Todd Williams, a prolific runner with several high school state championships, SEC collegiate championships and two Olympic appearances to his name, will make multiple local appearances this week to help area runners learn how to protect themselves should the situation arise. Williams’s program, RunSafer presented by Asics, will make stops at the Naperville Running Company on June 17 and various Fleet Feet Sports locations around the area on June 19 and 21.
“I really enjoy educating,” Williams says. “It’s not just for runners, but for anyone active who could be in a dangerous situation.”
When Williams retired from professional running, he began to train in Brazilian jiu jitsu, eventually earning his black belt in the martial art in 2011. Two years ago, he brought the two together with the creation of RunSafer, a program that provides self-defense education and safety awareness to participants.
“I don’t say I’m going to turn anyone into a fighter in 60 minutes, but teach techniques you can use to buy yourself time to save your life,” Williams says. “Every second could be important if someone puts their hands on you. I show you what you can do to put time on the safety clock.”
During RunSafer workshops, Williams teaches attendees strategies for grip breaking, fighting on the ground and defending against an attack made from behind.
“I’ve broken it down to realistic techniques so everyone from age 10 to 80 can take away something and go, ‘That made sense, and I know I can use this and tell my loved ones about it,’” Williams says.
While portions of Williams’s workshops involve physical defense tactics, he also aims to instill confidence in attendees so they have the ability to use what they learn. Williams includes tips, such as having a name in mind to yell if someone attacks you, changing up your routes and using discretion when posting information on social media, that can also help you stay safe.
For those unable to attend a workshop, the RunSafer website features videos of defense movements. Williams encourages everyone to use the videos to practice the movements in order to keep them fresh in your mind should you ever need to use them.
“Chicago’s awesome for people to go outside and enjoy the waterfront,” Williams says. “It’s a great place for an active person. We’re not trying to scare people, but rather prepare them if anything went wrong.”
Clinics at the Naperville Running Company and Fleet Feet Sports – Old Town have sold out, but space still remains in those at Fleet Feet Sports – South Loop and Fleet Feet Sports – Oak Park on June 21.