Runners learn tips on how to stay safe from attackers
By Tony LaRussa
Published: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 11:42 p.m.
Julie Schwemm admits that she regularly leaves her cellphone behind when she goes out for a run.
But after attending a self-defense program on Thursday evening taught by former SWAT commander and Army veteran Craig Douglas, she's re-evaluating her routine.
“I never thought I could be a victim, but after tonight, I realize that I am vulnerable,” said Schwemm, 53, of Ross. “Not taking my cellphone with me is something I'm definitely going to change.”
Craig's Safe Strides program at Bakery Square in East Liberty was sponsored by the Pittsburgh Marathon and is designed to help runners — especially women — avoid becoming victims. The program drew more than 125 people.
“We got the idea for doing this program as a result of a conversation I had with the marathon director in Oklahoma City, who told me about a couple of women there who were sexually assaulted while out running,” said Patrice Matamoros, director of the Pittsburgh Marathon, which will be held May 5.
Leah Yingling, a Carnegie Mellon University senior studying biomedical engineering, helped illustrate how vulnerable female runners can be by sharing details of an attack she suffered in June 2010 while running along a riverside trail near her home in Johnstown.
“I did think about safety while running — my mom actually bought me pepper spray to take with me on runs — but I left it back in the car that particular day,” said Yingling, 21.
Yingling said a man she passed on the trail grabbed her, put a knife to her throat and attempted to drag her into woods to sexually assault her.
“Luckily, I brought my cellphone instead of my iPod that day, because he let me go after he realized it was in my hand and thought I already dialed 911,” she said.
Though an expert in a variety of martial arts, Craig focuses on teaching women how to “deselect yourself as a victim.”
He recounted experiences as an undercover officer to teach women “how bad guys do business” and detailed visual cues often present when an attack is imminent. Craig also provided ways to diffuse an encounter and showed how “creating distance (from an attacker) creates safety.”
“Tonight was really a rude awakening for me,” said Lisa Verdi, 27, of Fox Chapel. “I don't think we give much thought to how easily we can be victims. I'm definitely going to limit the times I run alone, always take my phone and really start focusing on being more aware of my surroundings.”
Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- South Fayette parents express dissatisfaction with handling of bullying
- South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped
- Defense experts tell of disease they say claimed 4-month-old from Castle Shannon whose father is charged with homicide
- Methane emission levels by shale natural gas drillers disputed by EPA, researchers
- For undercover officer who tried to nab Lawrence County flasher, work can be ‘drag’
- Leader guided changes at Robert Morris
- Comedian Gallagher gets his money from North Versailles promoter
- Newsmaker: Dr. Jan Janecka
- Allegheny County employees sticking with Highmark to save money, send message
- Leader guided changes at Robert Morris