Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Safety Tips for Winter Running

This weekend, many of us ran for #megsmiles, the Virginia mother runner who was killed by a drunk driver. The story is so incredibly sad, especially since it sounds like Meg was doing "everything right" from a runner perspective. Her death is a potent reminder of how dangerous road running can be and why as runners, we need to take extra precautions to be safe. Here are some reminders for winter running...

1. BE LIGHT & BRIGHT. Wear reflective clothing and lights if you are running in the early morning or evening hours. Even in daylight, a brightly-colored shirt will be more visible on the roads than black or white (both of these colors blend in with the road and/or snow). The more you stand out, the better a driver can see you. I can't tell you how many times I see runners out in the dark and they are completely invisible until my car is right upon them. As a runner myself, I feel like pulling over and reading them the riot act. Be smart and light it up.

2. USE YOUR SENSES. I know many people love running with music; but in winter, it is more important than ever to utilize all your senses for safety - including your hearing. For example, if you see a car coming at you and hear a car behind you, you will know in advance that the oncoming car will not be able to move and give you space. Thus, you better step further into the shoulder so that everyone passes safely. With impaired and distracted drivers on the road, you simply can't trust them to stay in their lanes. Pay special attention to this on curves. The more you can anticipate (and avoid) threats on the road, the safer you will be. Save those rocking tunes for the treadmill.

3. CHOOSE YOUR ROUTE. When the ground is snow-covered, stay off busy roads where the speed limit is greater than 25mph. Pick trails or quiet neighborhoods where traffic is light. Maybe you'll even get lucky to find shoveled sidewalks! Again, use both your sight and hearing to spot vehicles backing up out of driveways. I need more hands to count how many times I've almost been clipped that way. Try to find roads that have large shoulders to offer ample room for both a pedestrian and vehicle to pass safely.

4. CONSIDER TIME OF DAY. Think about the time of day you are running. If it's flexible, avoid the busy commute times. The 5 o'clock rush hour is the worst in my opinion! Drivers are tired and stressed from a day of work, usually multi-tasking and frustrated with already congested traffic. Not an ideal time to be on the side of the road for a runner.

5. MAKE CONTACT. I think it's common knowledge, but always run/walk on the left side of the road (facing oncoming cars). As oncoming vehicles approach you, look through that windshield to see the driver's face. If their head is tilted downward, odds are most likely they are staring at a phone and won't see you. Be proactive. Trust no driver with your life. Move off the road; stop if needed. I always try to give a friendly wave or make eye contact with the driver to know they see me. The same holds true when crossing intersections. Give drivers a little wave (and I like to mouth out a "thank you"). Most of the time, they will wave back and you have your go ahead to cross infront of them.

6. SLOW DOWN. When ground conditions present snow and/or ice, it makes runs a little tricky. Your muscles work differently as they try to stabilize your movement across uneven or slippery surfaces. Take the pace down a notch and pay attention to your foot fall. If you have a speed workout on deck, it may be best to modify the target paces or just take it to the treadmill.  Running in snow is not the time to test your speed and risk injury.

I find winter running invigorating. It makes me feel completely alive (and somewhat badass) for conquering the elements... but safety is always my #1 concern. There is so many things that are out of our control, which is why it is incredibly important to be PRO-ACTIVE when running on winter roads.
What other safety tips do you have for winter runners?

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  1. Great tips! I also feel like a badass when running in the winter!

  2. Great tips! I'm still new to running and honestly didn't know to run on the left side of the road. I assumed we follow the same rules as bikers. I will definitely run on the left for my next run.


    I would add, for people running in subdivisions especially in the early morning, when you hear a car start up always assume they are the driveway directly in front of you and approach with caution. People check for cars when they're backing up but often fail to look for pedestrians!

  4. Great stuff. In winter, I always wear a reflective running coat, headlamp, and a blinking LED light attached to the back of my coat. Running on the left side of the road is a must. I wear my Yaktrax in the snow. I stick to large sprawling residential neighborhoods with unlined roads - much safer that way. And I only use music on trail runs.

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