Being safe out on the roads is something I take very seriously. I’ve been pretty fortunate that I haven’t had any close calls, but I know several of my friends have. Sometimes when I’m out running I like to imagine if I was giving a presentation about being safe out on the roads, what would I say? What tips and tricks would I give? Well, I guess this is my presentation! Here are a few things I have learned over the years. Some of them are kind of common sense, but I think reminders are always good.
· Probably the most important thing to remember is see and be seen. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, you want to make sure drivers can see you! From a driver stand point, I know probably the hardest times to see pedestrians is sunrise and sunset when the sun is right in your eyes, and night time. You don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of money buying reflective stuff. Bright and light colors are always good. You can buy cheap lights like the ones that attach to a bike. (I was totally going to share a picture of the lights I have, but I couldn’t find them! and I just know that I’ll find them right when I’m done with this. Grr.) There are a lot of options for lights you can wear around your head. Some have a strap that fit around your head, some you can attach to a hat. Whatever you choose, just make sure others can see you.
· Another important thing I think needs reminding, make sure you establish visual contact with drivers. Don’t assume a driver can see you at that cross walk. Even if you have the right-of-way, you want to make sure the driver sees you. I typically wait for them to give me some sort of gesture. (Sometimes it’s not very nice but people suck.) I’m pretty fortunate to live in a community that is very active, so drivers are generally friendly to runners and walkers.
· Speaking to drivers, please check the sidewalks before pulling out. I think most people are just looking at the road to check if traffic is clear before they pull out. They forget there are sidewalks that people might be on. Living in such an active community, it’s now a habit to check the sidewalks because the few times I’ve forgotten, I’ve almost hit people!
· Make sure someone knows where you’re going. Too many things can happen to people when they’re out on foot. Make sure someone knows where you’re going to be running, even if it’s just “I’m going to be in this neighborhood” or “I’ll be at this park.” If you can guess about how long you’ll be gone, it’s good to give that estimate too. Before I go run, I map the route I plan to take on mapmyrun.com. I don’t always follow it exactly, but if something happens, my husband knows where I should be. I haven’t done it in a long time, but when I was training for my half marathon I would tell my husband about how long I expected to be and then I would say “If it’s 20 minutes after that and you haven’t heard from me, give me a call. If I don’t answer, panic.” I always have my phone on me. There was this one day when I realized half way through my run that my phone died. (I spilled some water on it the night before. Yikes!) I’ll tell ya, I have never felt so vulnerable as a runner.
· Depending on where you live, bring some sort of protection. Now, being perfectly honest, I’m a woman. A part of me is always worried about what could happen to me while I’m out and about. It’s just one of those things. I’ve never had any reason to fear for my safety (Except once when a Great Dane was running toward the fence. I saw it from the corner of my eye and I thought a horse was running at me!), but I still like taking precautions. I used to have a small pocket knife I could clip onto the back of my shorts. We lived in a college town at the time, so there was kind of that worry there. When we first moved here, I saw some coyotes in the creek that ran along the trail I always ran on and I heard people talk about bobcats in the area, so I brought my knife in case of animal attack. (I kind of love living in an area where I’m more worried about animal attacks than being attacked by a person!) Now I have a small thing of pepper spray I bring with me. I don’t always have it on me, but I try to have it with me if I’m running when it’s dark. I just feel better doing that.
Don’t mess with me when I’m running or I’ll mess with you!
· Be aware of your surroundings. I know, duh, right? But I know when you get in that zone, it’s easy to drown everything else out. Just try to be aware of the people that are around you and everything that’s going on. One thing I love about running at night is that because I’m kind of hyper-aware of my surroundings, I notice more things than I do during the day. Music is great, but make sure it’s not so loud that you can’t hear traffic or other people coming up behind you. My personal general rule about using headphones is that if my music is so loud I can’t hear my own footsteps, it’s too loud, because I won’t be able to hear anyone else’s. Try to make a note of everyone you pass. If someone does attack you, you’ll be able to give a description.
· Left side, safe side. For the most part, it’s safest to run against traffic, so in the US, that means running on the left side. Sometimes it’s not safe or practical to get to the left side, but if possible, this is best. When you’re going against traffic, you’re better able to see possible threats, and you’re easier to be seen by traffic that might be turning or pulling out. This isn’t always the case, but for the most part, it’s how it is. It’s also harder to have someone pull up and grab you. Yeah, I know, I probably sound super paranoid. But you know what? These things happen all the time. I want to keep my friends safe.
· Dress for the weather. I know, another duh, right? Sometimes this is easier said than done. Think of all those times you check the weather. It says it’s 50 degrees so you grab a long sleeve shirt and take off. Ten minutes later, you’re rolling your sleeves up. Ten minutes later, you’re dying. Or it goes the other way. It may say 50 degrees, but there’s a brisk North wind so it really feels like it’s 40 so you go out in just a long sleeve shirt and you’re freezing the whole time. Annoying, right? I’ve seen some things that suggest dressing like it’s 20 degrees warmer than it actually is, but you also need to take into account wind, humidity, and all those other factors that affect how it actually feel outside. If you sweat a ton, light, moister wicking clothes are awesome. When it’s cold outside, I have to have my ears covered or I get a headache.
· Stay hydrated! Another duh, but again, sometimes easier said than done. I know the times I have the hardest staying hydrated are when it’s colder, because I don’t feel like I need to be drinking as much. There are so many things you can do to make sure you have water. I have one of these hydration belts.
I love it because my hands are free and the weight sits on my hips so I don’t really feel it. One time this is really invaluable is when I bring the kids running. They’re always so thirsty, and I keep band-aids in the little zipper pocket because scraped knees happen quite frequently with those two. If these aren’t your thing, there are sleeves you can put around your water bottle that have a little strap you can fit around your hand. Hate that too? Set water out somewhere! I didn’t have the hydration belt when I was training for my half marathon, so I would set water out in a couple spots. That was good motivation to keep going! If you’re running with a four-legged friend, make sure to have water for them too!
· Have fun! I probably say this a lot, but running is so awesome. Have fun with it. Be safe, but have fun!
Have any other tips or tricks? Share them!! I would love to hear more ideas!