Seem to attract more than your fair share of unwelcome attention while out on your run? Find out from athlete Louise Damen how to avoid or handle it should it occur.

If I had money for every time that the words ‘’run Forrest, run’’ have been yelled at me whilst out running I’d have made a fair sum! Whether it’s ‘’knees up geez’’, ‘’keep on running’’ or in some cases something sexually suggestive, I’ve never been sure why people think that it’s acceptable to harass runners and exactly what they intend to achieve. With that in mind, here are some tips for avoiding or handling unsolicited attention on a run:

1. Don’t retaliate

Most of the time the people who shout patronising, rude or lewd comments are looking for a reaction. Often the best approach is not to give them the satisfaction and ignore them; they don’t dignify a reply. However, there are times when, if you are able to stay calm, and don’t fear for your safety then you can ask them how they would feel if it was their wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, daughter, son or friend who was subject to such harassment. After all if harassing behaviour isn’t challenged, it won’t be changed.

2. Report it if necessary

If the comments you receive whilst running are of a racial, sexual or homophobic nature then it’s definitely time to up the ante and report them to the police. If it’s appropriate and you are able to, then it’s definitely worth taking details of the company, organisation or even school that the offenders are from.

3. Vary your routes

Although this won’t completely eliminate the risk of being harassed, it’s a good idea to vary your routes. If you regularly run the same routes at the same time of day you’re more likely to become noticeable to potential harassers.

4. Consider your clothing

Unfortunately being catcalled or harassed is a disturbingly common occurrence amongst female runners . In fact a recent survey of 2000 women commissioned by England Athletics found that a third of women had been subject to some form of harassment whilst out running. Such unsolicited attention can be frightening, threatening and degrading.

Whilst women should of course be free and able to wear whatever they wish whilst running, the sad reality is that wearing short shorts and sports bras may make you more vulnerable to unwanted attention. For many women it is ultimately about finding the balance between feeling comfortable and feeling safe.

5. Canine chasers

It’s important to remember that sources of unwanted attention when running aren’t just reserved to fellow humans; whilst dogs can make excellent training partners, they can also be a runner’s worst nightmare. Despite it being both frustrating and sometimes frightening, the vast majority of dogs who give chase to runners are simply wanting to play.

If you start to receive unwanted attention from a dog it’s important not to make eye contact as this will signal to the dog that you want to play or in the worst case scenario, that you are a threat. Try to look over the dog’s head if possible.

If you are forced to stop then it’s best to turn sideways on to the dog and cross your arms as dogs tend to lose interest pretty quickly if you don’t engage in their game. If the dog is barking or is behaving aggressively then try if you can to avoid screaming as a loud, high pitched voice may activate the dog’s fighting instinct.