Do you love to clear your mind completely when you run? That’s great— if you’re on a treadmill. When you venture out into the world, however, it’s crucial to stay conscious of your surroundings.
While it may be tempting to bliss out as you’re gliding along the trail or turn up your iPod when you’re hammering down the street, this mindless state can leave you compromised. With cars, bikes, vehicles, animals, attackers, hail, ice and extreme temperatures, it’s a scary world out there! Keep yourself running happy and free (but safe and secure!) with our expert tips.
Now more than ever, drivers are distracted (thanks, smartphones!) and not always aware of their environment. “Cars and vulnerable road users, such as runners, don’t mix well,” shares Art Acevedo, police chief in Austin, Tex., who recommends running on trails, tracks or other pedestrian-specific areas when possible. “The bonus is it’s better on your knees than asphalt.”
If you do stick to the streets, stay cautious. Just as drivers get distracted, listening to music can distract runners. “Leave one ear without a headphone in it so you can hear what is going on around you,” recommends Acevedo.
Always run on the left side of the road, toward oncoming traffic—if the driver doesn’t see you, you’ll definitely see her. During low-light hours (early morning or evening), wear reflective clothing and accessories to increase your visibility.
Unfortunately, runners must be wary of other people as well. The best way to prevent any kind of attack is to run with a group or a partner whenever possible. Acevedo addresses this simply: “Running in pairs also is a deterrent to someone who may try to victimize you. If nothing else, it will give companionship, and if the worst case scenario should happen, you have someone to call for help. ”
For those that prefer running to zone out solo, find a running club that groups members by pace. This way you can have people around while still getting in your personal mileage, and you won’t necessarily be caught in a long conversation when you want to de-stress.
“Our training groups do an early season time-trial to help our athletes split into similar pace-groups. This ensures that nobody will be caught running alone,” explains Darren Brown,
program director and head coach of RunKnox Training Programs in Knoxville, Tenn. and husband of professional athlete Sarah Bowen Brown. “If we do find that there is a lone ranger getting ready to cool down after a workout, I will always have him or her wait for a buddy before heading back to our headquarters.”
If you miss a workout with your group or simply decide you want to take to the roads alone, let people know where you are going. Social media can be a great tool for documenting when you will be out on a run. If you are uncomfortable making this public knowledge, set your post to private and just add a small group of friends. It is an easy way to check in without feeling like you are sharing your exact route with the world.
There are few things more harrowing to a runner than coming face-tosnout with a growling off-leash dog. Dan Perata, a San Francisco-based dog trainer, says the best way to avoid an attack is to stay aware: Spot the dog first, and you will be able to better manage the situation. “If you’re running down the street and the dog is focused on you, it could very well kick into its prey drive,” explains Perata. “Even though it’s domesticated—it’s still a predator.”
Perata says that if you see a dog in front of you and it seems engaged, you want to make sure the animal doesn’t see you as prey. If it starts running toward you, “Hold your ground and stand tall. Lean in and make a guttural noise. By doing this, you’re saying, ‘I’m not afraid of you and you don’t want to challenge me.’”
It’s a rare occurrence, but you may be caught in a situation where you don’t see the dog before it attacks. If your safety is in danger, Perata says, “Don’t panic.” This will only excite the dog further. Instead, “give him a little pop in the nose, a little front kick. You don’t have to kick hard, just enough to snap him out of it.” Perata says that pepper spray or a bottle filled with a mixture of water and cayenne pepper work just as well.