Lately, the news has been filled with cases of runners in bad situations –interactions with motorists that went poorly and stories of serious harm seem more common. In the majority of situations, runners have done everything they could to avoid harm, but we can never be too careful. Here are some of my favorite safety tips.
First, stay alert to your surroundings. I know many runners enjoy running with music piped directly to their ears through a variety of noise-cancelling headphones. It is safest to run without music, fully able to hear the world around you. If you must run with music, consider leaving one headphone out of your ear and keep the volume to the lowest possible level. This will enable you to hear things going on around you, and help you stay alert for dangers that may be difficult to see. You’ll also be a good running citizen when you can hear the instructions and prompts of those around you.
Run against traffic when on the roads, or on sidewalks when available. By facing oncoming traffic, you can observe the driving habits of cars near you. You can also react more quickly to danger you see coming.
Look both ways before crossing streets (and train tracks) and make sure the driver of the oncoming car acknowledges your right of way before entering the roadway. You may have the right of way, but you still need to obey traffic signals that apply to pedestrians. Cross only in designated crosswalks and be courteous of drivers. Consider using hand signals or pointing in the direction you wish to go. This lets motorists know where you’re headed next.
Wear bright clothing and clothing with reflective details for dusk and dawn runs. If you must run in very low light, wear a headlamp, or a vest with flashing front and rear lights. Vests with built-in LED lighting are inexpensive and easy to find on the internet. Wearing one if you must run in low light will make you significantly more visible to others.
Carry or wear identification. I use a RoadID, a small wrist band (also available as a shoe tag, ankle band, and comfort wristband on RoadID.com) that includes my basic information. At minimum, include your name, date of birth, and the contact number of someone who can help in the event you are medically incapacitated. I have a medical condition, so I’ve paid extra to obtain a RoadID with a special code that enables first responders to access my medical information online in the event I’m unable to speak for myself. In a pinch, you can write this information on the inside of your shoe.
Carry your cell phone, and a small amount of cash. You never know when you might need a ride, a tasty beverage, or a donut mid-run.
Vary your running routes. Run in familiar areas if possible, but try to avoid taking the same route over and over again. Make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you will be home. I share this information with a loved one or fellow runner (who knows this is important). There are also several run tracking apps available that provide real time tracking for runners to be shared with individuals you identify. Among the most popular are the RoadID app and RunSafe. Both have alerts that can be customized for use in the event of an emergency. Run with someone when you can, or in populated areas.
Be cautious about where and how you post your routes on social media, including run tracking apps. If you run often enough, you’ll be tempted to start tracking your runs with GPS and posting them to Gamin Connect, Strava, Nike Plus, or some similar social sharing site. Be sure that your security settings are at least somewhat private, or don’t post runs that start or end at your house. Protect your personal information. Be wary about posting routes on other social media sites if your privacy settings are loose.
Be nice to other people. Avoid verbal altercations. Mind your manners and be a good citizen.
Carry something that makes noise, or practice whistling. You may need to get someone’s attention, or alert wildlife to your presence. Being able to make a loud noise is good.
While we can’t fully protect ourselves from the unknown, we can all take basic steps to reduce risks while still enjoying the sport we love. I hope that you stay safe out there.