I feel like I’ve read more tragic stories in the past few months about cyclists and runners being struck and killed during their workouts than I ever have before. Just yesterday a cyclist was killed just outside the Olympic park, when he was struck by a bus. I tend to avoid the news because I often feel like it doesn’t add value to my life and only makes me fearful, anxious and slightly paranoid. But stories that are relevant to running (and other aspects of my life) often find their way to me, like these tragic stories, and I feel compelled to respond. Instead of railing against the drivers, or lack of safety laws I feel as if the only thing I can do is reflect on the way that I run and ask: How Can I be Safe?
1) Be Defensive: Consider every driver a distracted driver: they could be texting, talking to their kids in the backseat, or their friend on the phone, they could be under the influence. If you assume the worst of oncoming traffic you will be more aware and ready to react if necessary. Since doing this I watch oncoming cars more carefully, I watch to see what the driver is doing and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people texting. It’s sickening.
2) Run Opposite Traffic: The only way to be aware of oncoming traffic is to be running against traffic. There are times, where crossing over to the other side of the road for a short period of time is helpful, such as on a blind turn, but only if there’s no traffic and you can safely cross.
3) Choose your Route and Timing Carefully: I live in a rural area, there are long stretches around my house where the houses are far apart. I try to pick routes that take me along populated areas, sometimes it means driving to a spot so I can run from there. I also live on a busy commuter road and have noticed that around 7am and 4:30pm there is a lot of traffic, people in a hurry to get to and from work. These are not the best times to run, so I try to work around them as best I can. I go early, run mid-morning or run later.
4) Run with a Buddy or Group: If you can run with a friend or find a local running group. I know that when I run with my running club, I feel safer and I also notice that motorist slow as they approach a large group (usually there are 7-10 of us) of runners on the side of the road more than when they pass a single runner.
5) Always Carry a Phone: If you can’t run with a friend then run with your phone. As I mentioned in my post on Sunday, I used to be “anti-carrying anything” runner. When I trained for my first marathon I remember having my mom meet me twice on my longest run with water bottles, it was a 20 miler and it was the first time I’d had someone bring me water. I must have been seriously dehydrated on all my other long runs, I’m not sure what I was thinking back then? Once I moved to Arizona this habit of not carrying anything came to an abrupt halt. You can’t train in the desert without water. But as a rule of thumb I used take nothing with me unless I was running longer than ten miles. Once I became pregnant I started carrying my phone, Sunday proved that to be a good decision. Now that I have a pack that holds my iPhone (and is small enough that I don’t notice it ) I’ll be taking it with me everywhere. If I’m ever hurt or in danger I want to be able to call my husband or 911.
6) Use a Tracking App: If you have a phone that is capable of applications, I highly recommend downloading a tracking app. My husband and I use “Find My Friend” app, which allows him to see exactly where I am on my run in real time. He can track my dot as I move along the roads near (or far) my house. In the past I had written down my route and approximate finish time. But having this app on my phone makes me and my husband feel safer, especially when I’m out on longer runs.
7) Wear Identification: I have a Road ID bracelet which I wear on most of my runs. It has basic contact information and some medical information. I’ve also worn it for races that don’t have a medical form on the back of the bib number. I like that you can customize it if you wish. I added my favorite running quote from Chariots of Fire.
8) Wear Bright Clothing: I used to be an all black and blue girl. Most all of my clothing (running and “regular”) was black, gray or navy blue. Before this year I had not worn hot pink, electric blue or neon yellow since 1991…when I also wore a side ponytail. But honestly I like the bright colors. I’ve branched out a bit in my regular wardrobe as well as my running gear. I like that fact that more clothing makers are offering bright colors. I really believe it makes a difference: if a driver can see you from a quarter mile away they are more likely to slow down and give you space.
9) Choose the Treadmill: On Monday, the day after I bailed on my run, I went to the gym. I wanted the safety of being in the gym. Honestly, I hate running on the treadmill and really don’t like the 10 minutes back and forth to the gym. But on Monday it was worth it: I felt comfortable and more relaxed. I didn’t have to worry.
10) Skip the Run: Whatever the reason may be: bad weather, no one to run with or the inability to tell someone where you’re going before your run, sometimes the best thing to do is call off the run and postpone it until later. I like running in the snow I find it tranquil and uplifting. But there were a few times last year when I was out running in the snow early before any commuters were on the road, it was peaceful and beautiful until I heard the rumble of an oncoming plow. I had to climb up an embankment into the woods to get out of the way, luckily plows don’t move that fast so I knew I had to move, but that would have been good run to take inside or postpone ’till after the plows had been out.
Even if I take every safety precaution there is still risk. Life is risky. I don’t want to live my life hiding in my closet afraid of everything bad the that could possibly happen. But it is important to be mindful and act within my power.
What do you do to stay safe on the road?