How to pair up with a shelter dog for a safer solo run

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Safety is never something to be taken for granted, and the recent murder of two women out running alone has people discussing best practices when exercising solo. Richmond Animal Care and Control has created a jogging program to pair up runners with a shelter dog, in hopes it will help them feel safer.

Google executive Vanessa Marcotte, a 27-year-old woman, was out running alone on a wooded road in Princeton, Mass.  Marcotte was visiting her mother, who reported her missing. Marcotte's body was found later that night, a half mile away from her mother's home.

Days before that murder, Karina Vetrano, a 30-year-old woman from Queens was found face down in a marshy area of New York.  Her father reported that she went out for a jog and never came home. Her body was found about 15-feet off the trail.

RACC has created a list of shelter dogs that are good running companions.  The organization is called "Rough Tail Runners," and is based off a program already in operation in Austin, TX.

"Ladies, please do not run alone. Ever. If you do not currently have a running buddy, we have one for you with four paws and a lot of love to give," the organization wrote on Facebook.  "We will be rolling out a formalized jogging program to the public in the fall, but these recent events have caused us to act now."

"Get our animals out, get them some exercise, and also offer some companionship for someone exercising. It's a win-win," said Robin Young, Outreach Coordinator with RACC.

The organization said they can coordinate early and late run times for people who jog before or after work.

For more information about the program, contact Robin Young. 

Sean Cusack has been a marathon training team coach with Richmond Sportsbackers for 14 years.  Cusack said awareness is critical during any run, any time of day.

"Checking out on your run, as we like to say, is really not safe, and it makes you a target for anyone on the street when they realize you're not paying attention to your surroundings," said Cusack.

Cusack suggested taking several precautions if you chose to exercise solo in the city or elsewhere.

  • Avoid secluded area
  • Take out your ear buds to be more aware of your surroundings
  • Try to run early in the morning or before the sun sets, if you can help it
  • Carry mace or other small hand-held weapons if you do not feel safe

The industry magazine runners world also suggests taking several other precautions.