Today was a big day. I left the office at 6:15, and there was a pink color to the sky. Translation: it was 6:15 and still light outside. As a runner, today was a big day for me. Today marks the loosening of the grip of winter on our dark, gloomy nights (even if it was still 30 degrees outside). I wish I could say I’m a treadmill runner, but I’m not, and I have some serious admiration for those of you who are.
I’m a big believer that night time running is simply not a smart decision under most circumstances (more on that below). I’m also an outside runner and unfortunately in the winter months, this places a rather tight grip on my training schedule. Although accidents are far and few in-between, they do happen, and although not always at night, taking it upon ourselves to eliminate as many factors as possible is crucial to safety.
Part One: Taking Precautions
About a year ago, I was running trails at a local mountain when I tripped over a root and did some pretty decent damage to my ankle. At the time, I was running without anything on me – no phone, no GPS, no ID card. As it was a rather well trafficked six mile loop, I assumed whatever would happen, someone would be nearby. I fell conveniently just past mile marker three. Meaning, I got to hobble my way back three miles. The result was a rather swollen ankle and a near month recovery.
Solution: Invest in a Pack
Learn from my lesson, you don’t want to walk three miles on a mountain trail feeling your ankle balloon. After the incident, I invested in a Nathan Running Pack, basically a very attractive little fanny pack. I typically don’t run far enough to need water, so this pack is perfect for my daily treks. It holds my phone, keys and even has a pull out ID card for emergency contact information and allergies.
If a grown up fanny pack isn’t quite your style, a phone armband and a Road ID bracelet will do the trick. My roommate recently purchased this little guy which clips right on to your shoe and keeps all of your information handy. Trust me, both solutions are worth every penny of the $20 spent.
Part Two: Find the Right Route
I live in the heart of the city and although many of our roads are well lit, that doesn’t always translate to safe. Running along Peachtree Road at rush hour is like playing a game of Frogger, in my opinion. Rather than spend time waiting at each and every light (even when they are green) to look both ways, I’ve found running a combination of urban trails (don’t even get me started on my love for this guy) and neighborhood streets keeps me away from the traffic and texting drivers.
Safety Tip: Running in Busy Areas
Lose the headphones. I know music gets you through those tough runs, and it does for me too. However, whenever I do run anywhere busier or during a time that I know there might be less people out and about (like around sunset or on a gloomy day), leaving the headphones at home allows me to focus on the sights and sounds all around me.
Part Three: Ignoring All of the Above
I get it, sometimes you just need a good run, it’s dark outside, you forgot your phone, etc. It happens to everyone. But, in the case that you simply can’t resist, all hope is not lost.
Run with a friend
It’s safer this way, plus you’ll have someone to pass the time, keep you entertained and you can push each other to improve. If you don’t have a running buddy, check out some of your local run clubs. Here in Atlanta, West Stride has a fantastic running club series, many of which are free.
You might look like a bit of a nerd, but reflective gear or a headlamp could save your life. Looking silly is absolutely worth the safety and besides, if you are looking cute while outside sweating and working your heart out, you aren’t trying hard enough.