Whether you run or walk in the dark or during daylight hours, a good safety plan is just as important as a good training plan.
Gearing Up To See and Be Seen:
If you train before the sun rises or after it sets, are you dressed like a ninja from head to toe, or are you visible? Sure, everyone looks good in black, but if you’re running like “Dark (K)night Mike” in our video, you’re not only endangering your safety, but those around you too, including drivers. A reflective vest should be your number 1 wardrobe item in the dark. The Amphipod Xinglet is great example of reflectivity and comfort. The suspender style adjusts for both height and width, and there is a generous zippered pocket to hold an ID or cell phone, and it offers 360 degree coverage.
In addition to vests, we have a myriad of ankle bands, wristbands, tape and stickers you can add to your running togs to be seen by motorists. Clipping a red blinking light on the front of your body as you run facing traffic is another excellent way of getting the attention of drivers, as we are trained to slow down or stop when approaching such a light. Clip one on the back for extra safety.
The steady white light of a headlamp may make you feel silly, but it will make you look like an oncoming vehicle, and as such is a valuable item to add to your safety arsenal. Of course, the main benefit of wearing a headlamp is to light your way so you don’t trip over any obstacles in your path. Trail runners and cyclists have been using headlamps for years. Road runners and walkers still need some prodding to embrace this excellent idea, but thankfully more and more are catching on. (Great way to prevent running head first into a big old nasty spider web too!) We also have a runner’s flashlight with an easy grip you can carry if a headlamp is just not your thing, or want even more light.
Don’t forget Fido! If poochy is your favorite training companion, reflective collars, leashes, vests and blinking lights are available to keep your best friend safe.
OK, so we’ve got running or walking in the dark covered, what about the rest of the time?
Who Are You?
No matter the time of day, it is essential to carry ID with emergency contact information on each and every run. This can be done with a shoe ID tag, wrist ID, or laminated information card in your pocket. Be sure to include any health conditions you may have such as diabetes, asthma, etc. and mention all drug allergies as well. In addition, the name and number of an emergency contact is essential. If you live in Atlanta and your dad lives in Cleveland, don’t use him as your contact! Ask a friend or co-worker who can get to you quickly to take on this role. Also, carry your phone, espcially when out alone.
Where Are You?
Whenever possible, try not to run alone, especially in early morning or evening hours. Of course, we all have crazy schedules these days, and that is not always possible. That’s why it’s so important to have someone know when and where you are running. Arrange with a friend or family member to have your back. Let your back-up buddy know when and where you will be running, and what time you plan to be finished. Arrange to call your friend to say you are done. And, if he or she has not heard from you by the pre-determined time, have him or her call you.
Mix It Up!
Do you run the same route, at the same time, on the same day(s), week after week? Change things up every now and then. Leave at a different time of day, run in the opposite direction, do your Tuesday morning run on a Wednesday. If you head out alone, and have a routine, someone might be taking notice. Not only is mixing it up a good way to stave off trouble, it’s also great for your training. If your route is routine not only is your head auto-pilot, your muscles might be there too. New routes make for great training challenges!
I See You!
When crossing the street in front of a car waiting at a traffic signal or stop sign, make eye contact with the driver before stepping off the curb. Do not assume the driver sees you, especially with so many distractions (cell phones, etc.) in our cars these days. When in doubt…wait it out!
Now a word about the “bad guys.” Sad, but true, they’re out there, and we need to take necessary precautions. Pepper spray can help you with both threatening humans and canines crossing your path. It is of the utmost importance if you carry mace to have it at the ready, and to know how to use it properly. Keeping it tucked in your waist pack or pocket is no more effective than leaving it on your kitchen counter. Carry it in your hand or on a quick release belt clip. To properly discharge pepper spray, take a deep breath, hold it, turn your head or cover your face with your other arm, spray in the face of the offender, and take off. To quote a City of Atlanta Police Officer, “Take a deep breath, spray, and run like hell!” Do not hesitate to use your mace. If you threaten, and don’t act immediately, the bad guy can knock your spray out of your hand. Carrying a loud whistle is also a good idea.
Trust your instincts. If a stranger asks you a question, do not stop to respond. Keep your posture, gait, and pace the same, but keep moving. Shrug your shoulders in response, or simply say, “I don’t know.” A favorite ploy of troublemakers is to ask you for the time. Do not look at your watch, keep moving, and either shrug or say your watch doesn’t work as you continue running. Head for busy streets and open businesses if feeling uneasy.
Consider carrying a “mugger’s wallet”. Put about $10 in a small zip top bag, and stash it in your pocket. If you simply can’t get away from someone wanting to do you harm, in many cases, something is better than nothing. A runner in Downtown Atlanta was recently asked for money. She never changed her pace or stride while responding, “Don’t you know runners never carry money?” As she passed, she heard the panhandler say, “No I didn’t. Thanks for the tip.”
Now, let’s talk about running with your favorite tunes. While the best answer is to keep a song in your heart and your head, but not in your ears, we know it’s hard for some of us to keep the music home. If listening to music, podcasts, etc on the run, it is imperative that you keep the volume very low, or even better, keep one ear bud out at all times. You need to be able to hear the world around you. In addition, those cords hanging out of your ears provide the bad guys with a great tool to wrap around your neck. If you have the wires running behind you and someone yanks on them, the ear buds will just fall out.
Finally, it never hurts to take a few self-defense classes if at all possible.
Run, safe, run smart, and you’re Best Miles Will Be Those Covered On Foot!