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Alexa is a keen runner who loves to run long on the trails. She’s also a Running Coach at On the Run Health and Fitness and has a passion for helping people to fall in love with running and making improvements to what they can achieve. Alexa is writing a series of blogs for SportsCover Direct to give expert tips on training for runners. To read more find Alexa at http://alexaruns.blogspot.co.uk/ and on twitter @abitlikealexa.
When we talk about runner safety people often jump straight to thinking about staying safe from other people on the streets or in the parks, avoiding an attack for example. In my experience, and from talking to others, there are many other dangers that are more likely to impact you on a run. But let’s start with the people!
If you are worried about being hassled or attacked by others on a run, I start with researching the area I want to run in and finding good roads or trails that are safe. Local running forums or groups can be useful to check, as can mapmyrun an online tool to find routes others use. If you can try the routes in daylight before you run then in the dark that works well.
Having someone to run with is perfect to boost your confidence as much as anything. If none of your friends run then running groups and clubs are excellent here. It’s great to have a group of people together and they usually have well researched routes, you also get a network of people for ideas of run route for your own runs. Running clubs often have access to a track for training which are very safe places to train and are lit.
Jeers and whistles whilst you are running can be upsetting and frustrating. I am not good with witty retorts, so I just try my best to ignore them, or if a reply is demanded I say something polite and ask them how they are. If they are repeat offenders report them and any details you can get like car registration to the local police. Remember they are not just targeting you, they want to provoke a response from someone and are trying lots of people.
The biggest injury I have had (that wasn’t my own fault) was due to traffic; I got clipped by the wing mirror of a car as it drove past me in a narrow railway bridge tunnel, even though I was on a small pavement. The keys to staying safe in traffic are being seen and keeping alert to what’s around you. Wearing high visibility clothing is a must, even if it’s not completely dark. Even in daylight brighter colours can really help you be seen. Reflective details on your clothing and LED lights are excellent for making it clear that you are there.
It’s also your responsibility to be aware of what’s going on around you. Is that the noise of a car approaching? Is that red light someone backing their car out of their drive up ahead? A little time to slow and check before you cross side roads is worth it, you can stop much quicker than a car!
As a runner you have the privilege of being out and about exploring in both built up areas and the countryside, and in both you come across animals. More often it’s dogs that you need to be aware of; I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve been chased. My theory is that dog see someone who is running as someone who is threatening (running at them) or submissive or playful (running away from them). Whatever the reason the best immediate reaction is to stop running, if you can politely ask the owner to hold their dog until you pass that’s ideal. If not talk calmly with a deep voice to the dog and walk until you are out of sight, or it loses interest. Running off will continue the game/chase!
If you enjoy running on the trails in the countryside then farm animals can be tricky. I’ve only had problems with fields of bullocks, sheep and female cows seem much more passive. Keep your distance and know the route out of their field. If you do get followed or chased get out of the field when you can. Curious cows can be slowed or stopped by looking large and making lots of noise. As for all large animals stay away from their rear and any kicking hind legs. If you have a dog with you let it go, they are more likely to be after the dog and it can outrun them whereas you can’t!
Running for me is about escapism so sometimes this next bit of advice can be hard to follow; but let people know where you are going, especially if the run is long or on trails. Wear emergency ID to give your name, a contact number in an emergency and medical details, you never know when the worst might happen.
ID or not getting lost can happen to the best of us, I end up often relying on my phone to help get my bearings on road runs. If you are off on the trail it’s a good idea to plan a route and, if you are really heading out into the wilderness, learning to use a map and compass. If you are lost away from any nearby people then carrying a whistle can be invaluable, three blasts is the signal when you need help. Keep this up until you are found. If you are able to walk then keep going in one direction, west for example, until you find a road or other structure where you are more likely to find other people.
This might sound like its a bit much, a bit too serious, but if you trip and fall somewhere you can easily sprain an ankle and find yourself unable to travel as easily. Simple things like chosing the right shoes can help reduce the risk here. Have an eye on the weather, as cold or wet conditions can mean that getting lost or an injury can turn into something more serious. Packing gloves, hat and a jacket to throw on if you have to stop or if the weather turns can make all the difference.
I know I’ve made it all sound very doom and gloom in this post, but with a little planning and thought you can run anywhere with confidence and having lots of fun!