Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Running Safely

Like anything else in life, you should approach running with safety as your first objective.  No matter what time of day you run, where you run or what conditions you run in, staying safe should be your main concern. After all you are running to stay fit and being fit and not being safe doesn’t compute.  Here are some safety tips for running as adopted from the Road Runners Club of America and from personal experience.
  • Don’t wear headphones. Use your ears to be aware of your surroundings. Your ears may help you avoid dangers your eyes may miss during evening or early morning runs.  IF you must wear headphones, use only one ear bud in the left ear as you run against traffic. This will allow you to still hear any traffic coming from behind you. I have recently started using the speaker on my iPhone to play my music that allows me to hear my surroundings and still enjoy some music.
  • Run against traffic so you can observe approaching automobiles. By facing on-coming traffic, you may be able to react quicker than if it is behind you.
  • Look both ways before crossing. Be sure the driver of a car acknowledges your right-of-way before crossing in front of a vehicle. Obey traffic signals.
  • Carry identification or write your name, phone number, and blood type on the inside sole of your running shoe. Include any medical information.  I prefer to wear a My Road Id ( at all times.
  • Always stay alert and aware of what’s going on around you. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are.
  • Carry a cell phone or change for a phone call. Know the locations of public phones along your regular route.
  • Trust your intuition about a person or an area. React on your intuition and avoid a person or situation if you’re unsure. If something tells you a situation is not “right”, it isn’t.
  • Alter or vary your running route pattern; run in familiar areas if possible. In unfamiliar areas, such as while traveling, contact a local RRCA club or running store. Know where open businesses or stores are located in case of emergency. When traveling I map out a running route the day before and drive the route in my car. I also inform anyone I am traveling with or meeting with of my route and what time I plan to start and be done with my run.
  • Run with a partner. Run with a dog.  A big, mean dog!  If you can run with a friend. Not only is it safe, it sure makes your runs, especially the longer runs more fun.
  • Write down or leave word of the direction of your run. Tell friends and family of your favorite running routes.
  • Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets, and overgrown trails. Avoid unlit areas, especially at night. Run clear of parked cars or bushes.
  • Ignore verbal harassment and do not verbally harass others. Use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Look directly at others and be observant, but keep your distance and keep moving.
  • Wear reflective material if you must run before dawn or after dark. Avoid running on the street when it is dark.  I always wear a head lamp (usually around my waist) and wear flashing lights, especially on my side that is facing traffic.  My Road ID has a nice selection of flashing lights in various colors.
  • Practice memorizing license tags or identifying characteristics of strangers.
  • Carry a noisemaker. Get training in self-defense.  I know of some runners that run with pepper spray and a few that even carry had held shock units that give enough of a charge to make a would be attacker or dog think twice before attacking further.
  • When using multi-use trails, follow the rules of the road. If you alter your direction, look over you should before crossing the trail to avoid a potential collision with an oncoming cyclist or passing runner.
  • Call police immediately if something happens to you or someone else, or you notice anyone out of the ordinary. It is important to report incidents immediately.
  • Don’t run on an empty stomach if you are not accustomed to this.  Additionally ALWAYS have water available for runs over 6 miles and at all times when it is hot.
  • If you feel abnormal pain such as a tightening of your IT band or knee pain, STOP Running. Call someone to come get you or walk home if that does not add to your pain.
  • For long runs on days you are not sure you feel up to it, break the run into laps. Some mornings that I run 12 miles I do a six mile loop. It is taxing on the mind but I am never more than 3 miles from home if it is just not my day.
  • Warm up properly.  Start your run warmed up. This can be a brisk walk or very easy run. Mild stretching will also work but take it easy stretching cold muscles.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Summer storms, especially in the south can pop up in an instance. Check out the radar before you head out. It can be completely sunny and within 30 minutes you can be facing a thunderstorm.
  • Always have an escape plan.  When I run, I am always looking at the nearest and safest house should I need shelter or call for help.  Ringing a strangers doorbell or knocking wildly on their door in the am can draw enough attention to a situation that a would be attacker may back off not wanting the attention.
  • Dogs!  Not much to say here other than I have found squirting water in the face of a dog works as a deterrent some times.

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and Groups Exercise Instructor, exercise, health and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

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