Since I’ve started running, I’ve thought a lot about safety. When you run outside, there are so many things that you should be aware of–and prepare for–as precautionary steps. Maybe I’m more cognizant of safety because I started running when I heard the story of Meg Cross Menzies. My awareness has continued as I have heard many more stories of runners/walkers/bikers being hit by cars or people being attacked while running solo–this includes an incident in late April (2015) in Cayman, where a runner was hit and killed at 5am by a drunk driver.. We all have to decide for ourselves how to best address these issues on our daily runs; sometimes, even with the best effort, things don’t go as planned anyway. But it is the responsibility of the runner to take every opportunity to reduce the chance that they become a news story while out for a run. Here are the rules I live by when I go running on the roads.
1. Wear reflective or light-up gear. If you run when it is twilight or dark, wear reflective gear. Not just a small blinking light that can easily be missed, but something larger like LED arm bands (wear one on each arm) or an LED belt/sash. It is never a bad thing to let the world know where you are located, especially when the sun goes down and it gets harder to see because the last rays of light don’t clearly define objects on the roads.
2. Go with someone. If you are running, especially when it is dark, take someone with you. I often finish in the dark on my long runs, and my husband always comes with me on the last 3-4 mi to ensure that I am not alone in the dark. It is for visibility as well as ensuring that I am not a lone-female target for someone who wants to be a jerk.
3. Wear a Road ID bracelet. They are not expensive accessories, and they just may save your life. These bracelets come stamped with your name, contact name/number of a couple people, as well as any conditions you want to place on the band (it’s all up to you as to what you put on it). If you are hurt or unconscious, the band tells first responders a bit about you and they know who to call. (And for the fashion conscious, you can order different colored bands for maximum color coordination with your running clothes!)
4. Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. My husband always knows when I go for a run. He knows what route I’m taking and the approximate time it will take me to reach the designated water stops where he meets me. To help him follow me, I use the free Road ID app that sends an email message to him; the email includes a link to the e-crumb trail I leave as I run. He can, at any time during my run, click on the link and see a map of where I have been and where I am at that moment. Did I mention that it’s FREE? Use it, people!
5. Run facing traffic. It’s always a good idea to run facing traffic (if you bike, you should bike with traffic). Seeing the oncoming traffic will help you to make better decisions as you run.
6. Turn down the headphones. Yes, we go running to escape, and part of that is to listen to music or a book on tape, letting the sounds in our headphones take us to another place while we search for the runner’s high. However, if you are unable to hear the sounds of traffic around you, you have your music up too high. Turn it down. You need to be able to not only see your surroundings but also to listen to them.
All of these are super easy to do, yet so many runners don’t take basic precautions! If you have any other ideas to help make my run safer, please let me know in the comments! I am always ready to listen to other ideas that will help me make it to the next run, and the next, and the next…