As the year ends, and darkness eats into our daylight—and running time—we wanted to go over a few safety tips. Yes, they may seem basic, but you’d be surprised at how many runners, wearing black from head to toe, we see running with traffic at dusk and dawn. So here’s a gentle, friendly reminder; after all, we want to see you out there for many years and miles to come.
- Run against traffic. Always.
- Light yourself up. When you’re running in dark or diminished light conditions, have one piece of reflective wear (reflective tape, a vest) on both your bottom and top halves. Use a headlamp, hand lights, and/or other blinking lights to make yourself even more visible.
- Never assume a car sees you. Also, don’t be reckless when it comes to traffic lights. Pause your GPS if need be to wait for a crossing signal. Thousands of pounds of metal will always beat a human body.
- Opt for sidewalks over the road, paths over both. Concrete isn’t great for your joints, so a bike or walking path or trail is best.
- Cover your tracks. Tell somebody where you are going: your exact route and when you expect to be home. If your running partner has the groggy drools going on when you leave in the morning, write him or her a note to back up your verbal message. Or text somebody with the same info, and tell them if they don't get another text from you by a certain time to please call you.
- Get a running buddy. Seriously, safety comes in pairs.
- Opt for boredom and safety over exotic routes. If you have to do tedious one-mile laps in your neighborhood with street lights instead of an unlit park because it's pitch black at 5:30, so be it.
- Be aware. Yes, blaring Beyoncé's “Run the World (Girls)” gets you pumped up, but her voice takes away one of your vital senses: hearing. If you're a gotta-have-tunes runner, try to run with just one earbud in. Keep the volume low enough that you can hear yourself talk at a normal voice. Keep your head and eyes up; when you get all slumped and downward gazing, you look more like prey than predator.
- Carry your phone and some form of ID, and anything else that makes you feel safe, like pepper spray or mace.
- Use your internal compass. Your gut is smarter than you think. Listen to it. If a car passes you a few too many times, change your route. If a person on the same sidewalk feels creepy, head to the other side of the street—or turn a corner. There is no social etiquette when it comes to personal safety.
- Don't be shy. If you feel threatened, seek a safe place however you can. Ask a fellow runner if you can run with them until you're in the clear. Knock on the door of a house you don't know. Yell for help or make noise.
- Take a self-defense class and up your confidence.
- If a car seems suspect—they're driving slowly by you or passing by you multiple times—make eye contact with the driver and let them see you're alert and paying attention. Memorize their license plate, and then get to a safe place.
- Say hi to everybody you pass; you want them to remember your face and your hair color if the need arises.
Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell are the authors of Another Mother Runner and official contributors to runDisney.