Community Ottawa police officer, and runner, on how to stay safe on a...

    Ottawa police officer, and runner, on how to stay safe on a run


    Michelle Baird, pictured above, racing, is a police officer and an ultramarathon runner and she read the iRun story on Amanda Richardson with shock. “That has to be a one in a million experience,” she said, about Richardson’s trip to the track with her girlfriends to celebrate her fortieth birthday and being struck, while on a run, in the face. 

    Reading the story, like a lot of runners and readers, Baird felt outrage. But she also has an important message, given her years in law enforcement, to share: “That’s not happening every day.” 

    It’s a message comforting to hear and, given the highly-charged atmosphere of our times, important to remember.

    Running by and large is safe, Baird says, and she says there are easy tips for runners to follow while out on a run: 

    • Wear bright clothing 
    • Cross at crosswalks and stop lights 
    • If you’re running alone, make sure someone knows where you’re going and how long you’re going for 
    • Bring your phone If something spooks you, leave 

    In the wintertime, Baird stops running the trails near her home in Ottawa and instead hits the sidewalks and streets. “With the cold weather, our phones tend to die much sooner than they normally would, so it’s important to let someone know where you are,” Baird adds. She says the most important thing is to run where it’s lit. And, if heaven forbid, you do find yourself in a situation like Richardson, and you’re running with a group and it’s light and you have your phones, if you see a situation developing—even potentially—it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

    “If anything is making you feel uncomfortable, a gut feeling is enough to make you react,” says Baird, who recommends either running in a different direction if spotting something unusual or else just taking out your phone. “Sometimes, just the appearance of a phone can deter.”  

    The holidays can be a tough time for a lot of people, Baird adds, and she says that COVID has been hard on people. Remember compassion. Remember empathy. The majority of calls she receives in Ottawa are for mental health issues. “You never know,” she says, “Who’s suffering from what.”

    This holiday, run with a group, run where it’s lit, and always bring your phone. Make sure someone knows where you are and when you’ll be back and, if the worst thing happens and you are attacked, try and take down whatever details you can and immediately call the police. 

    Those details might go towards the would-be assailant being captured before he or she can strike again.