Every runner would love the idea of going outside and running without a care in the world. To be able to completely disconnect and to stay within yourself for a few hours sounds wonderful but it isn't practical. That is not the world we live in. Whenever you step out that door to go running you are accepting certain risks. However, there are ways to minimize those risks. Here are ten tips to help you be the most carefree possible on your runs.
Many people see running as an escape. You start running and you allow yourself to disappear inside. You tune out your surroundings with music or your thoughts. It is just you gliding through the world and not really a part of it. It is a wonderful thing to be able to do this but it is also risky. You are not aware of what's going on around you. You may not see that ill intentioned person approaching you or hear that dog growling as it charges. Or you may not see that faint glow of headlights as they quickly zoom up on you. Stay alert. Dive into your thoughts but also always remain aware of your surroundings. Ideally, you should run without any music on but that is unrealistic for most runners. If you must have music on keep the volume down low enough so that you can hear everything around you or keep one ear bud out.
Run Against Traffic
Remember that runners must run against traffic and bicyclers ride with traffic. You must always face on-coming traffic. That way you can always see cars as they approach you and more importantly the drivers can see you. Being able to see the car early enough will give you reaction time to step off the road and into the grass or it will help the driver know he needs to move a bit over to give you more room. Acknowledge cars as they are approaching by waving or making eye contact just to ensure the drivers sees you.
Carry Your Cell Phone
Yes, as said before, running is a time to disconnect from the world. The idea of carrying a cell phone during your run of all things may seem preposterous. Carry the cell phone for emergencies only. Perhaps you can leave the cell phone off and only turn it on for the sole purpose of making an emergency phone call. You do not want to be miles away from home when an injury happens and have to limp home. (Note: This writer had to do just that in 30 degree windy weather and it was horrible. She learned her lesson quite quickly. It could have been easily fixed with a quick cell phone call home.)
Run with a Partner (2- or 4-legged)
Bring someone with you for the simple fact that you will not be running alone. Any crime is easier to commit on a lone person than a group. A protective dog can be just as good because it can protect you and keep a possible assailant at bay. A running partner can also call for help if you are injured and can then stay with you until help arrives. Your partner could also administer first aid. There is safety in numbers.
Talk to a Spouse or Friend
Tell your spouse or friend where you will be running and approximately how long you will be gone. If it is a more complicated route print out a map for him. Tell him that you should only be gone for say two hours and to please come looking for you after two and a half hours. That way your appointed person will know exactly what to do in the unfortunate event something horrible does happen to you. You do not fade into nothingness. There is someone looking for you and someone to call authorities if need be. Do not ever go out without at least one person knowing where you going and for how long.
Run During the Day
Run during the day for the simple joy of having the sun light your path. You want to run in well-lit, highly populated areas. If someone is going to commit a crime against a runner they will most likely target someone who is running at night in a deserted area. It just makes sense. If you must run in the dark run in a familiar area at a time when there are still people coming and going in their cars. You want to be seen by people who care about you and would notice if something wrong was happening.
This one should go without saying. If you are incapacitated due to an injury the paramedics and police officers must know who you are. Put your driver's license in a pocket of your shorts or wear a “dog tag” around your neck. Road ID has many different options for unobtrusively carrying identification with you on your runs.
Carry Pepper Spray
This one is for when you feel it is appropriate to carry some form of a weapon with you. It is good for all kinds of attackers be it human or canine. Just be sure the safety is engaged when you are not using it. You don't want to be accidentally sprayed while out there. And please make sure that it is pointed in the right direction in the unfortunate event that you have to use it. You want to put the attacker down not you.
Carry a Whistle
This one goes along with the pepper spray idea. A good strong whistle can make tons of loud noise and will attract anyone's attention. If you suspect someone with ill intentions is approaching you start blowing on the whistle with all your might. Other people around you will look over and the attacker's cover is blown. A good whistle can also ward off dogs. It will really hurt their sensitive hearing and send them running away. And finally, you can use the whistle to attract people to you if you are hurt. What if you break your ankle and you can't get out of the ditch you fell in. Blowing the whistle can alert passersby that you are there and need help immediately.
Wear Reflective Gear
The last tip is to wear reflective gear. It is a good idea to wear light colored clothing at all times of the day but reflective gear helps motorists see you when you must run at night. Do not ever wear dark clothing at night. A driver may not see you until it is too late to react. The reflective gear helps them see you from a decent distance away and gives them ample time to slow down and maybe even move over some. If you want to be extra careful you can wear a headlamp, wear flashers on your clothes, or carry a flashlight. All these things increase your visibility and keep you safer.
All the scenarios in this article are worst case scenarios. Chances are they won't happen but there is always the possibility of them happening. Reduce your chances of being hurt by taking proper safety precautions.