Make sure you’re seen all around in part two of our visibility series!
“Nothing ruins a great night run like getting hit by a car.” I’d say that this is understatement. Nothing ruins any run like a collision with an oncoming vehicle, be it day or night. The very thought of this premise seems absurd, silly, even comical at first glance. But cars are everywhere, and runners must acknowledge their presence – especially at dawn and at dusk when the light is minimal. Since runners are keen on mantras, see and be seen is a great phrase to internalize as it pertains to visibility. If you remember the first article in this series, I spoke of “blending out.” Make your presence known on the roads. This is primarily accomplished by active and passive lighting. To put another way, this is achieved by 360 visibility.
I wish to confess that even though I am an experienced runner, I have fallen short on consistently implementing 360 visibility during my workouts. My gear is good, but only for the front side of the body. In other words, only 90 degrees of the 360 is being properly executed. I don a neon colored shirt, a headlamp, and strobe lights, but this product mixture isn’t comprehensive enough. Placement is what matters; accordingly, the sides and back are in need of some extra help. Let’s unpack each area in greater detail.
Let’s start by revisiting the front briefly. A few moments ago I noted that this is the area where I shine (pardon the pun). In fact, I’d argue that most runners succeed here. A bright shirt, preferably neon pink, orange, or yellow, will serve as a solid base layer of sorts for visibility. Reflective strips on the shirt make it a more valuable commodity too. With temperatures slowly starting to drop for autumn, it’s wise to remember that long sleeve shirts and jackets also have strategically placed reflective strips. With the right shirt in place, let’s proceed to active lighting next. I favor a headlamp, though I have met many runners who like to utilize a flash light. One is good. Two is better as illumination is further increased. From here it’s on to strobe lights. I affix one to the neck collar of my shirt for added visibility. Or I might sandwich one between shoe laces for supplemental brightness. There are many combinations that will work well.
I realize why runners might only focus on the front side of the body for visibility. We run against traffic. If you don’t, this is a friendly but stern reminder. Run against traffic and leave ample space for cars. If we run against traffic, not much thought is given to cars moving in the other direction. But 360 visibility means being seen from all directions: the front, back, and side. A neon shirt provides visibility for the back side, but this isn’t adequate. Complement the shirt with a lightweight vest and a strobe light in a prominent location.
Finally, what of the left and right side? They too require attention, and nostalgia is the pathway that will help us find a good option. Take a moment and remember the time when you wore slap bracelets (or Slap Wraps). Anthony Ramirez, in a 1990 New York Times article, called the Slap Wrap a “Venetian blind with an attitude.” I had a few and loved the sound they made. Did you own one or ten or more? What did they look like? Slap bracelets can still be found today in a myriad of colors and patterns, but they were certainly a namesake trend many years ago (the 80s and 90s). If you liked slap bracelets, rejoice, as reflective slap bracelets are available for runners! Bracelets on both wrists and both ankles complete the 360-degree visibility ensemble. You are ready.
See and be seen. This is the driving force behind 360 visibility. An effective product mix will vary based on personal preference, so develop a plan and proceed from there. Think about what you are doing well right now. Do you wear a neon shirt for low lighting? If so, outstanding; if not, invest in a good one in a color of your liking. But be willing to go further than this by acquiring an active source of light too, be it a headlamp, flashlight, or both. And who can resist a snap bracelet? Outfit your body with multiple points of light to avoid a collision with an object that also has many lights – but weighs three to four thousand pounds. That would ruin your run for sure.
Austin Bonds is a Guest Advocate at the Big Peach Suwanee location.