The world is so full of dangers we can’t outrun—tornados, bears, bullets—that you might be asking, “Why did I buy these expensive running shoes anyway?” But don’t lose hope: Running away isn’t the answer in most dangerous situations, but there are a few things we can successfully flee on foot.
The slow loris
The slow loris is an adorable-looking primate from Asia, but don’t let its wide-eyed, Gizmo from Gremlins face fool you: They are nasty creatures. The bite of the slow loris is toxic, if they want it to be. Loris poison is delivered via noxious glands in their armpits. If a slow loris gets mad at another slow loris, they lick their armpit-poison-glands and deliver a poison-dosed bite. The poison is of the flesh-eating variety, so some slow lorises walk around with half melted faces. (Nature is so fucking gross.) Don’t worry too much about the slow loris, though: They don’t generally attack humans, preferring to hide in the trees and become nearly extinct, but if you did manage to piss off a slow loris (and I think you could do it), you could outrun it easily. The name is no joke: They move at a languid 1.18 miles per hour, slower than my grandma walks.
There are many natural disaster we can’t outrun—hurricanes, floods, meteors, tornadoes—but you can at least beat flowing lava in a footrace; most of the time, anyway. The fastest lava flow ever officially recorded was only six miles-per-hour, a slow jog or brisk walk. Most lava flows are slower still, so you could basically stroll away from them and not break a sweat (besides the sweat from the proximity of molten rock, of course). But there’s a catch.
Lava flows slowly because it is a rapidly solidifying liquid, but if the lava is flowing down a lava tube or channel that’s keeping it hot, and the surface is steep, it can flow very, very quickly—up to 35 miles-per-hour. No one can outrun that.
Every animal on earth
This is not useful in any survival situation I can think of, but people are the fastest land animals on earth, faster than horses, cheetahs, and bears, as long as the distance is long enough. People can run for hours and hours nonstop, where other animals have to take breathers more frequently. So as long as your animal foe is interested in a fair athletic completion instead of chasing you down to maul and eat you, you got this.
An attacker taking you to a second location
If you are ever attacked, and your assailant says they are taking you to another place, go ahead and run, yell, fight, vomit, or deliberately crash the car. Do whatever, because they’re probably going to kill you if they get you to the new place.
This is the conventional, often-repeated wisdom about random attacks. It seems to have originated with crime expert Sanford Strong who gave the advice on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1991. It obviously caught on, partly because it contradicts the previous conventional wisdom, which was more like “do whatever your attacker says.” I’m not fully convinced that this is definitely the best way to survive any encounter like this, because I don’t think there are enough cases to draw a firm conclusion from, but on the balance, it’s probably better to try to do something than wait for your fate.
Most ants are just annoying, but some are nasty. A bite or sting from the most dangerous kind of ant, the bulldog ant, is enough to kill a grown man in minutes. Thankfully, that’s rare. Only three fatalities have been attributed to this aggressive insect species since 1936. But even though you probably won’t die from an ant attack, they can be extremely painful. Luckily, you can successfully run away from an ant.
The fastest ant, the Sahara silver ant, only travels about 2 miles-per-hour, so you’re faster than every ant on the planet! If the ant was as big as a human, though, it would be traveling at 400 miles-per-hour, so don’t get a big head about it.
Usually running won’t help, though. Ant bites come from not realizing the ants are sneaking up on you until it’s too late. Don’t let that stop you from disturbing an hill of attack ants and running away though. It’s a great prank on ‘em.
The fastest spider, the giant house spider, moves at 1.2 mph. That’s pretty slow, until you really think about a spider skittering across the floor towards you at that speed. Still, a basically mobile person can outrun a giant house spider, and any other spider, without much problem. Spiders are generally sprinters too, and need to take breaks frequently when moving at top speeds.
The problem with spiders is that they don’t usually engage in out-and-out footraces. They’re sneaky and small and they will get you while you are asleep, or hide in the corner of the potting shed, waiting for your tasty finger to appear.
A toxic relationship
I know it feels like you’re trapped in your loveless marriage or your loveless three-week stand, but you’re not! You can run away and free yourself through physical distance. Just don’t answer the texts or emails and you’ll be good most of the time.
Whether you could physically outrun your relationship partner obviously depends on the person, but as the leaving-party, you get a head-start, so you could be across the state line before they even know you’re gone.
You shouldn’t ever run away from the police, because we live in a nation of laws, and you’re an upstanding citizen who has done nothing wrong, but hypothetically, you could, and there’s a chance you’d get away.
It’s obviously a case-by-case thing, but some cops are woefully out-of-shape, and they’re carrying heavy equipment, so a healthy person might beat a pudgy cop in a footrace.
The penalties vary from location to location, but evading the police on foot (don’t try this in a car!) is often charged as a misdemeanor, so depending on the crime you’ve committed, it might be a good bet to hoof it. If you’re guilty of something serious, how much is man extra misdemeanor going to matter? But remember: Cops have guns, and you can’t outrun a bullet. So don’t run from the cops.
I’m stretching the definition of “run” here, but you can at least outlast your creditors. Most debts “fall off” your credit rating in seven years, and the statute of limitations on collecting debts through the courts ends with time as well, usually between three and six years. Exactly how long you’ll need to dodge your creditors varies with the type of debt and where you live, but it’s at least an option, and sometimes the right choice. It’s also sometimes the only choice you have, if you’re broke, because Capitalism is heartless. (I know the morally right choice is pay back the money you owe, but strategic defaults are used by the kinds of people who lend money all the time, so I wouldn’t sweat it too much.)
Waiting out your creditors is only likely to work if the amount you owe is small enough that it wouldn’t be worth suing you for it. You don’t want that, because they can collect through garnishing your wages or taking your assets.
Generally, the clock starts ticking when a debt is sent to collections, so keep track of this date if you’re going the deadbeat route. Then look up your state laws to see how long you have to deal with this nonsense. When the collection agency calls (and they will, repeatedly), do not pick up the phone. If you accidentally do, do not admit the debt is yours. Do not promise to pay it back, set up a plan, or make a small payment at any point during the collection window. All of these actions can restart the clock. Don’t be intimidated by legal threats, either, if you’re sure it’s not worth it to sue you. And don’t be surprised if creditors call your friends and family and ask them to tell you to pay your debts.
If you’ve successfully waited out your creditors, be aware that they can still try to collect. They just can’t harass you or threaten you with legal action. Once the debt is old, they usually have no power to do anything, except the power to be annoying.
When it comes to animal attacks, often you don’t have to outrun the animal to avoid being eaten; you just have to outrun your friend.