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For many of us, running is an escape. It’s a chance to tune out stressful matters or focus on mental problems we may be trying to fix. However you use your run, it’s important to tune in to your surroundings to stay safe. Here are a few rules of the road to make sure you can keep enjoying all that running has to offer.
Our thoughts are distracting enough, so listening to music while you are running can be the extra distraction that keeps you from noticing that car turning as you approach the intersection. If music is part of your escape, just use one earbud so you aren’t fully checked out.
Pay special attention to intersections, and never assume a driver sees you. Wave at the driver and wait for them to acknowledge you before crossing. According to the National Safety Council, intersections are where 40 percent of all pedestrian accidents occur. The majority of pedestrians injured at intersections are hit by left-turning traffic in signalized intersections, so pay careful attention to the signals, even in crosswalks where you may feel protected.
Know the area in which you choose to run. If you are unfamiliar with the area, ask a local or reach out to a run club in the region. Neighborhoods can change from good to bad within a block. Keep a close eye out and your mace handy for loose dogs that might be following you. If you are running trails in a wild area, avoid running at dusk or dawn to prevent unexpected encounters with wild animals.
When running on the road, be sure to run against traffic so that you can see what’s coming your way, particularly on stretches of road that have no sidewalk. Avoid shoulder- only roads when possible, as this is where many runner- vehicle collisions occur. If you choose to run on the shoulder, avoid running during rush hour, when drivers are more likely to be hurried or distracted.
Pay attention to weather conditions, and plan appropriately. Be sure to wear a hat and carry enough water with you or strategically plan water stops along your route if you anticipate the heat affecting you. If the roads are icy, wear shoes with grip. Consider investing in a pair of traction cleats to slip on the soles of your shoes for particularly icy runs. Bring gloves (or socks) in case your hands get cold.
All of the safety precautions listed above become even more important in the dark. Wear fluorescent-colored clothing for dusk and nighttime runs, and consider wearing flashing green or yellow lights, as experts report that these are the colors our eyes recognize best at dusk and in the dark. Wearing clothing with reflective tape can also be useful, and even more effective when the tape is placed on points of the body that invoke natural movement, like the wrists and knees. Drivers will be more likely to see and identify a moving object that matches human movement.
Don’t Leave Home Without It…
If you plan to run alone, leave a note of your intended route for friends or family. Run with identification on you, whether it’s your phone or a Road ID bracelet ($20). Consider carrying some form of self-defense like Blingsting Pepper Spray ($22) or a Kubotan stick on a keychain ($5 to $10) to fight off dogs and human attackers. Reflective gear is essential for nighttime runs, and while most modern run gear features some kind of reflective strip, adding an extra dose of light, like an Amphipod Vizlet Tri-LED TailLite Single ($15), can’t hurt. (Note that Kubotans are not legal in all states and countries, and travel restrictions exist for the transport of Kubotans, pepper spray and mace.)