I’ve been running for a long time and I’ve seen some crazy stuff in all those years. I mean some real crazy stuff.
Some of it has been legal, others not so legal, but regardless of the legality of the actions, my point is this: there are some real wacky people in this world.
I’ve had coins thrown at me.
Been chased off roads.
Liquids thrown at me.
Witnessed stop sign blow-throughs.
And of course the ever so clever comedian shouting, “Run, Forrest, Run”. Honestly, you name it and I’ve probably seen it or heard from other runners that experienced it.
Since we can’t control what other people do [and their stupid actions], we can really only focus on what we do and how we can stay safe when we are out running.
Let’s be honest: part of the appeal of distance running is that we get to run all over the place. Hills, trails, roads, sidewalks, parks…
So today, we’ll be looking at how we can stay safe while we do what we love.
Tip # 1 – Headphones
Headphones have extended a number of my runs where I haven’t quite felt like logging miles. Usually – probably around 95% of the time – I listen to podcasts though. In my defense to podcast-listening, I feel as if they are loud enough for me to hear, but not that loud that I can’t hear a car, bike, person or goose (yes, goose) coming up behind me.
That being said, listening to loud music can pump you up and make you work harder or longer, but you definitely can’t hear traffic. So whatever your listening pleasure, make sure to mind the volume. You want to be able to hear things [traffic, pedestrians, animals, etc] and loud music prevents that from happening.
Tip # 2 – Direction of Traffic
When I was running in college at Villanova, the roads were narrow with lots of twists and turns. We had to run right on the shoulder – sometimes even in the grit off the road to avoid being hit by a speedy oncoming car. While no one ever got hit [that I know of], it certainly makes for some heart-pounding runs. Running against traffic isn’t something you should think about doing – it’s absolutely necessary.
It’s one thing for a car not to see you, it’s another for you AND a car not to see each other. When cars are coming toward you, at least you can see them and make a quick decision about what to do. When cars are coming from behind you, you really don’t have a chance to react. It’s also the law to run this way.
Tip # 3 – Clothing
Wearing the right gear helps keep you cool and allows you to have a good run. Minimizing blisters and chafing is a good thing. That’s a fact. But being seen [especially at night] can literally keep you alive. Reflective gear (shoes included) is designed to reflect a car’s lights so you can be seen when you’d otherwise not be.
Dark clothes in the summer is not only going to make you hotter and more miserable, but running in the dark with darker clothes on is so, so dangerous. Be seen by wearing some kind of light colors or something with reflective material on it.
Tip # 4 – Be Known
When you’re heading out for a run, let someone know where you’re going. Even if you tell them the direction you’re most likely heading in helps them in case they need to come look for you. I usually tell my wife which neighborhood or general direction I’m heading in and roughly how long I’ll be gone.
Letting someone know where you’re going is crucial in the off chance something happens to you. Instead of shooting in the dark on where to look for you, they have a starting point for searching.
Tip # 5 – Vary your Route
Varying your route is so that you are no predictable in the crazy, off chance that someone is following you. If someone who has bad intentions knows that every Monday you run by yourself at the same time going the same direction… You get the idea.
Tip # 6 – Run with Someone
People (idiots) with nothing better to do are less likely to do something if you’re not by yourself. There’s something to be said about strength of numbers and that’s the case with running. When in doubt, running with someone will not only make you a safer runner, but chances are you’ll be a faster runner too.
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This isn’t a doom and gloom post, but one that is designed to help you make smarter decisions about how, where and when you decide to run. Having a plan and telling someone about it is a safe and smart decision to make.
We have to do our very best to take care of ourselves when we are out running. The tips above are simple. So simple! But they are there so that you are reminded to pay attention and take these small layers of precaution to keep you upright and safe. At the end of the day, that’s really what we want: to be healthy and to feel safe.
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Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!
Marc is a middle school teacher and coach but also works with distance runners online. I help distance runners around the globe by providing support, writing customized training plans and designing workouts to help them reach their racing goals. I write for my blog every Wednesday morning and newsletter every Friday morning.