There was a time when I was fearless. Defiant. Maybe a little thoughtless. I can remember in my teens, twenties and early thirties seeing running as a spontaneous activity that I threw into my daily or weekly schedule, and the last thing I thought about was running safety.
I never followed any kind of training programme or regular pattern. It was all about freedom. Life changes and having a young family stalled my regular running, but when I really returned to running (my third daughter was about three and I *really* needed to destress away from the home) I found I was a different creature. I also wanted different things from running (me time, new goals, stress relief, to tune up my body) and I wasn’t so brazen as my younger self.
There was a time when I would never contemplate running with a phone; now I probably wouldn’t ever run without one. And no, it’s not just because I like to take a selfie or because I want to sync to Strava the moment my run is finished.
Following illness about four years ago I was quite shaky on my feet for a long time. Running was slow but steady. For a long time, I often felt completely spaced out. Once – and the only time ever – I had to walk home I was feeling so shaky. I started to think I should take a phone when I run, ‘just in case’. I’m not sure what it was I was worried about, but there’s not always someone at home to come and pick you up if you want to cut short your training. And then we all know someone like my friend Julia, who was out running on the South Downs, slipped, fell and seriously injured her leg. Yep, suddenly running with a phone seemed like a much better idea.
Safety is so important for every single runner, and as a coach I always carry a phone when I’m leading a session, just in case.
I’m also partial to trail running. In fact, even on short runs I will try and go off-road; heading to the prom along my local beach, running around farmers’ fields or exploring new footpaths. It’s on these beautiful runs, where I’m truly alone (which is the whole point) that I sometimes feel the most vulnerable, even if houses are only half a mile away. If no one can see or hear you that means you are quite remote. I wanted an extra level of safety and the Run Angel looked like the perfect technology.
It looks like a GPS watch (though it’s smaller) and is easy to wear on the same or opposite wrist to your preferred timing device. It’s just as comfortable, though lighter. It’s also incredibly easy to set up. With a charged Run Angel, download the Run Angel app on to your phone, sync (quick and easy) and then set up your ‘angels’. You enter their mobile numbers, they get a text to let them know they are now your angel, and that, really, is it! The Run Angel has a high frequency incredibly loud alert that you can activate simply by pressing a large button on the top of the device. This is your first line of defence; if you were unfortunate to either feel threatened, find yourself injured or just need instant help you can press this button and unless you are alone in the middle of the Grand Canyon there’s a good chance someone will hear it. It’s ear-piercingly loud and clear and a signal that you need help. If you do activate your alarm then your guardian run angels will also be notified by SMS/email that you have called for help and be sent your location – your second line of defence.
When you’re running if you lose internet connectivity expect to hear the Run Angel notify you of this – but don’t worry, you don’t have to do anything. Once your phone has service again it reconnects itself and again, with a distinctive beep, lets you know.
The most challenging thing for me so far with the Run Angel has been to remember to put it on when I’m going to a remote area or will be running off-road alone. It takes a while to get into the habit, just like when heart-rate monitoring chest straps first came out. How many times did I go for a run and five minutes along the road remember the chest strap left on the side. You’ve got to nudge your mind to make this an important part of your pre-run ritual, so that it’s a habit to wear it. I wear it running, on the bike and will be taking it on holiday with me this summer.
Even though a gadget cannot protect you from the worst should it happen, it can give you immense peace of mind. That extra layer of security really does put your mind at rest. And even though we all know we should always tell someone where we are going on our run, few of us remember, especially if we are at home alone. You know that your guardian angels will be able to locate you if you get in trouble, priceless for both you and your loved ones. It’s also easy to recharge the battery.
Off-road runners who love to explore or those of us who spontaneously look for a new route to break the boredom of routine – this gadget is perfect for you. If something should happen such as injury, illness or another calamity you can press a button and get out a call for help. Anyone, male or female, out for long periods of time in the great outdoors, whether walking, running, biking, skiing or doing another activity (students, travellers) can only benefit from this fantastic security tech.
You can join Tina’s Strava Club, Shewhodaresruns or follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @shewhodaresruns