In my last article, I mentioned there had been some recent attacks on women in my hometown. This got me thinking about general safety while out running. What can we do to prevent accidents and mishaps while we are hitting the streets?
Make Yourself Visible
If you have even the slightest bit of doubt and are wondering if people can see you, then they can’t. As winter approaches, it’s getting dark earlier and staying dark longer. So, invest in some reflective gear!
Along with reflective gear, wearing bright colored clothes keeps you visible.
Never Assume You Are Seen
Along these same lines, never assume that drivers can see you. Even as a runner myself, looking out for pedestrians while driving, I have almost clipped runners at intersections who assumed that I saw them. We’ve have always had the distractions of kids and the radio, but now with cell phones and our constant need to feel connected, drivers are more distracted than ever.
In my very unscientific survey of observing drivers while waiting to turn out of my workplace at the end of the day, seven of the eight drivers were actively using their cell phones. I’m not talking about chatting with hands-free devices, but cell phone in hand, looking at the screen, and typing away. That’s some scary stuff.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the crosswalk and have right of way. If a person hits you with a car, you can still be lying dead on the ground, no matter how “right” you were. As my dad always told me growing up, “Amy D, you can be right and you can be dead.” Always make eye contact with the driver and wait for them to motion you across.
Run Facing Traffic
One way to keep an eye on cars potentially turning into intersections you are crossing is to run facing traffic. By doing this, cars are more likely to take notice of you and you will be able to determine if someone is going to make a right turn in front of you while keeping your eyes front, instead of having to crane your neck around every time you are crossing a road.
Limit Your Own Distractions
Another way to stay aware of your surroundings is to limit your own distractions. I love running with headphones. There is nothing better than a little Black Eyed Peas to get me going or a podcast to occupy my mind. But if I am going to wear my headphones, I only use one ear bud (tucking the other safely into my sports bra strap) and I have the volume low enough that I can hear what’s going on around me.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen runners with headphones blasting decide to go around another runner or a stick in the road and step right in front of a bike or another runner. Your music should be low enough that you can hear your feet hitting the ground and you can hear your breathing. You should also be polite enough to look around before changing your course of direction.
Run With a Buddy
I prefer that everyone run with another human. That way if something happens, the buddy can get help or communicate with emergency services personnel. Your local running store can be a great resource for finding a buddy, so be sure to check out their group run schedules before ruling this option out.
If finding a buddy doesn’t pan out for you, then running with a dog is better than running alone. Granted the dog isn’t going to be able to tell someone you fell down the well (unless it’s Lassie), but dogs are great deterrents to bad guys approaching you.
If you absolutely do not have anyone to run with, tell your roommate, mom, or bestie that you’re leaving for a run and the approximate time you will be back. When you get home, touch base and let them know you’re back safe and sound.
Run with your pooch – It’s good for both of you.
Take Your Phone
Carry your phone with you on your run just in case something goes wonky. This doesn’t have to mean you were attacked or hit by a car or anything else overly serious. But if you’re five miles from home and twist your ankle or last night’s Mexican dinner kicks in, it’s nice to have an alternative route home.
Run During the Day
An easy way to reduce your risk of injury or being attacked is to run when it is light outside. Even aside from the idea of someone with ill intent approaching you, in the daylight you are less likely to trip and get injured and more likely to be seen by drivers. If your work schedule does not allow you to run in the day, it could be time to invest in a treadmill or gym membership. Or you can incorporate some HIIT training and strength sessions into your schedule and save the outdoor running for your days off.
We Have the Technology
My BFF’s husband likes to go on long bike rides. Before he leaves he turns a tracking device on his phone. This allows his wife to track him on their iPad. If he gets a flat tire or if that blinking dot doesn’t move for a while, she knows right where to go to help him. Just make sure you turn the tracking device off when the ride is over. Otherwise, that’s a little creepy.
There are also apps available that can help keep you safe. One of the ones my students use is bSafe. With a push of a button, this app acts as a siren, records video, alerts authorities, and tells them your GPS location.
Another great way to stay safe is with Road ID. These identification tags can give your running buddy or emergency services critical information (allergies, emergency contacts, etc.) in times that you are unable to communicate. If you can’t make this investment, carry some form of ID with you at all times.
My next tip might make you feel a bit like a CIA operative – alter your route. Yes, there are definitely random, spur-of-the-moment attacks, but more often than not, the bad guy has been observing an area and looking for patterns. So, mix things up. Even if it’s just running your route backward, that could throw the timing off enough to deter the perpetrator.
Be a Bad Target
Be more proactive in keeping yourself safe by taking a self-defense course or carrying mace. Even if you never have to use the information you receive at the class, having that knowledge can make you feel more confident and in control. Basically, you’ll look less like an ideal victim for the bad people out there. If you do decide to carry mace, please make sure you know how to use it – and don’t spray it if you’re downwind.
And last, but not least, be a runner, not a jogger. I don’t care what your pace is, consider yourself a runner. It’s always the joggers that the folks on Law and Order find dead in the park.
What did I miss? What do you do to stay safe? Please post your ideas in the comments section below.
Photos 2 & 4 courtesy of Shutterstock.