I often need to watch out for traffic when I run. Cars see me most of the time, but like today when I went running one car didn’t see me. It looks like they were paying attention to something inside their car.
Runners can stay safe by being aware of their surroundings and using caution when crossing intersections. Runners can follow simple steps to ensure they are safe during their run. This mostly being prepared and being aware of potential hazards.
Here are 10 steps to stay safe:
- Watch traffic in all directions before crossing the street.
- Wear reflective running gear at night and a headlamp.
- Stay on the sidewalk whenever possible and run against traffic if you can’t.
- Run in safe areas (Away from traffic, away from cliffs, and on smooth terrain).
- Tie your shoes when loose and tuck in any long laces that could get snagged.
- Carry a whistle or mace when running where you may encounter dogs.
- Wear sunglasses during sunrise, sunset, and windy conditions.
- Carry a phone to call someone if something unexpected happens or for tracking.
- Run with a partner in less safe neighborhoods.
- Wear the right shoes. Fewer injuries will occur with the right shoes.
Keeping safe while running doesn’t always seem to be the first thing I think about when running. Yet, it is important to think about before you go out when running in new areas or new situations. Planning ahead will give you the confidence to go running and feel more safe and secure.
Planning Your Run
If you plan to run somewhere new or in a different circumstance, such as at night, it’s a good idea to plan what you need to do to stay safe when running. I often decide to run in an area that has no traffic to stay safer and enjoy nature.
Take time to decide what might happen before you go out and make necessary changes to your normal routine that might be needed. At night I use reflective gear and a headlamp, even though I run in mostly well-lit areas.
Sometimes I need to take 5 minutes to get everything ready before my run, but it’s well worth it if I feel more confident and am better prepared for circumstances that I might encounter.
Ten Running Safety Steps
1. Watch Out For Traffic
Vehicles are likely the most dangerous obstacle to look out for. They don’t always see runners well, sometimes get distracted, and are often in a hurry to cross an intersection.
There are many ways that traffic flows on the street. Here are two common of the most common intersections you might find and how to watch out for traffic when crossing them.
When you cross the street at an intersection, you need to look for traffic coming from at least three directions. In this example (above) the traffic on the left and right sides of the street is at a stoplight and the top and bottom traffic have a green arrow.
Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any traffic ready to turn, but that can change quickly. I cross a street where cars regularly go 40 mph or faster and they come don’t always slow safely before they turn. Runners may not have enough time a avoid a collision if cars don’t see them.
The runner (shown as the yellow dashes) always needs to watch for vehicles turning on either corner and the traffic that is in the left-hand turn lane. It’s helpful for runners to be prepared to slow down and speed up when crossing an intersection. Being proactive might be necessary.
The same situations apply to a three-way intersection. The yellow dashed line shows where a runner might cross the street.
Runners need to be cautious when crossing busy streets and be aware of cars on the road that may not see them.
Wearing bright colors and proactively deciding your next moves can help you get noticed and stay safe if you have to run on or near vehicle traffic.
Sometimes an added sense is needed. When your running in an area with traffic, avoid using earbuds. Some people use one earbud and this enables them to listen to music and hear traffic.
2. Wear Reflective Running Gear
At night drivers just don’t expect runners to be out on the road. It’s important to make traffic aware that you are on the road and visible.
White and reflective colors can greatly help drivers see runners and avoid them. I have a running vest that is yellow with reflective stripes on it to help make me visible when I walk or run at night.
The other thing I do to ensure traffic can see me and so I can see better is to use a headlamp. This allows me to see clearly ahead of me and it alerts drivers of my presence.
3. Stay On the Sidewalk
It makes sense for me to stay on the sideway when running. I can avoid vehicles on the road and run on a smooth surface so my ankles won’t twist.
It’s not the best surface to run on. Concrete is very hard and can be rough on your joints. If concrete is all you run on you might consider something safer for your joints. Softer surfaces could be a dirt trail or a black asphalt road that has little to no traffic.
If you need to stay on the sidewalk to stay safe you might consider a cushiony running shoe or building up your foot muscles to reduce the impact on your joints from foot strikes.
4. Run In Safe Areas
If you always run in the city where there’s a lot of traffic, try switching up your running location to a low or no traffic area. You might not have time to do this as often as you would like, but it may reduce your chances of being involved in an accident.
If you run on trails a lot, being aware of the terrain can be very important. Cliffs and other hazards may not always be apparent, so using caution in new areas is helpful.
Once you find a good trail that is smooth to run on, you can go back there often to stay safer when running versus running near traffic.
5. Tie Your Shoes Snuggly
Snug shoes are important to prevent injury when running. Sometimes our shoelaces become loose and we might not have reached our goals yet. We might not want to stop running to ties our shoes if it’s just a little loose but it can be important for our safety.
Loose laces can trip runners and loose shoes can cause blisters. We can double-check our laces before we start running and ensure our shoes are snug.
Once in a while, a loose shoe can also cause a twisted ankle. Loose shoes may turn at an angle that is different than our feet and cause our ankles to bend at awkward angles.
6. Carry Mace or Whistle For Dogs
Once in a while, I encounter a dog loose from its leash. While no dog has bitten me, some have followed me.
It’s a good idea to have mace or a whistle if your running in an area with dogs. If you encounter a dog on your run try these things:
- Slow down
- Take off your hat and sunglasses and avoid the path of the dog and avoid looking at them. (thebark.com)
- If you encounter an aggressive dog you can use mace to prevent a dog bite or a dog whistle might scare them away. If you can get into a car or behind a fence so the dog has a chance to calm down he might just walk away after a while.
Sometimes just dropping something on the ground may give the dog something to focus on while you continue walking away. Being calm and confident may signal to the dog that you aren’t a threat.
7. Wear Sunglasses
I have been running in the wind lately and sometimes I wish I had taken my sunglasses. The wind can kick up dust and particles in the air making it harder to see and this might lead to a misstep or not seeing obstacles clearly for a little while.
Sunglasses can also help prevent the glare from the sun obscuring our vision as well. Some sunglasses are made for sports activities and will more likely feel comfortable and stay on better.
If you have light-colored or clear sunglasses this will further enhance your ability to see clearly and stop harmful rays of the sun. Darker sunglasses may be fine as well depending on circumstances.
8. Take Your Phone With You
I’ve never had to use my phone for an emergency, but it’s nice to know you can if you need to. You can use for phone for tracking your distance, music, allowing family and friends to track where you are, and to call someone when you need to.
Sometimes I go out when the weather looks like it is going to rain. If I needed to I could call someone to pick me up during heavy rains if I’m out running.
Then there are always those special moments you want to capture on film or a photo when you’re running somewhere with a view.
9. Run With A Partner
I used to run with a partner and was glad when I had someone to talk to my run. A partner can make you’re run more enjoyable and more motivating.
A partner also insures you much safer if you are at risk of danger from a mugger. It can help you feel more confident when going someplace you don’t know as well or in less safe areas.
The more fun you have running the more likely you will run more often and enjoy the health benefits of running. A partner can help make your run a fun experience.
10. Wear The Right Shoes
When you are running, whether it is a short or long distance, wearing the right shoes can make a big difference in preventing injury.
Some runners have sore knees or feet that feel much better when they wear a shoe that has lots of cushion. Some runners need shoes for flat feet or over-pronation. Getting supportive shoes can help these runners prevent injury and feel comfortable.
Some runners have old shoes that no longer provides cushion and support very well. These runners can keep their joints safe by getting new running shoes.
It’s better to be safe when you go out to run than to regret not being prepared. Take a minute to prepare the next time you go out and take the things you need to have a positive experience and feel more confident.
As you are careful to watch traffic and take care when crossing intersections you will be able to avoid any potentially harmful situations. And finally, being aware of your surroundings will be one of the best ways to stay safe when you go running.
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