📸 @sohboyum
📸 @sohboyum

There is lots to think about when heading out for a run —- like, what gear you should grab or what food to bring. However, to be aware and to ensure you’re as safe as possible there are several other things most of us should think through before going out. Experts Alison Mariella Désir, who is a mother, activist, and community builder, and Gina Lucrezi, founder of Trail Sisters, have some great insight into how we can all state safe when running streets and trails. Keep reading to find out how these women stay aware and how they’re making space for everyone to feel welcomed and like they belong.

📸 David Jaewon Oh
📸 David Jaewon Oh

HOKA: What is your favorite HOKA shoe and why?

Alison Désir: I love the Carbon X2! It’s the perfect long distance running shoe —- light and bouncy. I feel like I can run forever when I’m wearing them.

Gina Lucrezi: The Torrent 2! The Torrent 2 provides optimal cushioning to protect my body from rugged trail terrain while still allowing me to feel nimble on my feet. Lastly, the grip is aggressive and provides a solid bite especially when it comes to loose rocks and gravel.

HOKA: How would you describe what you do?

Alison Désir: I wear many hats and titles but generally speaking, I think of myself as a disruptor and a community builder. I’ve founded a few running movements (Harlem Run and Run 4 All Women) that are about changing the narrative of who is seen and celebrated as a runner. I’m also the co-chair of the Running Industry Diversity Coalition whose mission is to unite the running industry to provide resources, measure progress, and hold the industry accountable to accelerating progress towards equitable employment, leadership, and ownership and greater inclusion, visibility, and access for Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

Gina Lucrezi: I can tell you that I had no idea this would be the career path I’d take, but I’m sure glad to be on it. I’m passionate about a lot of things, but trail running and women’s opportunities are at the top of the list. Upon starting TrailSisters.net, I wanted to pull those two focuses together in an effort to create more participation and opportunities for women in trail running. To do this, I use three methods, 1) education 2) inspiration 3) empowerment. I develop programs and initiatives utilizing these methods, combined with community communication and interaction. The best way to get more people on the trails is to provide them with access to a welcoming community chalk full of knowledge and camaraderie.

📸 @sohboyum
📸 @sohboyum

HOKA: November is Runner’s Safety month what does runner’s safety mean to you?

Alison Désir: Runner’s safety has a few components to it. There is of course physical safety —- the notion that we will be free from physical harm when we go out for a run. But then there’s also emotional safety and intellectual safety which are just as important. The freedom to go for a run without feeling out of place, unwelcome —- the feeling of running in places that not just tolerate you but were built with you and your community in mind.

In order for safety to be present, all of these components must come together. Due to white supremacy, heteronormativity, patriarchy —- many of us do not have the opportunity to experience full safety while on the run.

Gina Lucrezi: Runner’s safety means many things to me, but I prefer to label and approach it as Runner’s Awareness. The word safety suggests thoughts of worry and fear, further embedding weakness and hesitation. The word awareness suggests curiosity and education, promoting strength and empowerment.

When you ask what it means to me, my first thought is wanting people to feel empowered by their abilities and knowledge when put in a precarious or uncomfortable situations. This means physically, mentally and emotionally, and in all places and aspects.

📸 David Jaewon Oh
📸 David Jaewon Oh

HOKA: Why is this a topic that we should all be talking more about?

Alison Désir: For a few reasons, most importantly, because there is real harm being done to people who do not have access to safety. It is unacceptable that anyone should be uncomfortable or fearful on the run particularly when the running industry has the resources to do something about it.

Gina Lucrezi: Instead of talking about it, I’d prefer to see more action being taken to educate runners and recreational enthusiasts on how to prepare for a successful and responsible adventure in the outdoors. As the Training Director and active member of Chaffee County Search and Rescue, I can tell you that most accidents or incidents can be avoided or conclude in a better outcome if the subject is prepared. I provide educational workshops at my retreats, provide information to anyone who asks, and am currently creating free courses on wilderness awareness practices.

HOKA: Why is runner’s safety something that you’re passionate about?

Alison Désir: Because it is a social justice issue and one that is rooted in a lack of equity. Equity means that everyone is given the resources they need to achieve the best possible outcome. This is different from equality where everyone is given the same resources. We cannot assume that everyone who decides to go for a run is on an equitable footing —- living in impoverished neighborhoods with unpaved roads, food deserts, unlit streets have an impact on the safety you might feel on a run. Running in a suburban neighborhood as a Black man can also end in deadly consequences because of racism and white supremacy.

Gina Lucrezi: I’m passionate about everyone’s safety and well-being. If runners are aware and prepared they will have a much more enjoyable adventure. This may lead to sharing their experience and influencing others to get outside as well. I don’t want the fear of safety concerns to hold people back from the opportunity to explore, meet new friends, develop healthy habits, and more.

I’m also passionate about organizations, brands, and media outlets doing their part in helping to educate runners about outdoor topics (weather, wildlife, etc.) instead of sensationalizing situations with scare tactics in order to sell products.

📸 @sohboyum
📸 @sohboyum

HOKA: What are three tips folks who run can use to ensure they are staying safe?

Alison Désir: Remember that while this should not be your responsibility, there are things that you can do to take better care of yourself.

  • Use a tracking device (I always use Strava beacon and share my location with my partner)
  • Try to run in areas that have good lighting (if running in early mornings or at night)
  • There is safety in numbers. Try running with a friend or joining a local running community. You may feel safer while developing deep friendships and connection.

Gina Lucrezi: 

  • Educate yourself on the area you will be running before you head out. What type of course is it? Are there trail junctions or multiple trails turns to be aware of? What type of wildlife is in the area? What is the weather forecast? Are there any public notices to be aware of?
  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back home. Additionally, give them a “what to do plan” if they do not hear from you.
  • Carry proper gear for your adventure, realizing items in your gear quiver may change based on where you go and how long you plan to be out. A good rule of thumb is to always make sure you have hydration, nutrition, cellphone, and wind or rain jacket. For backcountry adventures, add a headlamp, emergency blanket, gloves, and a head covering (BUFF or beanie).
  • And if you can, run with a friend or group. There is power and protection in numbers.
📸 David Jaewon Oh
📸 David Jaewon Oh

HOKA: What are some of the misconceptions // things folks never think about when it comes to being safe while running?

Alison Désir: I think the biggest misconception is that safety is something that we all experience or that we, as people with marginalized identities, must take responsibility for. Yes, of course there are things that we can do to protect ourselves and perhaps be less of a target but, in truth, it is actually the responsibility of those with privilege to fight for the conditions that will keep us safe.

That is to say, we need our allies to do better. For example, women will not stop being attacked so long as we live in a sexist society where boys and men are conditioned to believe that women exist for their pleasure and are taught that boys will be boys. We all need to come together to make running safe and available for everyone.

Gina Lucrezi: When dealing with trails and the backcountry, most assume the biggest threat to their safety is a human or animal predator. In reality, the biggest threats are weather, human error (getting lost, over estimating abilities), and our canine friends (dogs).

📸 @sohboyum
📸 @sohboyum

HOKA: As someone who works with folks who typically don’t see themselves out on the road and trails, is there any specific advice or tips you share with them?

Alison Désir: You belong here. Even when it doesn’t feel that way, you belong here.

Gina Lucrezi: As for my advice, I encourage these folks to go for it! I would love to see more diversity (in race, ethnicity, pace, size, ability, you name it!) in the sport, as it’s extremely important and desperately needed! I encourage folks to be leaders and to make that change. A great way to start is by recruiting a friend who may also be interested in running, and then joining a local running community together. Trail Sisters has over 130 Local groups across the country welcoming anyone who identifies as a woman. And if there isn’t a Trail Sisters Local group nearby, there are many other excellent groups and communities to join.

📸 David Jaewon Oh
📸 David Jaewon Oh