Running outdoor has so many benefits. It will keep you sane, healthy and will get you into the best shape of your life. Plus, it’s also awesome for the lungs and a great way to soak up some vitamin D.
But it has a dark side. You are out in the open to the elements, grisly people, terrible drivers and the unforeseen.
That’s why most outdoor sports—especially running—can at times be dangerous.
But fret no more. I got you covered.
Today you are going to learn about all sorts of safety strategies and precautions you might need to take to ensure a worry- and trouble-free running experience.
Safety is paramount, and taking a few precautions will not compromise your running routine. It will, in fact, invigorate it.
So are you excited? Then here we go…
How to Stay Safe When Running
Take the following 18 precautions to protect yourself when you are running outside, and use them to become the safest runner you can be. Some of them may seem obvious, but it can only take one blasé second for a disaster to happen.
1. Run with a Buddy
There is indeed strength in numbers.
Two runners, or more, are harder to control than a solo strider, so assailants are less likely to hit, and if they do, you have just doubled—even tripled—your chances of getting through it unscathed.
However, if you can’t get anyone to run with you, then you can always join a running club (make new friends), or get a dog to run with. A dog—a big one—makes you a less appealing target; plus dogs can at times sense danger before we can.
2. Leave Word
Tell your roommate, partner or friends where you will be running and the approximate time they should expect you to be back. And when you are back, make sure to touch base and let them know that you are safe and sound.
3. Identify Yourself
Please, don’t be a John Smith or Jane Doe when you are running.
Carry your driver’s license and your medical insurance card in your pocket, or wear an ID tag on your shoes whenever you run alone.
If you are wearing an ID tag, make sure it has at least three emergency contact numbers of people you rely on, as well as your medical information.
4. Have Cash on
Along with ID tag, make sure also to have some cash or a credit card in your pocket or shoe.
You will never know what purpose this cash may serve.
You may need to get something tasty to eat, coffee, or cab fare to get you home because the weather has taken the wrong turn, you got lost, or you just sprained your ankle and can’t step on it without feeling excoriating pain.
The cash will also be needed if you need to stop and get first aid supplies in case of emergency God forbid.
5. Carry Your Phone
I don’t always run with my Smartphone (too distracting), but you just have to have a phone with on you in case something bad happened—especially nowadays where street pay phones are a dying breed.
Most phones have GPS and can help you navigate your way home in case you get lost. Plus, you can always use it to call a friend or a cab in the event of emergency, for instance, if you get injured or you got embroiled in an accident.
6. Face Traffic
Running against traffic makes it easier for you to see oncoming cars, and the drivers will see you more clearly too. This can help you prevent traffic related accidents, especially if you run at night or in the early morning.
In addition, this will also make it harder for someone to snatch you in a car if you see them coming a mile away.
7. Drivers Can’t See you
Run with the assumption that drivers can’t see you and that you have the responsibility to navigate through.
For most of the time, drivers are distracted, listening to the radio, keeping an eye on other drivers, or even talking on the phone and being drunk. So they won’t be paying attention to a runner.
8. Make Eye Contact
Make eye contact with drivers before crossing a street, and never challenge a driver to a race. If you and a car are both coming up to an intersection, stop and let the car go first. You are not the Flash, and you will never win that race unless the driver is cruising along really slow.
At a stop sign or light, wait for the driver give you the sign—then acknowledge with your own civil way. This act will encourage the drive to feel more disposed to repeat the kind gesture for the next runner and pedestrian.
And for good measures, make sure to steer clear of the roads, and do the bulk of your running on trail paths, parks, and sidewalks, avoiding cars as much as possible.
9. See All
Even if you are running in a secluded area where drivers pose no threat, be aware of any other person who may frequent the area, especially cyclists, other runners, and walkers.
Before you try passing a runner or cyclists (if you are that fast), make some noise and let them know on which side you are trying to pass them by.
No one likes to be startled when exercising, so treat others the way you want them to treat you.
Also, keep an eye for early birds, night owls, dogs, and other animals you may cross path with.
10. Look Both Ways
Crossing the streets can be fraught with danger. And the streets regulated by stop signs are the most horrible for runners.
And as much as I hate to sound like a broken record, be sure to look both ways before you cross the street—just like what mother used to hammer on you when you were a child.
11. Be Shiny
If you are running at night or at dusk when visibility is poor, make sure to be seen by wearing high-visibility, brightly colored clothing.
This reflective material can be a real life saver.
If you don’t own reflective clothing, wear light-colored clothing or a lightweight reflective vest.
Also, use a headlamp or handheld light—sure they do look dorky, but safety comes first— so you can see where you are running, and also let cars and other people (and creatures) know where you are.
12. Deal with Dogs The Right Way
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of dogs, and my heart jumps a beat whenever I hear a dog barking when I’m running. And guard dogs are the worst—even when they are chained.
In case you encounter any vicious dog while running, stop running on the spot. Don’t try to run away. This will only set off the dog, and as you know, most dogs will be able to outrun a runner anytime.
Do your best not to make eye contact with the dog—you will be regarded as a threat if you stare at him or her.
In addition, don’t make any sudden movements, and in a calm and commanding voice, say, “Sit,” “Stop,” or “Go home,” while slowly backing away.
Check my full guide on handling dog attacks on the runs if you want more guidelines and practical tips.
13. Don’t Run with Earphones
I often run with my earphones on, but I also make sure to take the music down a notch (it’s also good for ear health), and in case I sense any danger, or I’m in a secluded area, I only use one earpiece and switch ears throughout the run.
The pumping sound of music in your ears will definitely dull your senses, making you less likely to hear an impending attacker, and it also kills your reaction time, rendering you helpless in the case of a surprise incident.
14. Be Polite
The best way to deal with verbal harassment is to ignore them and keep on moving. As you already know, it takes two to have an argument, so don’t be one of them.
These types of qualms usually lead to no good and can be prevented by just making the right decision.
And when you choose not to get sucked into it, then you are leaving the other person with no choice but to retreat and stop.
15. Defend Yourself
This might seem like overkill, maybe even too paranoid, but it pays well to learn a few basic self-defense moves to fend off a physical attack and get through it—hopefully—unscathed.
For starters, be a terrible victim by getting as loud as you can—this will at least get other people attention.
Show your willingness to fight. If you cower in and display weakness, you’ll only be encouraging the attacker to advance with his assault. Instead, keep looking the person dead in the eye, and be as assertive as possible.
Don’t ever hit the attacker in the torso—that stuff only works in the movies. Instead, play it dirty. Elbow the attacker in the face or stomach, step hard on their instep, punch their throat, jab their eyes, knee their groin.
Don’t hold back—especially if the aggressor means real harm. You are defending yourself. There is no shame in that.
Nevertheless, if you are outnumbered, the attacker has a weapon, or you are too scared, then just turn in the opposite direction and run away as fast you can. You are a runner after all.
16. Change your Route
This might sound like the most paranoid thing to do, but, to err on the right side, I think you should have a few routes which you are familiar with and keep switching these up on a regular basis.
Having a definite and set pattern is dangerous because it gives any sick person who might be out looking for a victim a way to know where you are going to be by yourself and on a given day.
As a result, if you run the same route, day in and day out, you are going to be an easy target. On the other hand, changing your routes regularly makes unpredictable and harder for stalkers to track you.
17. Safety Apps
As long as you are taking your Smart Phone with you, take advantage of the following apps to help you stay safe when running outdoors.
StaySafe: A personal GPS tracker app that allows you to enter your intended running route and the time you expect to be back home. If you don’t touch base within the due time, this app notifies your pre-set emergency contact by e-mail or text message, providing your exact GPS location.
MyPanic: A free app that sets off a sharp alarm and flashes vivid colors to seize the attention of other people who might be nearby. It’s like a siren on demand.
bSafe: With one touch of a button, this app triggers off a siren, starts recording video, notifies authorities and contacts your pre-set emergency contact, providing them with your exact GPS location.
18. Trust Your Guts
Every human being is born with a set of instincts—the by-products of million years of evolution—and most of the time, these primitive drivers know what’s best for us when it comes to warding off danger.
Therefore, if you feel something wrong with a runner, a person, a driver, a place, a setting, then you shouldn’t discount these gut feelings. Trust your instinct and run in the other direction
In the end, you have to call the shot and trust your own gut feelings. Never underestimate them. They got you so far, and they have your back—as long as you are willing to listen, and behave accordingly.
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Image Credit – Fergus Scot through Flickr