(Safety precautions can prevent serious injury and keep you alive. Photo from Runner’s World)
If you want to keep running everyday and racing on weekends, it’s important to take steps to reduce injury risk and keep yourself safe. This post isn’t going to rehash common sense things like keep your shoes tied or wear reflective gear at night or look both ways before you cross a street. I’m going to give some tips and mention a few things I feel don’t get discussed as much. Hopefully, what I can offer will help keep you safe on the road or trails.
Become familiar with your routes and the time of day in which you run those routes. How is traffic on those streets at the time? Are there other runners/walkers/cyclists along your route? If so, are there a lot? For example, I know there are a lot of people running/walking/cycling around the Rose Bowl in the mornings and early evenings after work. The number of people drops during mid-day.
Knowing the traffic patterns can help you safely cross streets. Knowing how many people are out and about along your routes can give an added sense of security if you’re concerned about being alone.
Use your ears. Your ears can help you figure out if a car is coming. Sometimes our eyes can become fixated on something or they wander. You may not see a car drive by if you need to cross a street. But you’ll be able to hear it. Listen before you cross a street and listen if you run past a driveway with a wall, fence or tall bush that blocks you from seeing if a car is pulling out.
When approaching an intersection or a cross street without a crosswalk or traffic signal, always run behind an approaching or stopped car. For example, you’re 15 yards until crossing a small street. A car pulls up on that street and is going to make a right turn. You will run behind that car when crossing–not in front. Why? That driver may not see you. Often, drivers making right turns will pull up and only look left for oncoming traffic. They just don’t see or think a runner or pedestrian could cross. Even if you make eye contact with the driver, go behind anyway because you never know.
If a car is making a left turn, there’s a better chance the driver will notice you as they will have to look both ways before turning. However, that driver may just be fixated on the street and not see you on the sidewalk or side of the road. Go behind. What if there’s another car behind that first car? That second car will likely be stopped and the driver is more likely to see you. If a second car is approaching and not stopped then it’s best to wait to cross until that car is stopped.
The same rule applies if you’re approaching a car pulling out of a driveway. That driver pulling out may not see you so go behind the car or in front if it’s backing out.
If you are running on trails, never, never, never go off the main trail. Don’t be that person who gets rescued by a helicopter several hours later because a little trail leading to that small waterfall seemed appealing. Also, if you are running on trails in the mountains (San Gabriel, San Bernardino, Santa Monica, etc. if you live in So. Cal), bring a cellphone and water with you just in case you get lost. If you take a wrong turn on a main trail to another main trail, you could easily get lost as the mountains are vast compared to the hills.
Women have to deal with security issues much more than men. I never worry about anyone accosting me during a run. However, that’s a problem, women, unfortunately, have to be mindful of. If you’re a woman, run with a partner or two as often as you can. Become extremely familiar with your routes and the people along those routes. If you start to notice one day an unfamiliar man or car, then either run that route at a different time of day, avoid it or bring a small mace can with you. Carry your cellphone with you if you can. There are armbands you can buy so you don’t have to carry the phone.
If you’re running on a street with no sidewalk, mostly run against traffic on the side of the road so the oncoming cars can see you. There are exceptions to this, however. If the against-traffic side has blind turns then run on the side with traffic. The oncoming drivers may not see you coming out of the blind turn. Also, run on the with-traffic side if that side is the only side with a bicycle lane or shoulder. Part of Linda Vista Avenue in Pasadena is like this. The with-traffic side has the bike lane. The other side does not. I run on the right side of the bicycle lane.
I hope these tips can help you. If you feel I left anything off, please let me know. I’d love to include it in an update.
Running With You,