10 Threats You Should Never Try to Outrun

By: Chris Opfer  | 

grizzly bear
This grizzly bear may look sweet and innocent, but if it came down to a battle between you and her, you'd have no chance. Murguia©photography/Getty Images

Don't pull on Superman's cape. Don't spit in the wind. Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Avoid playing leap frog with a unicorn. There are plenty of things we humans simply shouldn't do and nearly just as many that folks give a shot anyway.

Take emergency situations. The first thing people normally do when faced with a threat, whether it's a tsunami or a grizzly bear, is try to get the heck out of dodge. Sometimes heading for the hills might put you in more danger than hunkering in place.

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Kenny Rogers sang, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away, know when to run." Take a cue from "The Gambler" and check out 10 of the most dangerous threats that you should never try to outrun.

10: A Tornado

Tornado
If you're on the road and see a tornado, never try to race it. You should get out of your car immediately and seek shelter. Mike Hollingshead/Getty Images

Most storm chasers you see on TV know well enough not to try to outrun a tornado. They stay far enough away from the storms to avoid their wrath, and they have expensive equipment on their trucks to know the tornado's path. For the rest of us amateurs, the best thing to do if we're caught on the road and a tornado you should never try to outrun it.

Cars and other vehicles can easily tossed by tornadic winds. Instead, if the storm is barreling down on you, it's safer to abandon your car and seek shelter in a nearby structure. If there are no safe buildings close where you can safely ride out the tornado, leave your vehicle and shelter in a low-lying area such as a ditch or ravine, covering your head and neck—and never shelter in a highway overpass [source: CDC].

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9: A Bear

grizzly bear
Grizzly bears can run as fast as 30 miles per hour. The average person can only run about 7 miles per hour. Enrique Aguirre Aves/Getty Images

Ever hear the one about Bob and Joe hiking in the woods when they come across a bear? Bob immediately prepares to make a dash for it by tying his shoes. Joe says, "What are you doing? You can't outrun a bear." Bob replies, "I don't have to outrun him. I just have to outrun you!"

Running away is a bad plan if you find yourself toe-to-toe with a grizzly, black or any other type of bear. While bears rarely attack, they are wild animals and therefore unpredictable. They can also run as fast as 30 miles (48 kilometers) an hour [source: National Park Service]. The good news is that they usually just want to be left alone. Encounter one in the great outdoors and your best bet is to back away slowly while facing the animal and avoiding direct eye contact.

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If the bear continues to follow, you'll likely have to go on the offensive. There are limited circumstances in which "playing dead" can help you. Namely, if you're being sized up by a mama grizzly or brown bear that sees you as a threat to her cubs. These bears are commonly found in the western U.S. and are distinguished from black bears by a shoulder hump and "dished" face [sources: Murray; PBS].

Under all other circumstances, it's best to get aggressive. Despite their size and strength, bears of all colors are intimated by loud noises and dangerous objects. Start by making yourself as big as possible — by going to higher ground, for instance. Shout at the bear, wave a stick and even throw rocks at it. Also, be sure you always carry bear spray in areas you might encounter these animals [sources: National Park Service; Murray].

8: The Police

running from cops
Running from the cops will usually get you slapped with the additional charge of resisting arrest. Even if you're innocent, it's best to submit to the handcuffs and challenge later. UpperCut Images/Getty Images/Uppercut RF

When you fight the law, the law usually wins. Not only is running from the cops a bad idea, but it's also likely to get you in more trouble than you if you had simply stuck around. In some jurisdictions, running could result in a resisting arrest or obstructing justice charge [source: Robinson].

The better course of action is to ask if you're being detained and simply walk away if the answer is "no." Even if you aren't doing anything wrong and think that the officer is exceeding his or her authority by stopping you for questioning, forcing you to empty your pockets or rifling around in your car, it's best to assert your objection and to calmly make clear that you don't consent to the officer's actions. Submit to a search or arrest, then challenge those actions in court if necessary [source: American Civil Liberties Union].

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7: A Flood

flood waters
As little as 6 inches of rising water can sweep you off your feet, while just 12 inches can float your car. Krashkraft Vincent/Getty Images

The best way to react to a severe flood situation is to do the exact opposite of what you would do in a tornado. In other words, seek the highest possible ground.

The inclination to run — or drive — away from rising floodwaters is understandable, but it's also dangerous. As little as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rising water can sweep you off your feet. And it takes just 12 inches (30 centimeters) of water is enough to float most vehicles and just 2 feet (0.6 meters) of rushing water to completely carry most cars away, including large SUVs and trucks [sources: National Weather Service].

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Floodwaters might also hide debris, potholes and even live, downed powerlines that could make roads impassable. If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and remember "Turn Around Don't Drown" [sources: National Weather Service].

6: Aggressive Dogs

scary dog
Not all dogs bite, but if you're about to be attacked, don't try to run away. Instead, fight back with all your might. dageldog/Getty Images

Perhaps the best cure for a shy bladder is the sight of an aggressive dog barreling toward you at full tilt. If that doesn't make you question every decision you've made in your life, probably nothing will.

Though many people think certain breeds (like pit bulls and Rottweilers) are more aggressive than others, any dog can bite, regardless of its breed. It's the dog's individual history and behavior, as well as the vulnerability of the person bitten, that usually is what determines how likely a dog will bite.

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What everyone agrees is that a person faced with a threatening canine shouldn't try to run away. Doing so may simply provoke the animal to attack. Plus, you're not going to be able to outrun it. Instead, let the dog attack something on you like your shirt or sweater. If the dog "takes the bait," let them pull it off you — the dog thinks he's gotten a piece of you and you can escape slowly. If that doesn't work and the dog bites you, fight back. Hit the dog in the throat; yell for help. Just fight like your life depends on it, because it just might.

5: A Rip Current

rip current
If you're caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shoreline until you escape the current instead of trying to swim toward the shore. Zoonar/N.Okhitin/Getty Images/Zoonar RF

Most people won't be outrunning a rip current; they will be trying to outswim one. Rip currents are unexpectedly strong currents that form at low spots or breaks in a sandbar. They can move at speeds of up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) per second. Swimming toward shore might be your first move when a leisurely dip in the ocean is threatened by a powerful current channel, but it could also be your last [sources: National Ocean Service].

Experts say that the currents are tough to outswim, and those who try to do so may become fatigued (and risk drowning) before reaching dry land. Instead, swim perpendicular to the riptide (parallel to the beach). It's likely to be less than 100 feet (30 meters) wide. If that doesn't work, lie flat on your back and let the current take you away from shore until you've passed beyond it. Then try swimming around it or to shore [sources: National Ocean Service].

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4: An Earthquake

earthquake drill
Third-grade students in San Francisco take cover under desks as they participate in the 'Great California ShakeOut' earthquake drill in 2011. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As in all the other emergency scenarios we've gone through so far, it's important to remain calm when the Earth starts a-shakin'. If you're indoors during an earthquake, get away from windows, drop under a sturdy table, desk or other protective area and cover your head. Failing that, go to an interior wall in the house and protect your head.

If you're outside, move to an open area away from buildings, power lines and other potential hazards that could come down down during an earthquake. If you're driving, get your vehicle out of traffic and park it somewhere that's also clear of trees, signs, traffic signals and light posts if possible [sources: CDEMA].

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Whatever you do, just don't run. Most earthquake injuries occur when people are hit by falling objects while trying to enter or exit a building.

3: An Active Shooter

Run, Hide, Fight
The FBI tells folks that the best response to an active shooter situation is "Run, Hide, Fight." The running here, of course, is to get to a safe place rather than running away from the shooter. Thomas_EyeDesign/Getty Images

Whether it's at a school, in a grocery store or at a movie theater, an active gunman poses not only a serious threat, but also one that's largely unpredictable. Just like a roving bear or aggressive dog, a gunman's attention is likely to be drawn to moving objects. It's also impossible to outrun a bullet.

The FBI tells folks that the best response to an active shooter situation is "Run, Hide, Fight." But the "run" part of that plan is more about getting to a safe place than actually outrunning the gunman. The safest place may be outside of the building, but it may also be in a locked room or office or behind some sort of barricade. That's where the "hide" part comes in. Meanwhile, "fight" is a last resort that should be implemented only when you have no other option [sources: FBI, University of Delaware].

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2: Wolves

black wolf
Wolves tend to hunt in packs, though you could encounter a lone wolf who's exceptionally aggressive. Colleen Gara/Getty Images

The trouble with wolves is that they like to travel in packs in search of prey. If you happen upon them — or them upon you — running for your dear life is likely to make you look like potential prey. Fortunately, the chance of encountering wolves in the wild is pretty slim, and even if you do, they usually won't pounce [source: Spector].

Wolves are hunters by nature. They're coursing predators that prefer to take their prey on the run and are unlikely to attack otherwise. However, it's best to take the experts at their word and avoid testing them. That means moving away slowly without making direct eye contact.

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Despite their pack behavior, wolves prefer to be left alone by humans and can be easily frightened off if you do it correctly. If they advance, make yourself appear as big as possible and yell at them to try to scare them off. If all else fails, curl yourself into a ball, cover your face and wait (pray?) for the attack to be over [source: Spector].

1: A Crocodile

crocodile
A crocodile can run as fast as you, so if you see one in your yard or on the golf course, just back away slowly and leave it alone. Alan Vernon/Getty Images

Crocodile Dundee had a preternatural ability to lull crocs to sleep by making a strange inverted "surf's up!" hand gesture and weird noises. You are not Crocodile Dundee. If you come across a croc on a golf course or in your backyard, you are likely to run. That's a bad idea. It's only likely to aggravate them. Not to mention, a crocodile can run as fast as a human [source: Hickman].

The best course of action is to back away slowly and try not to attract any attention, which — as you can tell by now — is the "go-to" strategy for dealing with dangerous animals. If that doesn't work, go for the eyes. In 2011, an Australian miner named Eddie Sigai successfully fought off an attacking crocodile after being dragged underwater by one of the razor-toothed beasts. How'd Eddie pull it off? By making like a professional wrestler and gouging the croc in the eyes. Experts say it's one of few viable options, crocodiles jaws are too strong to unclench — especially if you're trying to do it with one arm — and its skin is thick enough to fend off ward off punching and stabbing [sources: Hickman, BBC].

Originally Published: Jul 21, 2014

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Author's Note: 10 Threats You Should Never Try to Outrun

Here's one thing you can outrun: death by old age. A 2012 study out of Norway concluded that moderate runners can increase their life expectancy by more than five years. The common thinking that high-impact exercise like jogging does more harm than good to older folks simply isn't true, if you ask another set of researchers who assessed the correlation between exercise and osteoarthritis in 2013. They found that people who engaged in running were less likely to need hip and knee replacements. Looks like grannie needs a new pair of running shoes.

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