Training Tips: Running Smart and Safely

by Karl Gruber

At first glance, an article on safety while running may seem boring. However, if you take the time to read this and pay attention to the details, it may just save your life. 

Learning how to stay safe during a run will save you from incidents, accidents, trauma or issues that could result in injury. Oh, and did I mention also staying alive? The goal is to not only to get you home safely after every run but also to come across the finish line in one piece for your next full or half-marathon.

1. Run Without Earbuds
One of the hardest safety issues for modern runners is running with earbuds that block out any warning sounds. Blasting through mile after mile while jamming to your favorite tunes may be fun, but it is just not safe. 

From the thousands of conversations I have had with runners over the years, many feel that running is boring and it would simply be impossible to run without music or a podcast to keep them motivated and entertained. While this may be true for them, it defies common sense when running – not just on busy streets but also during races and especially when running alone, no matter where you are. 

I can tell you that I have literally had to yank the runner in front of me out of the way when an ambulance came roaring down the race course to an injured runner, all because they could not hear the sirens or warnings of their fellow runners because of their ear buds. 

Another alarming issue I encounter often on my daily training runs is coming up on a slower runner that I am getting ready to pass, and because of their earbuds, they cannot hear my passing warning. Once they see me, I notice a flinch because of their lack of awareness and shock of unexpected intrusion.

The answer here is obvious. In order to be safe and aware of everything that is going on around you, whether racing or training, don’t wear earbuds that nullify your hearing of any warnings. Sure, you’re going to have to deal with that perceived boredom, but it truly can help keep you safe and alive. At the very least, if you absolutely feel that you must have your music while running, put your earbuds in only one ear, and leave the other ear free to hear.

2. Run Against Traffic
If you are a city runner like me, one of the top safety practices you should do when running on the road is to always run against traffic! Or, if there is an available bike/running path, choose to run there instead. Already this year in my hometown, I know of three different incidents where a runner was killed or injured by a driver, so be adamant about this safety rule.

The whole point here is to see if the driver sees you or if the car is getting too close. If you see that a driver’s gaze is not on you, you should have enough time to react and get out of harm’s way when. Most drivers nowadays are distracted in some way due to texting, phone calls, music, or simply day dreaming and not paying attention to the road. Because of this, I’m sure any long time runner can give you harrowing stories of near misses or accidents while out on a training run. 

The only time you should consider breaking the rule of running against traffic is when running on a blind hill or curve. In this situation, when you decide to cross over to the other side of the road, take plenty of time to look behind for oncoming traffic. Once you get safely past the corner or hill, immediately return to the other side and again run against the flow of traffic. 

3. Run With a Partner or Group
Yes, there is safety in numbers when running. While the safety rule of running with a partner or a group applies to both sexes, this matters more for women since virtually every female runner I have known has had to deal with issues. As a man, it makes me both sad and angry that women have to deal with being harassed or assaulted during their run. 

The unfortunate part of this is losing the sense of freedom that running gives you – the ability to lace-up your running shoes and head out the door for a run no matter the time of day, the weather or where you’re at. That being said, the number one way to stay safe is to run with a partner or in a group. 

Other ways to ward off assault or harassment include changing your daily run route and time as much as possible. Assailants will be unable to count on you being at a certain place at a certain time. 

Carrying pepper spray is also a great deterrent. Many pepper spray devices made specifically for runners allow it to be strapped comfortably in the palm of your hand for instant use if necessary. 

4. Other Safety Ideas
Always carry an ID because you simply never know when you are going to need it in an emergency. Also, make yourself seen by wearing bright colored, highly visible and/or reflective clothing if you run before the sun comes up or goes down. 

We want to see you come across the finish line of your next full or half-marathon healthy, happy and alive, so be aware, be smart and be safe during every one of your training runs.

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