And it almost made me road kill.
Okay, so that’s a tad dramatic, but it’s very possible. My head wasn’t in the game and I wasn’t paying attention the way I normally do.
Let me back up.
So right at 5:15 a.m., my alarm went off and I got ready for a quick run before work. Winter is always tough to kick your bum out of bed and out the door, mostly because of the chill in the air and the pitch black darkness. Most of the time I can overcome all of that and this morning was one of those times.
I laced up my Asic Kayano’s, stretched and headed out for my short run on the main street near my house. As I approached the intersection, my mind was elsewhere. “Should I wait here and go across, or go the opposite way and loop around the park…”
In a quick second, I noticed the cross walk sign turn to the white man and I began jogging across, eyes focused on the curb.
Suddenly, just two steps away from the curb, I heard a small screech to my right and turned just in time to come face to face with the large, grill of a diesel, dualie Dodge Ram whose driver had decided to make a left to head south on the street I was crossing. I could literally feel the steam coming off of the front of the truck.
The event rattled me and when I safely got to the curb, I looked back at the driver who slowly began heading south.
As I continued on my run, I reflected back on what I should have done. I’ve been running on the suburban (but busy) streets of the East Valley for more than 16 years and knew better than to trust drivers. Why hadn’t I paid better attention?
Here’s what I’ve learned from my countless years on the road and how you can be a defensive runner:
- Don’t Trust Drivers. Sounds harsh, but even though you have the right of way and are in the “safe” cross walk or crossing the street with plenty of room, freak things happen and people don’t pay attention. Always be on the defense.
- Be a Fashion “Don’t.” Ever wonder why that runner is wearing that neon jacket that looks like it was held over from the 80’s? It might not just be because they’re color blind or ignorant to the latest fashion trends. Neon colors and white help you stand out, especially when you’re running at dawn, dusk or in the dark. So dare to be a tennis ball and don “Safety Green” if you want to be seen.
- Lights! Reflectors! Action! Blinking lights, head lamps, extra silver reflector tape−they’re all good to have if you’re running at dusk, dawn or in the dark. You can purchase all of these affordable pieces at a local running store, sporting goods store or even Wal-Mart in some cases. (I’ll be investing in a few of these soon).
- Run Against Traffic. So this might sound counter-intuitive, but really it works. Should you find yourself in a situation where sidewalks are scarce or you want to keep a closer eye on the road, do not run with traffic, run against it. If I have to run in the bike lane, I never run with traffic for fear that you could be hit from behind without even realizing it’s coming.
- Keep Your Music to a Minimum. You need to stay completely aware of your surroundings at all times. Loud music in your ears will not only inhibit you from hearing cars or approaching vehicles, but it could also prevent you from avoiding unsafe situations and people. Sometimes I actually run with only one ear bud in my ear so I can hear what’s going on around me.
- Wear Road Identification. Keep your photo ID on you in your pocket, running belt or in your sock. Better yet, you can purchase an engraved road ID.
- Always Tell Someone Where You’re Going. Basic safety reminder here. It’s important to make sure that people know where to look in case something happens to you. Either let someone know or leave a note at home. Do not rely on your cell phone as a safety measure!
- Avoid the Dog’s Side. It’s pretty normal when you’re running in your community to come across an owner and their dog out for a walk. Give the dog space and pass on the owner’s side, not the dog’s side. Dogs can often feel threatened when placed between their owner and a stranger. Better to play it safe.
- Stick to Main Roads & Well-Lit Areas. If you run by yourself, it’s best to stick to the well lit pathways just in case. If you feel isolated, avoid the area completely when it’s dark out.
- Safety Bottom Line: Go with your gut and stick with what makes you feel safest.
Run strong and run safe! Hope you find my tried-and-true tips helpful!