CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Following the abduction and murder of Memphis jogger, Eliza Fletcher, local runners are on high alert and forced to think about their safety.

“As a wife and mom myself, this story just hits home. I’m about the same age. It’s just scary,” said Tara Clary, a member of the runners’ group, “We Off The Couch,” in Richmond. “It makes me angry that this is even the reality. You never think that if you go out for a run that you won’t make it home.”

Clary said safety is talked about often within her group and running together is a requirement.

“We go in groups. We try to be mindful of daylight, so if it’s sunset, we wear reflective gear,” she said. “A lot of our members are licensed to carry, so it’s talked about a lot.”

Keith English with “Defend Yourself Virginia,” added more tips for runners, including:

  • Never run alone
  • Vary your route
  • Run with one earbud instead of two
  • Never use public restrooms
  • Never run near roadways

He also said understanding self-defense techniques is critical in situations like Fletcher’s.

“Self-defense is crucial. It’s something you have to think about every day,” he said. “It’s multi-layered. You have to think about where you go, how you get there, who is going to be there with you, and those things are important to save yourself and the people you’re with.”

“We train specifically self-defense, street level. You don’t have to be a black belt. You can learn techniques quickly. It has no physicality,” he said. “In fact, predators tend to pick people who are less fit because it’s less of a challenge to them.”

In the past year, English said his classes have tripled in size with the majority of his students being women. He encourages everyone to take a self-defense class, saying you don’t have to be ‘fit’ or ‘in shape’ to protect yourself.