9 Tips for Running Safely Outside

Men trail running at Donner Pass.
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Using your common sense and taking some precautions when running can help you avoid getting injured or becoming a victim. Follow these steps to stay safe on an outdoor run.

How to Run Safely Outside

1. Use common sense. Before you even head out for a run, take a minute or two to do a safety check. Are your shoes tied? Are you familiar with your route? Does someone else know where you'll be running? Once you start running, continue with the safety checks. Watch out for cracks or bumps in the sidewalk, or rocks and branches on your running path. Don't try a new route if it's dark out; save those exploratory runs for daylight.

2. Make sure you're visible. No matter time of day you're running, it's important that you're visible, especially to drivers. Get in the habit of wearing white or bright-colored clothes. When running in the early morning, night, or dusk, make sure you have reflective gear on. Although some items (running shoes, jackets) already have reflective pieces on them, it doesn't hurt to add more. A reflective vest can be worn over any form of running clothing and will definitely help drivers see you.

3. Don't run alone at night. No matter how comfortable you feel running at night, there's always more safety in numbers. If you usually run solo, try to find a running group so you'll have running partners.

4. Always have identification on you. Put your driver's license and your medical insurance card (in case you get injured) in your pocket or wear an ID tag on your shoe. If you're wearing an ID tag or bracelet, make sure it has an emergency contact number on it. Whenever possible, run with your cell phone, and have ICE (In Case of Emergency) numbers saved. Many runners use running belts to hold their ID and cell phone. It's also wise to use an app that allows loved ones to know where you are at all times, especially if your activity stops for a certain amount of time.

5. Limit your distractions. It's tough for some people to run without music, but you really shouldn't use your iPod or MP3 player for outdoor runs. Cutting off your sense of hearing means you can't hear oncoming cars, cyclists yelling to move, unleashed dogs, or any other potential threat. Save your iPod for your treadmill runs. And make sure you pay attention to your surroundings. If you let your mind wander too much, you may find yourself wandering into an unsafe area.

6. Don't make assumptions about drivers. Remember that many drivers aren't paying attention because they're listening to the radio, talking on their cell phone, or reading a map. Don't assume that drivers can see you or that they'll let you go because you have the right of way. Be sure you make eye contact with drivers at street crossings before you cross. And, better yet, try to stay off the roads as much as possible and stick to running in parks or on paths and sidewalks.

If you're running in the street, always run against traffic so you can see cars coming at you.

7. Watch out for cyclists and other runners. Even if you're running on a path or in a park with no cars, always be aware of other runners and cyclists. If you're approaching another runner or cyclist and need to pass them, let them know on which side you're trying to pass. Before you stop or turn around, make sure your path is clear.

8. Carry cash or ATM card. It's always a good idea to have money on you, in case of emergency. For example, if the weather turns bad, you get lost, or an injury starts bothering you, you may need to take a cab or bus back to your starting point. Some extra cash may also come in handy if you need to stop and buy water, sports drink, food, or first aid supplies during your run.

9. Trust your instincts. If a location or person makes you feel comfortable, trust your gut and run in the other direction.

What to Carry on Your Runs to Stay Safe

  • Brightly-colored running clothes
  • Driver's license or other form of ID
  • Reflective gear and/or a light
  • Cell phone
  • Cash
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