Running into Danger

Running can be a dangerous sport, just take this year’s Guangzhou marathon where 12,000 out of the 20,000 runners were injured. For me, one of the biggest dangers when I go running is what is also called ‘man’s best friend’…that’s right, dogs.

In the UK, it’s better, dogs are usually kept on leads and I’m pretty sure there aren’t any stray dogs, also see Ben’s post about the running and the seven stages of dog . But here in China, dogs aren’t always kept on leads and there are lots of stray dogs.


When I see a dog out on a run, first, I look around and see if there’s an owner nearby who would be able to call it over, or keep it nearby, which they sometimes do automatically. If there’s not an owner, I assess the situation and try to figure out if it’s safer to run past it or turn around and run back. Most of the time, dogs don’t see me coming (I must run light-footed) so I have about 30 seconds to make my decision. I look at what the dog’s doing (can I run past it without it noticing me?), how fast I think it can run (would I be able to outrun it) and if it’s clean or dirty (I don’t want to get rabies). I also look for trees that I could jump up to get out of the way, ridiculous I know, but that’s fear for you.

There was a time when I ran through a small village at the back of the university, the paths were small and interesting, there were fat chickens waddling around, old people sitting on doorsteps etc, but there were also guard dogs. The guard dogs were locked inside front gardens, with leads and big metal fences, but when I ran past they barked really loudly and aggressively. I was so scared I’ve never ran that route again, despite it being really beautiful and natural.

I know that dogs actually don’t want to bite people, I’m not sure where my fear comes from and what I’m actually scared of. I thought I’d gotten over it a few years ago, but the fear is still there, especially when I’m running, which is when I feel most vulnerable as I’m often on my own, running in quiet places and without a mobile phone.




9 thoughts on “Running into Danger

      1. You should probably do so then. We don’t have dog problems here in the area of Canada I reside in, but when I run in more remote areas (for hill repeats) I carry pepper spray AND a whistle. A loud whistle. It actually scares dogs more and is more effective than pepper spray. Neither takes up any room in a hydration kit as well! Stay bite free, my friend! Cheers!

      2. Every dog is different. Fear biting is the most common reason dogs bite, and you usually have to be in close proximity for that to happen. If you come across a pack of dogs, that is very dangerous and I would be using caution and pepper spray. I’ve used a loud whistle with success, but I’ve also used pepper spray with great success. I am a dog lover, so it pains me to have to do it, but it is what it is. I am just lucky to live in an area where the situation does not often occur. Obviously, the best thing to do is not to run alone. Stay safe!

  1. As a runner, I think your fear of dogs is valid! In Central America, loose dogs were common, and many chased my husband and I. We planned our routes to stay away from them, but still, my husband was bitten once. Loose dogs are a healthy fear for a runner!

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