Top Ten Ways to Run Safely
By Rick Morris
Running is a fairly safe sport. You aren’t traveling at high speeds, climbing vertical rock faces or taking hits from a 350 pound lineman. Even though running is relatively risk free there are still some dangers that out there that you should watch out for to keep your running safe. Here are the top ten ways to run safely.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to keep run safely is to carry some form of identification. If you should be involved in an accident and are unable to speak, emergency personnel or good Samaritans will know who you are and who to contact. There are several products out there for runners that you can wear on your ankle or wrist that include your name, an emergency contact and even vital medical information for first responders.
This may seem like a no brainer but I think we have all seen the occasional runners in shorts and tank tops out running in freezing temperatures and even some that run in full sweat suits when the temperature is hot enough to melt wax. Over dressing can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Under dressing can cause frost nip, frost bite or hypothermia. Watch the weather and dress appropriately for the conditions so you can run safely.
Use your head for more than gulping water when hydrating. You need to stay properly hydrated to avoid dehydration but you also need to avoid the opposite but related problem of hyponatremia or over hydrating. Drink enough to replace your lost fluids but don’t overdo it. You need to be especially careful with your hydration when doing a long run of an hour or more. If you drink copious amounts of plain water you can dilute your blood stream and become hyponatremic – a dangerous condition caused by low blood sodium levels. During a long run drink a sports drink that contains sodium and electrolytes instead of plain water and drink only enough to replace lost fluids. When doing shorter runs you should be fine with plain water but follow the same rule of drinking to replace lost fluids.
It’s become a common practice for athletes to listen to a portable music device when they run. One of the problems with that habit is it can take your focus off your running, the environment and the road. There are hazards out there that you need to watch out for. There are pot holes, rocks, slippery patches, drop offs and many other road or trail hazards. If you’re rocking out to the Rolling Stones instead of watching what you’re doing you may be setting yourself up for a trip to the emergency room. Stay focused on the trail ahead of you and on your running stride. You’ll become a better runner and you will avoid some nasty falls and injuries.
It would be nice if you could avoid running near automobile traffic, but that isn’t always possible. There are probably going to be times when you need to run in moderate or high traffic areas. When running in traffic the one thing you don’t want is to have a close encounter with a 1/2 ton piece of moving metal. You will most definitely come out on the losing end of an altercation like that. When running near traffic always run so that you are facing the oncoming traffic. The drivers aren’t always paying attention. They may be on their cell phone, sending a text message or just spaced out. If they don’t see you, make sure you see them. When running facing traffic you can keep a close eye out for approaching cars and take evasive action. If you run with traffic you may never see them coming.
Run a Loop
When you do a long run consider running a loop instead of an out and back course. If you are doing a 20 mile long run an out and back course would be 10 miles out and 10 miles back. If you run into any physical problems you could be 10 miles away from home or your car. With a loop course you are never far from help if you run into trouble.
Don’t Mess With Mother Nature
Runners are very strong and healthy individuals. All that strength and fitness can sometimes make us feel invincible. But there are a lot of forces out there stronger that we are. Thunderstorms, lighting, high wind, heavy rain, hail, high heat and extreme cold are just some examples of the power of nature that can take a heavy toll on a runner. If any of those conditions exist either hit the treadmill for your run or take the day off. Don’t risk the wrath of Mother Nature.
Avoid the Dark
We were taught at an early age not to be afraid of the dark. That is a good lesson to learn – there is no reason to be afraid of the dark, but running in the dark increase the risk to a runner exponentially. Running in the dark increases the dangers associated with traffic, road hazards and criminal activity. Try to avoid running in the dark. If you must run in the dark try to run with a group of friends, run in an area that you are familiar with, wear highly reflective clothing and carry a flash light.
Here is a running hazard that is somewhat hidden – air pollution. Running outside during periods of high air pollution can present a danger to any runner but especially those that have any type of respiratory condition such as asthma. The poor air quality can come from automobile traffic, industrial exhaust, wood burning or even forest fires. Check your local air quality index. If the index is 100 or higher consider running indoors on a treadmill and save your lungs and run safely.
Carry a Cell Phone
In my early years of running I could have carried a mobile phone but I would have needed a back pack to carry it in. Today’s cell phones are so compact you can easily carry them in a pocket or pouch. If you run into any kind of trouble when running you are only a few key strokes away from getting help. I found out how valuable a cell phone in one of my recent trail runs. About 2 miles into my run I came upon a cyclist that had gone head over tea kettles and dislocated his shoulder and was very shaken up. I was able to call for help on my phone. Without the phone I would have had to carry the injured cyclist at least 2 miles to help. Carry your phone to run safely.