Have you made a New Year’s Resolution to exercise more? If running is going to be your go-to exercise, here are some important safety reminders before you tie up those trainers and head out on the roads. (Note: I drafted this nearly a month ago and in the recent weeks a friend of mine from high school was hit by a car while training for the Boston Marathon. Please, please, PLEASE be careful out there!)
Run against traffic. Make eye contact with oncoming traffic and always have an “escape route” in case the oncoming cars don’t see you or you think they aren’t giving enough space. (Seeing someone driving towards you texting is nothing short of terrifying!) While some say to run the tangents, it’s difficult for traffic to see you on some of the windy roads we have in Fairfield County, so save tangents for race day and add that extra few feet to cross and take the outside curve – it might make a big difference. When I ran with my stroller (for four years!), I rarely ran on roads. I picked trails, parks with paved paths, or roads I knew had wide sidewalks and little road traffic. I also have been known to put reflective tape or battery-operated Christmas lights on my BOB. When there are sidewalks, please use them instead of running in the road. It’s safer and better on your IT bands because of the road slant. Just be careful of sidewalk bumps – I’ve been on the receiving end of that!
Always run with your phone. Sorry to be a pessimist, but with all the miles I’ve logged, there have been some emergencies. Like the time I got stung by a bee on the lip (I had never been stung before and thought I might be allergic)…or when I tripped and cut my leg wide open…or when my husband just couldn’t run one step farther. In this day and age of good cell service, having your phone with you is a must. If you are running alone, also carry an ID and a few bucks. I love my Road ID bracelet and know it gives my family peace of mind. My BRF carries her phone in one hand and mace in the other.
Eliminate distractions. I love my jams more than anyone (they inspire, get my feet going and Pitbull knows just what to say to get me to run up a hill…) but I don’t listen to music when I run outside, alone or in the dark. Being aware of your surroundings includes listening to oncoming traffic, rustling in the bushes, and anyone who might be running with you.
Run with a group whenever possible. Find a local running store (they usually have weekly group runs – hi RRC!), a Facebook group, or running group like Moms Run This Town – link. If you have to run solo, tell someone your route ahead of time or use an app like “Find Friends” for a quick and accurate GPS location. Communicate with your group throughout your run by talking about what you see and hear. “Car up!” and “car back” are heard intermittently between our everyday banter and only occasionally mixed with a squeal when eyes are spotted in the woods. When a car is approaching (from either direction), shift into a single-file line to facilitate car passage. Additionally, when using sites like mapmyrun or Strava – I don’t accept friend requests from anyone I don’t know. While I love the connectivity of social media for races and training inspiration, I don’t like strangers knowing where/when I run. I prefer to use hashtags on my Instagram posts.
Be seen. Normally a light-of-day runner, I’ve recently conquered my fear of running in the dark. (I’m still terrified of nocturnal animals and we’ve got a lot of them around here.) If you are going to be running in the early morning or late afternoon/evening, it’s best to have some serious reflective gear. (Winter darkness comes early and stays a while!) My friends and I must look hilarious to drivers (and deer!) who see us out on the roads but, hey, our headlamps, LED lights, knuckle lights, wrist glow bands and neon yellow jackets ensure that we are seen from quite a distance. I love my reflective pants and my Tracer360 (NoxGear – image at left) is awesome!
Mix up your schedule. Avoid doing the same route at the same time. Change your starting location, route or even do your ‘usual’ loop backwards. This unpredictability will prevent other potential safety issues.
What are your best running safety tips?