Running Safely

Recently, I decided to go for a run right smack in the middle of the day. No big deal right? Well, given the fact that it was 95 degrees in the shade, I hadn’t eaten or drank anything AND not to mention the fact that I had decided to try a new loop at the park, it probably wasn’t my best idea. I reasoned with myself that I generally knew where I was going , and I figured that I had ran in worse weather- so what was the worse that could happen?

About thirty minutes into what ended up being a 55 minute run (a slow 7 miles for me that day), I began to hit a wall….bigtime. I was too far into the run to turn around and go back though. As I ran, I tried to guestimateapproximately how much longer I thought I would have until I completed the loop. Just to be on the safe side, I decided to conserve a little energy by running a little slower. The trail was peppered with a few cyclists here and there so that I didn’t feel too abandoned. However, I didn’t come across any runners (I guess they knew better). Eventually, I came to a clearing that I recognized and felt a little wave of relief come over me. 

Usually, if I’m running by myself-especially if I’m trying a new loop out, then I’ll carry my cell phone with me. However, ever since I got a new cell phone that is much more bulky than my last one, I haven’t really bothered with it too much.With perhaps only ten minutes left in my run, I began to feel a little dizzy and oddly enough, I also felt a little cold.

Uh oh. 

I knew that I couldn’t afford to slow down. I simply focused on making it back to my car, which was located in the parking lot of the main entrance to the park. There, I knew that I could go to the water fountain and cool my body off (since I had forgotten to bring my water bottle with me). 

I made it back to my car, but instead of stopping there, I went straight to the water fountain. There, I ran the bunched up shirt I held in my hands under the water and proceeded to squeeze the water over my head as well as the back of my neck and arms. I knew that my body was overheated. I only took a few small sips of water and then headed back to my car so that I could grab a change of clothes. Being someone who runs/exercises alot, I always make sure that my car is packed with a few nonperishable snacks for emergencies. Typically, I will also have a few bottles of water in there too. I went into my trunk and grabbed a small 60-cal pack of prunes and ate them before heading back to the water fountain for one last drink. For the next couple of hours, I had a pounding headache and felt flushed, which caused me to succumb to taking 2 aspirins. As I sipped water throughout the rest of the night, I felt better.

As a seasoned runner, I should have known better than to run when I did given the circumstances. After reflecting on this experience, it reminded me of a few safety tips that I’d like to share with you now (especially if you are a female):

Staying Safe When You Run:

  • Location: Always let someone know where and how long you’re planning to run. 
  • Music: If you’re working out at the gym, feel free to throw on your iPod. However, when you’re outside running- especially if you’re running on trails, ditch the mp3 player. I cannot emphasize enough how dangerous it is to run with headphones in. Doing this can prevent you from hearing sounds, which may alert you to danger such as the screeching tires of a car or the soft rustle of leaves as someone approaches you from behind on a trail.
  • Familiarity: If you can, always try to run in areas that you are familiar with. If you are out of town or know that you’re going to be out of town, there are plenty of running clubs in every state. Check with a running club or call up a friend to meet up for a run. In the past, when I couldn’t find someone to run with, I’ve actually recruited my little brother to come to the park with me and walk around while I did my workout. In other instances, I’ve actually had my parents follow me in the car while I ran on the road early in the morning. You cannot put a price on safety.
  • Running Buddies: Not only is running with someone else great for your safety, but it can do wonders for improving your training. You should try to find a running group that challenges you to push yourself a little as well as have one or two running buddies that are a little slower to help force you to take it easy.
  • Stay Alert: The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are. Stay alert by occasionally working out scenarios. Something a lot of runners do (myself included) is they visualize possible situations where they could be in trouble and figure out ways that they could get out of it. For instance, if you are running on a trail when suddenly you step on a snake and it bites you, what would you do? 
  • Identification: In addition to letting someone know where you are going to be running, sometimes it’s a good idea to write your name, phone number and blood type on a piece of paper that you can tuck inside your shoe. If you don’t want to run with a piece of paper in your shoe, you can always write this information on the inside of your shoe. 
  • Harassment: Verbal harassment, unfortunately, is something that many women runners encounter whether they’re training or just out for a leisurely jog. If someone is verbally harassing you, ignore it and keep moving. Acknowledgement of the harassment will only egg them on to do it more.
  • Memorization: When you are out running on the roads, practice memorizing the license plate numbers of vehicles or other characteristics associated with vehicles or with strangers.
  • Be Observant: When you are running, be observant of your surroundings. Make a mental note of where the nearest payphones are as well as gas stations, etc. in case you need to call for help.
  • Clothing: Whenever possible, always wear light colored clothing or reflective clothing- especially when you’re running in the early morning or evening.
  • Traffic: Unlike cyclists who have to ride with the flow of traffic, runners should try to run facing traffic, this way they can better pay attention to the traffic and jump out of the way at the last minute if need be.
  • Predictability: Once, when I was in college as an undergraduate, I used to park my bicycle in the same spot on the bike rack outside my dorm every day until one day I discovered that someone had stolen it. It upset me to know that someone had been paying attention to my pattern of behavior and was able to act on it. The same thing applies to running or walking outdoors. DON’T ALWAYS RUN/WALK THE SAME ROUTES. Varying up your run will not only be beneficial for your training, but it will also help with your safety because you never know who’s out there watching.

When I first started running, I was so embarrassed I’d walk when cars passed me. I’d pretend I was looking at the flowers. -Joan Benoit Samuelson

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