To err is human. And since runners are human, we make mistakes, even when it comes to our own safety. Sure, we all strive to improve, get faster, and become a stronger runner. But, another critical goal is to ensure our safety as a runner. While it’s impossible to be perfect in any regard, the more we practice runner safety, the better.
Runner Safety Mistakes to Avoid
Running with the flow of traffic.
It’s actually the law here in Georgia (and likely everywhere…) to run against the flow of traffic. By facing on-coming traffic, you can react quicker to something than when it is behind you.
You’re unsure the driver sees you before you cross the road.
Even if you have the right of way to cross, it means nothing if the driver doesn’t see you. I work in a hospital in physical therapy, and I assure you that when a car and a pedestrian collide, the pedestrian loses EVERY time. Your safety as a runner, therefore depends on you, and your observation of traffic/traffic laws while running.
Be sure before crossing that the driver SEES you; and if not, wait until the car has passed.
Carrying no I.D. while running.
In the event you are harmed/unconscious, first responders need to identify you/notify your family. I know this sounds harsh, but while the odds of harm are low, anything is possible. I wear a Road ID on my Apple Watch band. It provides info for those to contact in event of an emergency. Another option, write your name, phone number, and blood type on the inside sole of your running shoe.
Listening to loud music.
IF you are to listen to music, podcasts, etc., it should be at a level that enables you to still hear your surroundings. Or, wear one ear phone. Know that if you can’t converse, and hear others while your earphones are on, it’s too loud. Plus, your ears may help you avoid dangers that your eyes may miss during evening or early morning runs.
Being so “in the zone” that you’re not alert or aware of your surroundings.
Yes, it’s great to be in the zone during a run. We all love that. BUT, the less aware you are, the more vulnerable you are. I propose a healthy dose of paranoia, especially when you’re in an unfamiliar area, or are alone.
Leaving your cell phone at home or in the car.
It really makes no sense to run without your cell phone. If you get lost, hurt yourself, or feel unsafe, help is a phone call away. Most phones have a shortcut to alert the authorities as well, or those on your “in case of emergency” list. More info on that here.
More Tips to Ensure Your Safety as a Runner
Ignoring your gut or intuition about a person or an area.
React on your intuition and avoid a person or situation if you’re unsure. If something tells you a situation is not “right”, it isn’t.
Running the same route, at the same time on a regular basis.
Alter or vary your running route pattern. The more predictable your routine, the more likely it is you could be followed or harassed. If traveling, contact a local RRCA club or running store for recommendations (or friends/family that are knowledgeable about the area). Be aware of open businesses or stores are located in case of emergency.
Not alerting or leaving word of the direction of your run.
Be sure to friends and family of your favorite running routes, when you left, and plan to be back. Note, there are apps that allows others to be informed of your run (Road ID app), and if you stop for more than five minutes during the run.
Running in unpopulated areas, deserted streets, or overgrown trails.
While we enjoy our solitude, it’s more difficult to get help when alone. Also, avoid unlit areas, especially at night. Run clear of parked cars, alleys or bushes. Do your best to choose a park or area where other runners/walkers are present.
Engaging or acknowledging verbal harassment.
Use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Look directly at others and be observant, but keep your distance and keep moving.
“While no one should have to ‘take’ harassment, responding in the moment can escalate the situation, so your best move is to keep moving and remove yourself as quickly as possible,” Joyce Shulman, founder of 99 Walks, an outdoor walking community for women.
Wearing dark colors, no reflective gear/lights when dark.
I’m always amazed when I see runners wearing dark clothing while it’s dark. The goal is not to blend in, or be camouflaged to ensure your safety as a runner.
Wear a reflective vest, a lamp, lights, or some combination of light and reflectivity. It’s important for you to be seen, and for you to see! Of course, avoid running on the street when it is dark.
Waiting to call the police if you suspect a problem.
Hesitating to call 911 because we feel we’re overreacting is not uncommon, but is unnecessary. Don’t worry if your suspicions turn out to not be an emergency, you won’t be fined or “in trouble.” Better to err on the side of caution versus be potentially harmed!
What other tips or ideas do you have as a runner to ensure your safety?