They certainly don’t run to put themselves in danger.
But, like pretty much any awesome activity, running does come with some degree of risk.
Although chances are good that you’ll finish your route unscathed and exhilarated, there are countless things that potentially could go wrong. You could trip and take a painful tumble, get lost in a network of trails, collide with an oncoming bicycle or even come across a dangerous predator. Of course, these unlikely scenarios are no reason to hang up your jogging shoes—but nor should you pound the pavement while wearing the proverbial blinders. By taking some of the following smart precautions, you can greatly reduce your risk of running into harm’s way.
Choose a safe route.
If you’re running in a new or unfamiliar area, don’t leave safety to guesswork. Consider downloading an app that will pinpoint the safest nearby routes.
In addition to low criminal activity, planning a safe route in advance provides you with plenty of room to run at a safe distance from traffic. Look for roads with sidewalks or wide shoulders, and, If you must run on the road, go against the traffic so you can see cars coming—and never assume the drivers notice you. Watch for bumps, cracks or uneven terrain that could trip you up.
It’s also a good idea to switch up your route now and then. Not only will this reduce your risk of being targeted by an unsavory observer, but it will also help your workouts stay fresh and keep you mentally engaged in your surroundings.
Carry your cards.
Kat Haselhorn, a body conditioning instructor based in Washington, D.C., says it’s always a good idea to carry your ID, credit card and public transit pass or metro card with you. "I've had a couple of runs where I ended up in a not-great part of town, and was grateful that I could pop down into the metro and make my way home," she says.
Also, were you to sustain a severe, mid-run injury, you’d be identified and treated more quickly when carrying an ID.
Create an ICE contact.
Choose someone who you’d want to be notified if something were to happen to you, then program them as a contact in your home under the name "In Case of Emergency." That will allow medical professionals to easily contact that individual if you’re incapacitated.
Wear an ID bracelet.
Don’t want to worry about carrying your driver’s license on long runs? Matt Fitzgerald, fitness coach and author of "The Endurance Diet," suggests ordering wearable identification like the solution from Road ID. On their site, you can design your own customized ID for your wrist, foot or neck to suit your style.
Share your route.
It’s never a good idea to embark on a route without anyone knowing where you’re going. In today’s digital age, you can easily leave virtual breadcrumbs behind you, so friends and family can instantly pinpoint where you are and be alerted to any deviations.
Runner Michelle Ramoni of The Integrated Runner uses the Glympse application when running in an unfamiliar area. "I check in with a friend who is on the app–she knows my location and can keep track of me and will know if something isn't right, or if she does not see any activity on my end," says Ramoni.
It’s easy to plug in your headphones, zone out and follow your route on autopilot, but falling into a running daze can be a recipe for danger. Personal trainer Kasey Shuler stresses the importance of staying alert for every mile.
"Take your phone with you in case of an emergency, but don't use the headphones or be distracted by fitness tracking apps," she suggests. "Keep your eyes and ears open to avoid danger."
Check the forecast.
Any runner knows the weather can dramatically impact their routine and ability to run safely. To avoid running straight into a storm or suffering from heat exhaustion, keep a weather app handy on your phone. Before heading out on your run, check out the entire route for any weather issues that might arise. It's always best to be prepared!
Consider carrying mace.
While it will most likely simply be a preventive measure that you’ll never have to use, carrying mace pepper spray on your run can provide priceless peace of mind through those long, isolated miles. The spray comes in a small canister with a Velcro strap that goes around your hand, so it won’t slow you down or cramp your running style. Before heading out, check to make sure it’s legal to carry mace in your state, and practice using it safely and effectively.