Don’t let a dog chase you away from your daily run

Bad experiences will happen during your runs, but they are to be expected and you can turn them to your advantage

Change your route to avoid any bad encounters. Photograph: Getty Images

Change your route to avoid any bad encounters. Photograph: Getty Images


Q I am still happily running since reading “Run, Fat Bitch, Run” when it first came out. My only time to run though is first thing in the morning before work which is great as it sets me up for the day.

Only thing is I have been scared off after being chased by a dog a month ago and find it really hard to motivate myself to get out of bed now it’s so dark and cold.

Don’t tell me I am using the dog as an excuse as I was genuinely frightened.


A Well done for getting your run in first thing. It is the holy grail – to run in the mornings – as nothing sets you up for your day better than nailing your circuit before dawn.

Now for the bad news. I’m afraid, Mags, that you are using the dog as an excuse for not running. That being said, I do sympathise. I have experienced many a terrifying dog during a run, thinking I was going to be bitten or, worse, about to trample on a poor little mite that was unwittingly in my path. Frankly, any and all dog-related scenarios while out running are incredibly irksome, and a great deal more frightening in the dark when we can feel at our most vulnerable.

What do I do about it? Grit my teeth and run again anyway, focusing on all those runs which are dog free and where I run in blissful peace, especially those early morning ones where I feel as though I am the only person alive and getting a massive head start on my day over the rest of the world.

So Mags, the only thing for you to do is to break the cycle, to snap out of this running funk that you are in and force yourself to face that dog and that cold dark morning head on.

Prepare yourself in the following ways:

- Be seen: Wear light reflective clothing like a lollipop lady to keep safe and to alert dogs and dog owners to your presence, making it less likely that you will be bumped into.

- Choose your route carefully: Stick to the roads or tracks that feel safer in the dark and definitely stay away from the woods or anywhere that is obviously dangerous and isolated. Fantastic summer running circuits do not always make fantastic winter ones. So have a think about your route and change it if and where necessary.

- Put your mind at rest: If you have become paranoid about coming across a certain dog or person or any other frightening scenario, either alter your route or the time that you run to avoid it, or do something different

ly; go with a running buddy for example for the first couple of times, anything that puts your mind at rest and gives you confidence about getting out there again in the dark. When you have got out of the habit of the early morning run, it is hard to get back into it after a month’s setback like you have suffered especially during January. To that end:

- Be prepared: Have all your running stuff out and ready the night before so you can stumble out of bed and into your running kit with a minimum amount of effort, in fact with your eyes still closed. For added grit factor, set a second or third alarm clock out of reach of your bedside so you have to get out of bed to turn it off

– and quickly – before waking up the whole house.

- Time your run

Try to time your run with the sunrise, it is a truly magical experience to watch the breaking of the day while out running. Sets you up like nothing else.

Reassure yourself that there will always be the occasional freaky thing that happens during runs that scare us or puts us off or makes us feel vulnerable. You cruise along for a while and then – bam – something dramatic happens that gives you a wobble and takes you out of your comfort zone and it is very annoying.

We have to expect these occasional shockers during our runs – as we do during our lives – and try to see them as an intrinsic part of the experience, to stop us getting complacent and to keep us on red alert: always alive and keen to danger. No bad thing really.

The Grit Doctor says:

Focus on all those amazing runs that brought you this far. Don’t let one dodgy run ruin everything you have built. Dogs to that.

(Ruth Field is author of Run, Fat Bitch, Run and Get Your Shit Together.)

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