When I started running regularly, I made the decision to run with others much of the time and rarely ran outside alone, instead choosing to run on a treadmill. As I’ve become a more seasoned runner, this hasn’t been practical for many of my longer runs, and I’ve ventured out alone, making the decision to run on main streets and to let K know my route and how long I expect to be out.
Part of the reason I tend to stick to main roads when running alone is so that I have a better chance of getting help quickly if I’m injured.
Whether you are walking, running, or biking outside, following general safety guidelines and being prepared to react quickly are key. This holds whether you are exercising alone or with others.
If you are walking or running and can stay on the sidewalk (or trail), that’s typically the safest place to be. In many areas, Ohio included, it is illegal to walk or run on the road if there are sidewalks available.
If you need to move to the road, remember to travel against traffic when on foot. You want to be able to see cars as they are approaching and move out of the way, if necessary.
Cyclists, in contrast, must ride with the flow of traffic on streets and follow traffic rules, with some exceptions.
Consider exercising without headphones (or leaving one earbud out), as listening to music, a podcast, or a book can distract you. If you are alert, you may have a few more seconds to react. Distracted drivers may not see you until they are close, and you can’t assume that a driver will see you at all.
Even though we have the benefit of more daylight at this time of year, dressing in bright colors and wearing reflective clothing can help you to stand out to drivers. Also, wearing lights can help you to be seen in low-visibility situations such as early morning, late evening, or inclement weather.
On more than one occasion when running in the street, I have thought that I was going to get hit and have jumped up on the curb. Safety first — even though this past weekend that meant leaving footprints in an area with new grass. (If it’s new grass or me, the grass gets to be the pancake!)
Unfortunately, getting hit by a car is not the only risk outdoor exercisers face.
A few years ago, I was coaching a beginners’ running group and thought that a car was circling suspiciously around one of the runners. This happened in the middle of a Saturday morning on a main road in a safe area, and, though it could have been a lost driver, the situation felt off and I was concerned about leaving this runner alone. Though I’ll never know what was setting off my senses (nothing bad happened, thankfully), I circled back to make it obvious that this runner was not alone.
Recently, a friend was running alone, and she, too, was faced with a situation that didn’t feel right. She trusted her instincts, took evasive action, and warned others about the experience and location.
Being observant and prepared can help you to stay safe when you are exercising outside.
If you feel that something about a situation isn’t right, trust your instincts and do what you need to do to protect yourself. Safety first!
It’s always better to avoid a potential problem and get home safely.