Birmingham businesswoman Lora Whitehead started running at 20 and has spent her entire adult life pursuing this passion.
If you’re a runner, you understand how tight-knit the running community is in Alabama.
It’s no surprise, then, that women across the state are now having conversations about how best to protect themselves after the recent murder of Memphis mother and teacher Eliza Fletcher.
“I’m from Birmingham and graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham,” Whitehead said. “I have been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for six and a half years. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a self-defense/combat martial art that includes grapples, ground sparring, submission grapples, and throws. most every fight will end on the ground, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu takes the fight to the ground and can help you control the outcome of a fight, neutralize your opponent, and get through it. 2016 and I was immediately hooked.
And since then, Whitehead has tried to help other women, especially runners, prepare for any type of attack.
“My main advice is to always practice situational awareness: look up, look at the people around you, and make frequent eye contact,” she explained. “Trust and commitment are big deterrents. In every class I’ve taught in the past, almost every student is shocked by how quickly a random violent attack can happen. Another tip is to have a GPS watch or run with your phone and share your location with someone you trust. I constantly share mine with two of my best friends, one of whom is also a runner. As a morning runner myself, I also wear bone conduction headphones.These sit on the outside of the ear and let me be able to hear vehicles or foot traffic around me. would be to encourage female runners to enroll in some type of martial arts training, not just one or two self-defense classes, but several weeks or even months of regular training.”
And luckily for women in Alabama, those classes are available this fall.
“Anyone who wants to try a jiu-jitsu class would be welcome at our school, Heroes Martial Arts Academy, at our Trussville or Vestavia Hills locations,” Whitehead offered. “I have been training under Coach Chris Mize and his team for almost 7 years, and they truly are like second family to me. The level of expertise and knowledge that Coach Mize possesses is without doubt. previous, and even 1-2 courses would greatly benefit someone without prior training.”
Whitehead says it’s important to educate the community that blaming the victim isn’t helpful. For example, some critics said that Eliza Fletcher shouldn’t have run alone in the dark.
“These kinds of comments upset me,” Whitehead lamented. “I find it shameful that people are willing to blame the predatory behavior of an abuser on an innocent victim. worrying about their safety to the point of overthinking every little detail of something like a run, a walk, or even walking to their vehicle when leaving a store.”
Even though Fletcher’s murder took place in another state, Whitehead said the death of a runner affects all runners.
“The outpouring of concern and attention I’ve witnessed from the local running community has been exceptional,” Whitehouse said. “I have quite a few runner friends on social media and recently scrolled to find friends sharing virtual events such as ‘Finish Eliza’s Run’, as well as others sharing heartfelt messages about how when a runner is taken from us, it impacts us all. Some of these messages have been incredibly moving and inspiring to see. It has been such a heartbreaking case, and it is one of those situations that reverberates throughout the whole running community and get runners thinking, ‘That could be me.'”
Whitehead said while some people don’t like to talk about it, women should also be trained in the use of a firearm and consider running with it.
“I realize that’s not always popular opinion, but my advice is that if you’re comfortable with being armed and you’ve practiced often and well, then it’s a good idea. That’s his option. If one isn’t comfortable with that option, however, I would strongly advise enrolling in martial arts classes or, at the very least, wearing pepper spray and to be ready to race,” said Whitehead.
“I know how easy it is to be left out while you’re running or how complacent we can be in a familiar area,” she added. “I also know that many runners, myself included, often run alone. This aspect makes them more sensitive, I would say. I believe that people these days who are constantly on their phone or not paying attention to what is happening around them are just as easily targeted.Violence also tends to be random in nature and can happen so quickly that there is little, if any, time to react.
If you want to take some self-defense jiu-jitsu training with Whitehead, she can arrange the classes at the Heroes Martial Arts Academy. In the past, the money raised went to the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Trailblazer Challenge.
“My best friend and I participated as a fundraising/hike team for the Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge,” Whitehead said. “Make-A-Wish Alabama invites people to participate in the Trailblaze Challenge to raise money to grant wishes for seriously ill children here in Alabama. Heroes Academy and I hosted a self-defense class as part of my fundraiser this year On an incredibly impressive note, my best friend completed the 26.3 mile hike on the Pinhoti Trail at 36 weeks pregnant last year!
“I have met some amazing people through this organization and look forward to participating again in 2023. I greatly admire the work they do for the children here in this state, and it was a joy to see this what a wish means to a child,” Whitehead added. “I know times are tough right now for almost everyone, but I’d like everyone reading this to donate $1 to Make-A-Wish Alabama. They do life-changing work and full of hope for children here in Alabama!”
Whitehead pointed out that each of us can become a victim.
“I would like to remind every woman who reads this article to be vigilant and to be aware and understand that we do not live in an ideal world,” she advised. “There are predators walking free all the time when they should never be allowed to, so I implore you all to seek proper training and be prepared to defend yourself.”
To contact Heroes Martial Arts Academy or arrange training, email [email protected]
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected]
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