I’ve started running again, so am re-posting this guide I wrote in 2012 to staying safe when out running. To remind myself us much as anything else.
The safest run is always going to be one that you do in company. Running with a companion means you can look out for each other. You are less likely to get lost, and, if one of you gets hurt, there is support at hand.
Like almost any outdoor activity, from cycling to hiking, you will be encouraged and feel more confident by doing it with a group – a range of skill sets, experience and physical abilities benefits everyone.
On a more serious note, you are less likely to be hassled by idiots. Your average opportunistic mugger/arsehole tends to be a bit less aggressive when 26 runners at peak physical fitness come thundering towards them.
The fact is drivers don’t notice runners and cyclists. Make them. The more you look like a mobile disco, the better.
That means making yourself into a beautiful eye sore. Reflective clothing works in sunlight, as well as at night. And some good lighting even in day light can be a lifesaver. Volvo drivers and motorcyclists have been doing it for years.
Things happen fast
A car on a country road can be traveling at up to 60 mph. We runners would be pushing towards the car at anywhere between 5-9mph.
So in 5 seconds, the car can cover in excess 130 metres, while we’ll cover maybe 10 metres. Not a lot of wiggle room to make a life decision. That means you must do everything you can to give yourself a good line of sight, detect erratic driving, and be able to hear traffic when you can’t see it. You should also think about your bail out options on blind bends and blind summits.
Be ahead of the curve
If you run WITH the traffic, you’ll never know what’s about to hit you. So best run into opposing traffic. It might seem scary, but on a route with no pavements, it’s better for you to be able to see what’s coming towards you.
If running though a bend to the right, move out to the left to give yourself a better view through the bend. Do the opposite when running through a bend to the left. You’ll see more of what is likely to be coming towards you!
On approaching a blind summit – listen. That means no earphones. Music and air drums won’t stop a truck.
People in cars
Never assume a car is intending to stop at a give way or red light. AND, a flash of the headlights might not be intended for you.
Stationary vehicles are potential hazards. Quite often you can’t see if anyone is on the inside of a parked car. A door might be about to open or the driver may have forgotten to signal that they are pulling out.
TOP TIP: watch the front wheels on a stationary car as you get closer. Are they beginning to turn out? Drivers often start steering before they begin to move.
If a moving vehicle starts to drift a little to the side and correct the line a little sharply, this is bad news. Any driver who can’t hold a straight line is distracted and high risk to runners and cyclists. Put as much space between you and that vehicle as you can.
Running on dark roads alone? The young crowd hanging about under the bridge you need to run past, looking a bit intimidating? You could turn back, or carry an alarm. Here’s what I do:
- The earphones come out immediately. I want to know what’s happening once I pass them.
- I square my shoulders, and tell myself I can outpace any of them.
- If I can I’ll cross the road.
- If I have to pass them on my side, I let them know I am coming. A confident “On your right lads” usually works.
- Do not stop to answer questions. If someone asks me for the time or a light, a polite “Sorry pal, can’t help you there,” can be issued mid stride.
Despite all the potential hazards, for many of us, the solitude of running solo is what we enjoy best. But even the toughest runner can get an injury. So tell someone where you are going and how long you reckon you expect to away. Especially if your run takes you into the wilds. And on that note… a phone, whistle and compass isn’t a bad shout.
And finally, my grandfather once told me: “When you’re on your own, your best friend is a five bob note”. I’ve adapted that advice and run with a £5 note in a ziplock bag. You’d be surprised how bloomin useful that turns out.