and a faster pace. She still thinks it's a game.
      But, yeah, running with kids in tow... not happening ... at least not well.

  4. I agree 100%. I wrote about the same issue last year. I think most people are really delusional about their sprinting abilities. It prompted me to make up a running workout program for self defense. It's in the article below if any of your readers are interested.

    Great work!

    1. Thanks, Greg. I thought I remembered reading something on the topic a while ago but couldn't figure out the source. Why am I not surprised it was you?!
      Great article! Definitely sharing. The workout portion is great.

  5. There is also the aspect that when your attacker does catch up, you are going to be breathless and tired and probably unable to do much to fight them off, it almost sounds better that if you are prepared to stand your ground and fight. I'm a small girl, not much of a runner and unfortunately I know that more than likely I will be overtaken if physically attacked but you know what, I'm going down fighting! But yes, if I have a place I can run to safety I will but if you are in the middle of a park or there is no safe place to run to, I think one is better off to try to disable or fight while you aren't tired.

    1. Very good points.

      I have very good endurance. By the time my husband caught up with me I was not winded, nor did I feel tired. I'm not sure how long we "fought" for but even afterward I didn't feel particularly wiped out or tired. Granted, we were "playing" but the exertion was there.

      Considering I spend several hours a week working out and fighting men in Krav I've got pretty good conditioning for endurance, but, like you said, that's not everyone.

      If you aren't conditioned for endurance you very well may end up exhausted before the fight even starts. There are others also who have conditions that keep them from fighting or enduring. Asthma, some heart conditions, COPD, to name a few, can all compound your ability to endure in a fight. Running and then fighting could be far too exhausting.