*Part 2 of 2*
I have a few rules when it comes to running.
- Know where the nearest bathroom is just in case.
- Tell my wife when I should be home and generally where I am running.
- The “I do not mess with things faster than me” rule is my favorite. I generally refer to cars, larger dogs, and lightning. Each has its own caveats and sub rules.
Car rule #1: That car does not see you. Ever. They will never see you. Do not assume they will or have seen you. Sunrise and sunset are common running times, and they are the hardest times for someone to see you. If you are carrying a light (you should in the dark), the light is not as bright compared to the rising or setting sun so the car does not see it as easily. I have friends who will start waving at a car as it approaches and they do not stop waving until it passes or they get a wave back from the driver. Rule #2: at intersections, run behind the first car as you cross the street (this applies more to neighborhoods but I use it in larger traffic too). The first car…DOES NOT SEE YOU. They are probably looking left to see if they can turn right on red. The second car knows “hey, I’m not going anywhere till this bozo finally goes”, so even if they creep forward you have space and time to react. I have lost count on the number of times I have watched a driver as I approach NEVER look my way and gun it to turn onto the new street. Rule #3: give the car as much space as possible. Neighborhoods without sidewalks (looking at you San Angleo and Paris, Texas…) or rural country roads are the main locations this comes into play. If it’s 100% safe I will move to the other side of the road to let the car pass, but that’s not practical or safe everywhere. In heavily wooded areas or hilly areas I would not cross the street just to give more room because you can’t see far enough to know what is coming. Worst case scenario here, you pause the run (*gasp* ) and stand in the ditch while the car passes. But, you live to run another day.
Dogs typically are less threatening but I have been chased more times than I can count. Small purse dogs do not count here. While seemingly more ornery than larger dog breeds, I do not fear for my life when a shih tzu chases me, just my ankles. However, I have had some near brown shorts experiences out on country roads with big ranch dogs going full speed at me. The problem with dogs is they are less predictable than cars or lightning. You may learn which house leaves their dog in the front, unleashed, but even then it may be 50/50 on if the dog is out, sees you, or is even awake. If I can avoid those homes, I do. My in-laws live on a country road near Austin, TX and I have learned there are certain places I can’t run anymore due to the dogs. If a dog starts chasing you, I’ve found not making eye contact tends to help. When the dog sees you are uninterested in trespassing on its land it will be less aggressive. If that doesn’t work and the dog gets too close in a threatening manner, I will quickly stop, turn, and yell right at the dog. It normally startles the dog and the dog reassesses what it’s doing. I’ve never had to go beyond that because, for me, those have worked, but if the pooch is still coming towards you it’s time to find safety. Get up a tree, get on top of a car, get something between you and the dog.
Lightening is the biggest wild card. Lightning in the area is a hard no-go for me running outside. Rain? Wind? No problem, let’s run. According to weather.gov, lightning can travel 10-12 miles from a storm. You aren’t going to dodge it. You can’t outrun it. If there is lightning, go inside as fast as you can. If you are trying to squeeze a run in before a storm comes, stay close to the house/apartment. Most runners have a 1 and 2 mile route near their house. Just hit some loops near the house. In my younger, dumber years, I tried to go on a 6 mile run before it started raining. 2.5 miles out from the house on an out and back the sky suddenly looked like a rave. I immediately turned for home and pushed the pace. By the time I got home it was all around me and I was legitimately afraid. I learned. We have these things now called phones and computers with weather apps that give us hour by hour breakdowns. They aren’t perfect, but use them to plan when you run to avoid getting stuck in a sketchy weather situation.
We have already touched on running in the dark, but the truth is, most runners run in the morning or at night. There will be a point in your running life that you will run when it is dark. Everyone knows that things are just different at night. Places are different, the animals are different, and the number of cars changes based on when you run. The most important thing in the dark is to be seen. Those little reflective logos on your shorts? Yeah, they don’t work or make you seen. The best option is to mix bright clothing, reflective pieces, and lights together to help you be seen. That, with running in better lit areas, will help keep you safer. I prefer a light that can flash because the changing light will grab attention better than just a single “stationary” light. If my light does not flash, I will intentionally wave it around and/or turn it off and on while a vehicle approaches. If that car does not see you in the day (remember Car Rule #1?), they certainly do not at night. If you are running into traffic as you should be, you can generally see when the driver finally notices you. There is typically a little swerve from the driver, not dramatic, but just enough that shows they saw something and wanted to avoid it (that’s you!).
Staying safe when running is all about preparation. You have to know where you are running, the risks around, and what you may or may not need while on your run. The reality is, running makes you vulnerable. You are tired. You probably do not have a lot to protect yourself with. It’s just you out there. Know the risks, plan for what you can, stay alert and diligent.