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Got a Light? (And Other Safety Tips for Running Outside)

Posted Sep 28 2011 7:00am

It’s finally fall. My favorite season has been gracing us with its presence officially for about a week now, though the cool temperatures and darker days started as soon as September rolled around.

Unless you workout midday (or inside), chances are it’s a little darker during your workout already. If not, it will be soon.

Despite what some of my neighbors seem to think, an all black outfit is not a good idea for your 5:45 am run in the moonlight.

Safety first! Nighttime MC200 run.

When you’re running in the dark, make sure you are bright enough to be seen. Wear reflective gear, bright obnoxious clothing, a safety vest, and a headlamp. I look like a Christmas tree when I head out to run in the dark. Do I feel ridiculous? Sometimes. But not only do my little lights help me see, more importantly, they help cars see me.

I am a runner. When I’m headed to work in the morning, I’m scanning the streets for people out running and cycling. Nothing makes me more irritated than a runner in head-to-toe black, sans reflective gear, out for a run when it’s pitch black. I’m sorry, but that’s just plain dumb.

Besides being all lit up in the dark, there are many things I do year round to keep me safe when I’m running outside.

Let someone know you’re leaving and when you expect to return. I always send a quick text to Goose or my mom to let them know I’m heading out, and check in when I get back from my run. I also fill them in on the general location and distance of my run. That way, if something happens and I don’t come back, they’ll know where to look for me.

Wear or carry identification. I have a shoe tag on my running shoes with my name and emergency contact information on it. When I cycle, I always carry my cell phone and license in my saddle bag. (I carry cash, too. Just in case.)

Emergency stash on the bike.

Run facing traffic. Cycle with traffic. When you run, it’ll be easier for you to see traffic approaching than hear it coming behind you. Experts suggest running against traffic, or on the left side of the street. Trust me, it feels (and is!) so much safer. When you’re riding a bicycle, you have to follow the same rules of the road as a car. This means stopping at stop signs and traffic lights, and riding on the right side of the street. (Can we talk about how many cyclists I’ve seen riding in medians lately?! What are you thinking, people?)

Run with your cell phone whenever possible. I know there are times when it’s not an option, and I know some runners refuse to do this. For me, it just makes sense. I have my emergency contacts listed under ICE (In Case of Emergency) . I’ve also ended up using my cell phone to call 911 for another runner on the Lakefront Path. You never know when you might need it.

Leave the iPod at home. As much as I love my new Shuffle, I usually leave it at home when I’m running outside. If I’m running in the street, I never use it. I will use it, with just one headphone in, on a bike path or running trail. It’s great for hitting the gym, but when you’re outside, you need to be aware of your surroundings. Ke$ha may have some rad beats, but she won’t help you notice the bike approaching behind you.

Above all else, be smart out there. Trust your gut instincts and make sure to have an emergency plan.

What are your best safety tips for outdoor workouts?

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