Staying safe while running is a matter of paying attention to the world around you and using common sense. Sometimes it is helpful to be reminded of basic running safety tips that will help you enjoy your run and the health benefits it provides.
The biggest threat to a runner's safety are vehicles. Usually cars are moving so fast that they have trouble noticing a gaunt man running on the side of the road. But cars are not the only threat to a runner. Other considerations are animals, other people and the elements. Taking some time to think through different situations will prepare you for running outside.
Before the Run
Make sure someone knows where you will be running. If you run in the same area every time this can be as simple as letting someone at home know you are going out for a run. If your route changes from day to day, or you are planning a special run, it is easy to map out a run on your computer and leave the map open on the screen. You can use a site like MapMyRun.com to make a map for your family.
Are your shoes tied? Do you need water? Do you have money for any emergencies along the way?
If you are running with a cell phone, include an ICE number in the directory. ICE stands for In Case of Emergency. Police and medical personnel know to look for this. Using a running belt like the Amphipod AirFlow Lite can help you carry your cell phone, money and identification.
Carry some form of identification with you while running. This may save your life in an unfortunate event. No one wants to think about the possibility of being seriously injured while running or engaging in any outdoor activity, but it is at these times you may be most vulnerable. Whatever form of identification you choose to carry, it needs to at least have basic information about you and contact information for your spouse or other family members. Any type of special medical information needs to be listed on the ID.
There is a company that specializes in identification for runners called RoadID. They have bracelets, anklets and shoe tags that list your name, address, contact phone numbers and any critical medical information. They also provide more detailed information to medical personnel in an emergency if you are not able to provide the information yourself.
If running a race you can write your ID information, any special medical instructions and contact information on the back of your race bib. It is helpful to include blood type. If you are running a local race and have a hospital preference then include that information.
Whether you are running in limited light conditions or in the middle of the day, you need to be clearly visible. This means light colored clothing with reflective material so that cars can see you. If running at night, carrying a flashlight or headlamp can be used to alert others of your presence. Even if you are able to see fine without the extra light, signaling to others you are on the road or trail will help give an extra level of safety.
Being visible is not just for running at night or when visibility might be low. You need to stand out from the scenery to make it easy for others to know you are there. Pay special attention if you are trail running around hunting season. Even if the season has not started yet, sometimes people get dates mixed up and start a week early or hunt a week late. Yes, it would be the hunter's fault if you were shot out of season, but that is of little consolation in a hospital bed when you could have worn brighter colors and avoided the situation.
Headphones: Yes or No?
There is a lot of debate about whether headphones should be worn while running. Ultimately it is a decision you will have to make for yourself. Many races are lifting the ban on headphones while participating, but insurance may not cover you if you are injured while wearing headphones during the race.
If you do wear headphones, do not wear the noise isolation or noise cancellation type. These will limit the amount of traffic you can hear. They also make it easy for dogs to sneak up on you.
Watch Out For Others
Don't assume that a car sees you. Wait for cars to pass at intersections. At least make definite eye contact with the driver before crossing in front of them. Run against the flow of traffic. This will give you a better view of the cars passing closest to you. Be aware that when an oncoming car is turning right, they will be looking for the traffic to their left. They may not see you on the right as they begin their turn.
While running in a park or on trails you won't have to worry about cars; however, remember that there are other runners and possibly cyclists on the trails with you. Don't be guilty of weaving around the running path, potentially cutting off someone from behind. A collision with a bike can be dangerous.
Run In Groups
The saying, "there is safety in numbers," applies to running too. Find a running group, or at least one friend you can run with to provide a level of safety that you can't get alone. Groups are easier to see on the road and immediate assistance can be provided if something goes wrong.
Running with a group of friends protects you from various animals-four legged and two legged ones. Women who run alone on predictable routes in lower trafficked areas are at greater risk for assault. Carry a noisemaker, like a whistle, and/or pepper spray to protect you. Don't run alone on trails that are narrow or heavily wooded. If you are alone and feel uncomfortable in a situation, try to find another runner or group of people to provide extra protection.
Dealing With Weather
Layer up in cold weather. Don't overdress, but you need to protect yourself from getting too cold. On a short run you can use two or three heavier layers. You won't have to worry about overheating. On longer runs it is better to layer your clothing with a sufficient number of light layers so that you can take off different combinations of clothing to keep from getting too warm.
Hydration is important on a run in hot or cold weather, but it will be more important during warmer weather. You can carry water with you or you can take some cash to buy a bottle of water or sports drink from a convenience store.
Running can be a healthy and safe activity. By using a little common sense you can increase your chances of returning home without incidence.