Be Careful Out There

This is the time of year when many of us start doing it in the dark. (Running, that is … what else did you think we meant?)

It’s also an important time for a refresher on running safety, so we can all be careful out there. Running in the dark requires some equipment, some advance planning, and vigilance.

Clothes and equipment: Wear light colored clothing, with reflective striping or accents wherever possible. Put some on your dog as well, if you run with one. Many runners wear flashing LED lights on their backsides – they’re inexpensive and easy to find at running stores or on-line. Use a headlamp to help you see the road and to alert oncoming cars to your presence. (Contact us for more info about headlamp shopping.)

If you wear a thick hat to keep your head warm, make sure you don’t pull it too far over your ears or eyes. You still need to hear and remain alert.

Routes: Run on roads that are familiar, and preferably well lit. Stay on the left side of the road to face oncoming traffic. Always assume that the driver doesn’t see you, or even worse, is out to get you - because some day, he actually might be. Be wary of sideview mirrors that stick out from trucks, and give them a wide berth. Above all, don’t be afraid to step off the road and stop; your time doesn’t matter as much as your life.

Most critically of all – NEVER assume that a car sees you, or that the driver will do the right thing and avoid you. Some drivers feel like they own the entire road – and all it takes is one arrogant jerk to end your running career for good.

Form: Running in the dark naturally makes you more adept at “high stepping” to avoid small bumps. If you typically shuffle with your feet low to the ground, a few stumbles will quickly teach you to raise your feet a bit higher with each stride. Doing so is actually good for your overall form as well.

Partners: Find a friend or group to run with, for added security in numbers – an issue of increased importance for women. Each person takes responsibility for his (or her) own well-being, but also looks out for those around him. For example, don’t hesitate to yell a warning when you notice a car coming or see a hole in the road.

A recent running magazine study found that more runners are hit by cars when they run abreast of each other than when single file. We call this a “Well, DUH” kind of study … but just because the point is obvious doesn’t make it less important. If you’re running with a large group, the person out farthest into the traffic lane is in the most danger. So whenever a car approaches, cut the chit chat and quickly go single file.

Headphones and Ipods: In a word: NO. Don’t use them in the dark. Sure, music is cool, but being safe is even cooler. In the darkness, you rely on your sense of hearing more than anything to keep you safe. You have to be hyper-alert to noises around you – especially in the era of whisper-quiet hybrid cars that can inadvertently sneak up on you.

Above all, don’t get complacent. These rules are simple, but they should be adhered to every single day that you venture into the dark. Be careful out there, and run safely all the way to springtime.


Anonymous,  November 20, 2009 at 8:41 AM  

Could you please write an article/blog on common courtesy for runners and cyclists? I live in a semi-rural neighborhood that seems to attract a large number of both runners and cyclists. It’s a great area for both, with access to public lands, low traffic, clean air and great views.
I’m glad to see others enjoying the area, and it reinforces my decision to move here. My only gripe is with the few joggers and riders who can’t seem to shut up for even a minute while passing through in the wee hours before dawn. The average runners are struggling for air and talk less than the experts, who run by while extolling the virtues of their latest shoes or gadgets to their fellow runners, almost shouting to make sure they are heard.
The cyclists are much worse. On the slight down slope of our street, they are not winded at all. With more space between them, they feel compelled to holler at each other all manner of trivial blather, never thinking of those asleep in their homes (those who were asleep).
It’s not like the steady noise of a car passing on a highway or an aircraft overhead, the Doppler effect creating a smooth rise and fall in pitch and volume. It’s the sudden slap of the spoken word, which the brain hears even in sleep, that jars one awake well ahead of schedule.
Many a morning as I lay awake, I wish I knew who had just shouted in my window as they rode or ran by, so that I could return the favor some night when they were all cozy and dreaming of winning the Big Sur Marathon or bicycling the Himalayas.
Remember that every thought that comes into your head need not be spoken aloud.

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