Staying Safe on the Run

John Faith has been with Metro Run and Walk since 2004

John has been with Metro Run and Walk since 2004 and enjoys being active!

The times are a’changing.  We refer, of course, to daylight savings time.  In just a few weeks, our daylight hours will shift so that it will be dark when we come home from work and go for our evening walk or run.  Until then, however, it’s darker in the morning when many of us are used to going out for our morning walk or run.

One of our staff members had a series of incidents happen this past month that brought the fact home that personal safety is a 24/7 concern – especially when you’re outdoors exercising.  So, we thought this month’s article should focus on 4 “common sense” or “conventional wisdom” tips on staying safe on the run. 

1.  Listen While You Run

Earlier in the month, a customer came into the store asking for a case to carry her MP3 player while running.  Our staff member recalled an incident from years ago – he was running on the National Mall, when suddenly a young woman shot out from a clump of bushes, clutching her half-torn-off running top and shorts, screaming wildly.  A scruffy looking man was running in the opposite direction.  She’d been attacked and nearly raped – unable to hear her attacker because she was wearing headphones with her WalkMan.

2.  Run Against Traffic

The second incident occurred two weeks ago when our staff member was returning from a run in his neighborhood.  Normally, he runs a loop course in a clockwise manner, always on the sidewalk with traffic.  On this particular day, however, he had to cut his run short, so did an “out and back” instead of his normal loop, and he stayed on the same sidewalk, so that on the way back he was running against traffic.  On two occasions, cars pulling out of streets nearly struck him, as the drivers were performing a “rolling stop” at the stop sign and looking LEFT for oncoming traffic, completely forgetting to look RIGHT for pedestrians (and the occasional cyclist that insists on riding on the sidewalk illegally).  The lesson here is whenever possible to run “with” traffic when running on sidewalks, and “against” traffic when running on the shoulder – and, again, to be very mindful of your surroundings.

3.  See and Be Seen

The third incident occurred at night that same week, when our staff member was returning home from a meeting and nearly hit a runner, who was correctly running “against” traffic, but who was running on the street, too close to traffic and DRESSED ENTIRELY IN BLACK.  Many of us have no choice but to run before dawn or after dusk.  In these situations, we strongly recommend wearing light colored clothing and reflective attire – and the running clothing with little reflective logos and stripes simply isn’t enough when it’s dark.  Consider wearing a reflective vest, a reflective belt, or having a multi-mode light.  They’re lightweight, won’t interfere with your running, and are incredibly reflective.  We carry a variety of the items in the store.

4.  Who Are You?

The fourth incident occurred just this past Saturday.  While driving home in the afternoon, he received a frantic phone call from a woman who had called because she’d come upon his wife who had fallen while running and needed medical attention.  Fortunately her injuries were minimal, and she ultimately suffered more from embarrassment than anything else.  BUT – she’d forgotten to take her runner’s ID with her.  Imagine if she had knocked herself unconscious instead of merely skinning her cheek, elbow, hand and knee?  CARRY AN ID with emergency contact information at a minimum.  You may also want to consider putting additional helpful information on the ID – e.g., name of an additional emergency contact, any allergies, and name of physician.  An Internet search for “Runner’s ID” will turn up many options.  In addition, most of the New Balance fall and winter apparel items features an “ICE” or In Case of Emergency tag that you can write on.

The issue/topic of listening to music (books, radio, whatever) while running comes up frequently at the store, with folks coming down squarely on both sides – yes and no.  This is obviously a personal choice and personal decision, but we strongly recommend that if you do choose to wear headphones outdoors (indoors doesn’t usually present the same issues), you run mindfully – fully aware of your surroundings at all times.  You can also run with a group or companion or a dog, or run with only one earphone in.  Be aware, though, that paying attention to what’s playing through your headphones will certainly distract you somewhat.  Just stay alert to what’s going on around you.

You can also carry a self-protection device – two of which we carry in the store.  The first is a capsaicin pepper spray, “The Runner Self-Defense Spray,” that allows you to carry a powerful, debilitating but non-lethal anti-personnel spray.  We also carry a device called “Screecher” – a small air “horn” or alarm that emits a 125 dB piercing blast, readily recognized as a distress call.  Both are small, very convenient, easy-to-use dispensers that can easily be carried with you when you’re out and about.

It all boils down to “common sense” (which isn’t so common after all!) mindfulness and preparation.  Think about what you’re doing, and prepare for the unexpected.  We’re not suggesting that you worry so much about your safety that the enjoyment of your activities suffers, but that you take a few simple precautions, and minimize your exposure to the risks out there.

An excellent online resource for safety tips in a variety of conditions can be found at:

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One Response to Staying Safe on the Run

  1. I have always ran against traffic. There is just something about seeing oncoming vehicles that presents a bit more confidence during any stroll.

    Great post!

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