www.redeyechicago.com/news/local/redeye-runners-selfdefense-safety-tips-20140425,0,577245.story

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Runners self-defense workshop

Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco

RedEye

11:54 AM CDT, April 25, 2014

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Thousands of people use the lakefront path to walk, bike and run. While many trail users along the lakefront feel safe, crime does happen near the path.

Two-time Olympic long-distance runner and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Todd Williams knows that safety is top of mind for users. On Sunday, he's bringing RunSafer, a program presented by Asics that he created, to Chicago for the first time.

The free one-hour workshop on self-defense techniques and safety tips will be held at 11 a.m. at Fleet Feet Sports' Old Town location and at 6:30 p.m. at its South Loop store.

His goal is to give runners, joggers and walkers some tips and techniques that if attacked will buy them time to frustrate the attacker, potentially get someone to help them or break away and get to a safety zone.

"We're not going to turn anybody into a fighter in 60 minutes. But I can give them something they've never had before on the safety side," said Williams. "It's just a cool way to make a runner's experience a little bit better."

It's not to scare people away from running, but to get them prepared to defend themselves, he said.

Throughout the year, crimes, such as robbery, battery and theft, are reported along the 18-mile trail from Ardmore Avenue to 71st Street.

RedEye submitted a FOIA request for a random sample of reported incidents near the path.

For instance, a 50-year-old woman was talking on her phone as she walked along the lakefront at 9:45 a.m. on April 22, 2013 near the 3700 block of South Lake Shore Drive, according to a police report. That's when someone grabbed her from behind and tried to wrestle her down to the ground. She screamed, "Someone called the police." She was able to take Mace out of her pocket and spray him in the face, the report said.

Another example is a 26-year-old man running north on the trail at 9 p.m. on Oct. 8. He saw four men standing at the side of the path in the 4500 block of North Lake Shore Drive. He ran past them and one man came from behind and punched him, according to a police report. As the other men started approaching him, another jogger came by and helped pushed them away. The runner yelled to the nearby soccer field for help. Players came to help, and the group of men fled.

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