There are a million and a half advantages to outdoor running. Ok, that may be an exaggeration, but if you are an avid outdoor female runner like myself, you will probably agree with that hyperbolic opening line. I love outdoor running because after working in an office all day it feels amazing to get outside. It helps me acclimate with new locations, offers dynamic views, and gives me a sense of community as I pass other outdoor runners and non-running citizens just moving about their day.
With that being said, safety can be a major concern for outdoor female runners. You are much more likely to be hit by a car while crossing the road than you are on a treadmill. By taking some basic precautions, you can keep yourself safe, especially as a female runner. Below are 10 tips to help keep you fit, safe, and outside running.
1. Wear something reflective
Especially at night. It is easy to think that you will be safe on the sidewalks, and that a white shirt will be bright enough, but I am telling you that it is not enough. Drivers instinctually pay attention to reflective surfaces, whether it’s a road barrier, a cone, or a person, you want to give drivers a reason to look twice and to trigger the “be careful” response in their brain.
2. Don’t assume that drivers can see you
Having the right of way means that it is legal to go, not that it is safe to go. In fact, Runner’s World urges joggers to “pretend they’re invisible”. Whether you are in a cross walk or just running along the shoulder, make sure you pay attention to the vehicles around you, and be ready to speed up or slow down if need be. You never know when a driver is checking a text, changing the radio, or handing something to a passenger. Look out for yourself first.
3. Only listen to music in one ear
This isn’t a very popular safety tip, but it is something that I swear by. When you are running outside, it is important to pay attention to your surroundings, and that means paying attention to auditory cues as well as visual cues. I am a huge fan of listening to podcasts or music while I run, and by putting just one earbud in, I get to listen to whatever I like while maintaining situational awareness.
4. Run against traffic
When there is no sidewalk and you are running on the shoulder of the road, make sure that you are running against traffic. This allows you to see vehicles as they approach, and it gives you time to make quick judgments about your safety. Here’s a piece that offers more insight into where to run and generally running etiquette.
5. Take your phone and ID with you
It is always nice to “unplug”, but make sure that you are unplugging in a responsible way. If you do not want to be reachable, then put your phone on airplane mode, but have it on you in case you need to call for help.
6. Have an “if I get injured” plan
Whenever I outdoor run alone, I always take a second to think about what I will do if I get injured. Are Uber and Lyft operating in the area? If not, do I have someone I can call to come get me? I rarely trail run alone, and if there is no cell phone service on the trail then running alone there is a no-go.
7. Bring your own water
If I am running for more than 3 miles, I’ve got a water plan. Between Camel packs, water belts, and handle-held bottles, you can find the solution that is right for you! Here’s a great how-to from Runner’s World.
8. Obey pedestrian laws
While it is frustrating to lose your momentum at a crosswalk, try jogging in place instead of darting across the road when that orange hand is lit. Like I said in point 2, you have to assume that drivers are not paying attention. Resist the urge to shrug your shoulders and think, “they will slow down.” Here is a great overview of pedestrian laws.
9. Avoid the bike lane
While bikes are not as dangerous of cars, getting hit by a fast moving cyclist can definitely do some damage. Bikes have the right of way in their lane, so take care to give them the space they need.
10. Listen to your gut
Last but not least, if you are out running and something just does not feel right, follow that instinct. It could be a shady looking alley you don’t want to go down, it could be the man you don’t want to pass, or it could be a car that you just feel like isn’t paying attention. In those instances, you are better safe than sorry!
So stay smart my fellow female runners! I will see you out there.