As runners, we have to watch our backs and expect the unexpected. We all have the usual hazards like being chased by a dog or hit by a car but there are other unfortunate instances that we should be prepared for as much as we can. Being a part of many running forums I regularly think about runner safety being compromised. I have tried out a few safety devices and wanted to share some techniques I have used that help me feel safer. I have been chased by ferocious dogs and hit by a car in an intersection at a very slow speed thank goodness! I am very fortunate that I have not had any serious injuries while training or racing but you can never be too careful.
First off, be aware of your surroundings. Don’t assume anything, especially that a car can see you because they often don’t. When I approach a car I need to run past I ALWAYS run behind the car even if the driver sees me. I once had a guy start to drive while I was right in front of him at a traffic light. He was making a right turn and hit my leg before he saw me. This scared the crap out of both of us and a huge lesson was permanently ingrained in me. Luckily I was ok, besides almost having heart failure. I also exclusively run on the sidewalk unless I am forced to go on a roadway for a short period of time. I find it safer to be out of the line of traffic and less stress on my attention allowing me to run more in cruise control mode. I run with earphones in one or both ears which I know is risky but I feel the mental stimulation is worth the risk for me. I just try to be careful about the music and not listen too loud and usually keep one earphone out so I can hear traffic or other hazards. I also try to stay in well-lit places when possible. Carry a head light or small flashlight if you are running in the early morning hours or if you run into the night. There is nothing like twisting your ankle or falling because you can’t see uneven pavement. Doing so many training runs I have a few routes that are my favorite to go on and feel safe although I still bring protection.
I carry my iPhone and have the “find friends” feature on so that my husband can check on me while I’m out on the route I take. I also discovered a really great app I have used this past year and really love. It’s the Road ID phone app and it allows you to name 5 people that it will notify where you are and when you finish. They can see where you are at any point to make sure you are ok, and it has a feature that sends an alert if you are still for 5 minutes and possibly needing help. This has made me feel much safer and stay in touch with people I trust to keep an eye on me. I do most of my training alone so this app is advantageous, and it’s free! Don’t go train without letting someone know you are leaving and where you are going, it’s just not smart. I also wear my Road ID bracelet that has my name, birthday, and 5 people to contact if needed. The bracelet is lightweight and not uncomfortable at all to wear.
Wear bright colors to be seen easier. You would think this is common sense but I have seen many runners dressed in black or dark colors running along the road in the dark. I think it’s a bad idea and way too big of a risk. There are so many flashing lights and vests available that at the very least you should have some sort of safety device in front of and behind you. Run with other people if you get the chance and find a compatible setup. Running groups are fun and can keep you motivated to stay on your training schedule. I prefer to run and train on my own but that’s just me. I’ll have days that I feel great and want to push it hard and days that I need to turn my hill work into a slow long run day. I try to listen to my body and train how I feel would best work for me and that means doing my own thing most of the time. Plus, as much as I like interacting with others I tend to like to be solo during training so I can push it hard when I can and not have to communicate with others. It’s a good idea to carry some cash with you when you train. Many times I have run out of water or food and really needed something to be able to get back to the car or house. Having $10 on your gear is great for stopping at a gas station for a drink or snack. I even stopped and bought a bag of ice on a long bike ride once because it was so hot outside and I just couldn’t seem to get enough of my fluids down when they were roasting hot. The bag of ice was a life saver because I was out in the middle of nowhere and was about 30 miles from the car in 98-degree heat. Be prepared and bring the money.
Protective devices are a must as well. I have tried many of them out and have a few I like better than others. I carry a light weight, high pitched alarm. It is small and when I pull the little black string that activates it there is a really loud, high-pitched alarm. If anything it will bring some attention to your situation. My favorite device is a light weight taser device. You can find them on Amazon.com and they are not only scary but powerful. There is a flashlight on it as well which a nice feature too. In scarier areas, I hold the taser and wrap the black string around my wrist. It’s easy to run with and I have no shame in running through a bad area with my taser in hand for everyone to see. There is also mace but I have found a mace gun that seems even better. It’s also lightweight and easy to hold in your hand as you run. It has a decent range if you have to use it. I know that most times runners are attacked by another person or animal it is often from behind so I am hopeful that my alarm, taser, and then mace gun can get me enough time and distance to get away. I hope to never find out. Good idea to take a self-defense class and be ready just in case. I know runners that carry an actual gun on them when they run and support that also. I am intimidated by guns even after being shown how to properly use them and choose not to use them. If you have one and can carry it while you run go for it. I don’t carry a knife because I don’t want it to be taken and used against me.
Dogs are a big fear of mine since I have been chased down the road more than a couple times by huge Rottweiler’s, Pit Bulls, and other breeds that meant serious attacking business. This has been while doing training road rides and I have been fortunate enough to escape….just barely on a couple of those encounters though. Because of this, I have given up one of my water bottle cages to my powerful long distance bear spray. I have not had to use it yet but the attack dog will get bear sprayed and tased if contact is made. A spoke with a law enforcement about such an attack and was told that if the dog is after you and not on private property you can protect yourself however you need to. I have since found routes that avoid these dogs and stick to the safer routes now but always carry my protection and am ready if I need it.
Train at the gym if necessary. I have had the urge to go run at 3 am or during bad weather and will take advantage of a 24-hour gym. Terrible weather pushes me to have a gym day. Of course, it’s important to train in all sorts of weather to be prepared for a race I most certainly do. Rain does not deter me from a run but a downpour in 35-degree temperatures with crazy wind will keep me indoors. No need to run on the ice when you can get a few miles on the treadmill in. If you hurt yourself or compromise your immune system too much then that is not going to help your racing season.
I hope this has provided a few ideas of how to train safer. I hope everyone has a good time training for their goals and stays as safe as possible doing so. If you have any other ideas to try please feel free to share them.