Awareness, the key to safe urban road running. Also, should you carry a weapon while running?
I have read all sorts of testosterone loaded comments about runners carrying guns and mace; and of shooting and threatening people by runners on various forums. If you fear animal attacks then by all means get something to defend yourself. I have personally run with a thin flexible stick to defend against dogs (a good idea is an extensible baton). However if you run the same route frequently and are going to be aggressive or get into a fight with someone then you carry the extreme risk of that someone waiting for you the next day with buddies or some sort of weapon to get even !!
A policeman (who is also a runner) was advocating on a popular forum that one should run with a gun (as he personally does). When he gets into a “situation” he shows his gun to warn potential aggressors off. Personally I think this is not only dangerous but outright stupid!! This might work for a trained cop (with a “cop” support system) but not for a regular person. If you do carry a weapon and pull it out when there is no other resort, then “USE IT”!! Also make sure that once used you call in your local law enforcement to take care of the perpetrator. You don’t want an injured, pissed and dangerous person to be waiting for you (this time concealed and with heavier armor) in the future.
Why not just change your route and look for a safer place to run? Keep an eye out for drunks and other “criminal” types. Awareness is the key to urban road running. Here is an incident I once had about 2 years back which sounds funny now but was pretty scary then!
I was running an 18km route and had just crossed the 11km mark near Indraprastha Metro Station on the Ring Road, when a drunk (and probably homeless guy) tried to aggressively accost me (I am not even sure if he was attacking me or just being overly friendly!!). I was running on the sidewalk and he was coming towards me. I was in speed and I reactively just moved my right shoulder ahead, and down (and finally up at impact) – hitting him with considerable momentum around his sternum. He literally flew several feet in the air and landed off the sidewalk on his backside, ran like hell after that (could hear his shouting & abuses for quite some time) and didn’t stop for a several kms till I was absolutely sure he wasn’t following me (then I stopped and actually laughed like crazy!!). Avoided that route for several months thereafter.
Good story now to tell over a beer, but was pretty scary when it happened. Consider myself lucky to have actually caught him off-guard.