Beware of unexpected hazards.
There’s all manner of hazards awaiting the urban runner: cars that sail through stop signs; uneven sidewalks; desolate stretches and unsavory characters; oblivious pedestrians with cell phones. While you can’t control the potential dangers on the road, you can decide to be attentive and aware to your surroundings. An example: Distracted by lingering grogginess at the start of a recent early morning run, I looked for oncoming traffic after I had run into an active two-way street. Not good, especially because I only looked to my left and did not notice the car approaching to my right whose hood I almost ornamented. I jumped back, the car swerved, and disaster was averted too narrowly. Adrenaline powered my quivering legs for the rest of my run. Maybe it was the Virgin of Guadalupe medallion I always carry that saved me but I could make her job easier by being more alert.
Rules from the road.
Among the results of a Web search for “running, safety”, Knowing Your Running Safety Rules is a notable source — literally a running safety for dummies. Following are additional lessons I’ve learned on the urban roads.
1. Run unplugged. Leave the iPod home. When running outdoors, it is absolutely necessary to hear what is going on around you. An added benefit is becoming familiar with the sound of your own breathing and connected with the rhythm of your body and mind (as discussed previously in Breathing Lessons).
2. Look before you cross.As my example illustrates, look for traffic before you enter the street. Look many times, in all directions, and never assume drivers see you. Look both ways, even on one-way streets — you never know who’s driving in reverse (or the wrong way). Also approach residential and commercial driveways cautiously.
3. Attract attention. People have laughed at the obnoxious colors I wear for daytime running and my reflective and blinking gear for evening runs. I view this as a positive: if people notice me then perhaps they won’t drive or walk into me. Reflective vests, headbands, and clothing trim increase your visibility in the dark. Also consider clip on lights (available through running, biking, outdoors, and pet retailers; also check stores such as Target around Halloween for trick-or-treater safety lights).
So be alert and stay safe.
Share your lessons learned from close calls. E-mail [email protected].