Running safety is something many runners do not think about, but learn as they go.  Don’t let a bad experience catch you off guard, instead think about some of my tips here and apply a few of them to your training. I thought about writing about safety as I was heading out for a run on a wintery day, so much of my advice applies to other seasons, but is particularly useful in the winter.

HAVE A PLAN AND DON’T KEEP IT A SECRET.  Always plan your runs.  What course to you plan to take?  What distance or time?  Does anyone else know where you are going?  Tell a family member, send a text to your running buddy, or leave a note behind regarding your plans.

LOST WITH NO WAY HOME.  Whether you are running on your own turf, or in an area you are unfamiliar, you should always know where your home is.  If you are staying with friends write down their address and phone and have it on your body.  You should always have some cash as well.  I also recommend carrying a house key.  My favorite way to deal with these little details is a shoe wallet.  It attaches to the top of your shoe and is large enough for some cash, a house key, and a piece of paper identifying where home is.

TAG, YOU’RE IT.  You should always carry ID on your body, regardless of what you are doing, but particularly when you are out exercising.  If you have an expired drivers license you can carry that on your workouts.  My advice is to purchase an ID bracelet.  Go to roadid

They have multiple options, but the basic name, address, phone numbers, allergies info etc is $20.  I never run, bike, or swim without mine and it has come in handy (unfortunately for me).  Because mine is worn on my wrist any emergency responder will know who I am and who to call in an emergency.

YOU LOOK GREAT, BUT CAN ANYONE SEE YOU?  Whether it’s day or night you want to dress to be seen.  Some things to consider are light colored clothing.  This one isn’t real reasonable; just think about how much of your workout attire is white.  So other really good options are a safety vest or a brightly colored accessory.  The safety vests are made of a very lightweight mesh with reflective materials that can be worn over any shirt or jacket so is multi seasonal.  If you don’t like that idea, choose to wear one accessory that is very loud.  I have a pair of thin gloves that I wear much of the year.  They are crossing guard yellow color and extremely noticeable when I run.  I had a traffic cop stop me once and comment that he could see me coming up the street a half-mile away.  Reflective headbands and ankle bands are some other ideas.  Many manufacturers are adding reflective bands to clothing and shoes, which is great, but sometimes not enough, and may not be worth the additional cost.

ROAD RUNNING RULES- Why would you run in the road if a sidewalk exists?  Sometimes sidewalks are more dangerous than roads, over crowded with pedestrians, poor footing, construction, or slippery surface.  Under good conditions always choose to run on a sidewalk; after all even though you may feel like a machine, you are still a pedestrian.

The other day I chose to run in the street on the way to the track.  It was in the morning after a snow and the sidewalks were slippery but roads were clear.  I chose a road that had a bike path and ran against traffic.  Here are some things to consider when running in the road.

  • How well do you know the traffic patterns?  Is a seemingly rural road going to suddenly become busy and there is no shoulder for you to move to?  Be very cautious when choosing to run in the road in an area you are unfamiliar.
  • Is it day or night?  Sunny or cloudy?  Raining or snowing? Is oncoming traffic perhaps looking into the sun?  Don’t run in the street if driving conditions are not optimal.
  • If you are going to run in the street always run against traffic.  It’s wise to choose an extra wide street, maybe one marked with a bike lane.  One-way streets are sometimes a better option then two-way, drivers have less to think about, and usually have more space to maneuver.
  • If you are fortunate enough to get to the country for some training beware that drivers are not expecting runners in the street.  Stick with running against traffic, stay close to the shoulder.  If a car approaches and doesn’t appear to be giving you some breathing room, stop, step off the road, and let them pass before proceeding.  If you are listening to music and running along a winding, hilly road, with blind spots, stop the music, and listen for traffic.  You don’t want a car going 40mph to get to the top of a hill and be surprised by your presence. The best way to stay safe in a road is to be friendly.  Wave at everything approaching.  They will be more likely to notice you and maybe you will even get a smile or wave back.

AID STATIONS- wherever you choose to run, if it is more than an hour you may very well need water or a bathroom of sorts.  Know what your options are for your route.

HEY, YOU LOOK LIKE SANTA- Not something I ever want to here.  Protect you skin in freezing temperatures.  If it’s below freezing you definitely want to cover as much skin as possible.  Dress in layers.  Eventually you will be able to look at a weather forecast and know exactly what to wear.  Until that day comes (took me at least a year) too warm, is better than too cold.  You don’t want to finish a long, blistery cold run and look in the mirror and see really red skin.  That’s very damaging to your skin.  If I run in the morning I do not wash my face, instead I leave the natural oils on my skin.  I apply a fairly heavy moisturizer to my skin and expose as little of my face as I can bear.  Recently I purchased a great product that protects much better than regular skin lotion.  It’s called Dermatone Skin Protector Pommade and since using it my runs are more comfortable in windy conditions and my skin isn’t ruby red when I get home.

RUNNING SNOW SHOES? -  I have been fortunate to never fall during a winter run but I see so many people slipping and sliding around that I think this product is worth mentioning for everyone who wants to get around more safely in the winter.  And if your are the type who makes excuses about exercising in the winter because the conditions aren’t ideal, I’ve got a solution for you.

Yaktrax are a product designed to fit over any type of shoe and they provide stability on slippery, snowy surfaces.  When I go for runs in the snow I hardly see anyone out running with me.  Everyone is afraid of injury, and for good reason.  This product really works.  I used them for the first time this December in the morning following 12 inches of snow. I was doing a long run in Prospect Park and no way was a foot of snow going to screw up my training schedule.  The first 2 miles were all up hill, almost all the sidewalks were completely snow covered and my footing was very secure.  In the park the drive had been plowed, but not salted, or at least most portions were not salted.  Again, whether the surface was flat or hilly the yaktrax really gripped.  As with any unsure footing, you want to be careful, but I’m really happy with this investment and will use them anytime following snowfall.

Yaktrax come in two models, one for outdoor adventurers/runners and are the “pro” model, and a less hefty version is made for people who simply want to walk more safely in snow.  They are also a great gift idea for any of your family who needs a little assistance.  My mother in law is recovering from a hip replacement surgery and I let her use them over the holidays.  She walked with much more confidence and felt a big difference from walking with just her winter boots.

Please let me know if you have any additional tips I may have missed.