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Fleet Feet West Hartford Hosts ‘RunSafer’ Self Defense Class

Two-time Olympic distance runner and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Todd Williams demonstrates 'RunSafer' techniques at Fleet Feet West Hartford. Photo credit: Michelle Bonner

Two-time Olympic distance runner and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Todd Williams hosted a class in West Hartford on Wednesday evening.

Two-time Olympic distance runner and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Todd Williams demonstrates 'RunSafer' techniques at Fleet Feet West Hartford. Photo credit: Michelle Bonner

Two-time Olympic distance runner and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Todd Williams demonstrates ‘RunSafer’ techniques at Fleet Feet West Hartford. Photo credit: Michelle Bonner

By Michelle Bonner

With more than 300 days of sun, transparent blue skies, and little to no humidity, Arizona provides the foundation for a runner’s paradise, including hundreds of miles of running trails layered with sweeping panoramic views. But early one morning in 1999, Susan Satlin’s bliss was shattered when the sound of her feet hitting the ground turned into the noise of blood-curdling screams. “It’s such a blur, but still so real,” said Satlin, who was attacked by a man during her run.

“I just remember his arm around my neck and I started screaming like you’ve never heard anyone scream and then just like that he was gone, as if he was a ghost. When I got home I just sat on the couch thinking ‘Did that just happen?.”

Now a West Hartford resident, Satlin was among the community of runners who attended a “RunSafer” self defense class at Fleet Feet West Hartford on Wednesday night.

“It’s not something I’ve shared very much over the years,” said Satlin, adding, “I still get spooked and I still feel so violated and I still wonder if it will happen again. But I’m here tonight because I want to learn more about what I can do to better protect myself. You are your first line of defense and while I know my surroundings and keep myself visible, I can’t predict the unknown, but I can be prepared.”

And that was the sentiment of all the runners who attended the class hosted by two-time Olympic distance runner and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Todd Williams, who created RunSafer powered by ASICS with the goal of equipping runners and walkers with practical safety techniques, tips, and advice to increase personal safety awareness and offer potentially life-saving information.

“Whether you’re a runner, avid athlete or just enjoy a walk in the park, we’re not here to turn you into a pro fighter, but to give you the self-defense tools that might save your life,” said Williams, reminding his audience that “an assault occurs every two minutes.”

“As stewards of our local running and walking community, it is important for us to take the initiative to educate runners on how to protect themselves in a dangerous situation, especially in light of the recent assault on a runner in broad daylight on a public running path,” said Stephanie Blozy, owner of Fleet Feet Sports. “As the owner of a running store, I feel as though I have a responsibility to let our running community thrive.”

It took a long time for Satlin to once again enjoy the simple pleasure of learning the textures of the earth beneath her feet, but she refuses to play the victim. “I was lucky, I got out of it alive. It’s something I will never forget, but I am so grateful and so thankful that I can be here tonight to learn how I can fight should this ever happen again.”

Satlin may have surrendered a sense of security that morning back in 1999, but she hasn’t lost her sense of humor. “I don’t remember a lot about the attack, but what I do remember is I ran my fastest mile ever back to my house.”

If any runner falls prey to an attacker Williams’ RunSafer program offers safety tips for runners including:

  1. Safety Name – Come up with the name of an invisible man and yell that name
  2. Walk with Confidence – Eyes Up/Speak Up
  3. Don’t be Predictable
  4. Be Smart Listening to Music
  5. Go With Your Gut.
  6. Use Anything to Save Your Life

For more information on ways you can stay safe log on to www.runsafer.com.

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