A lot of you started running or walking regularly when the quarantine started. Conveniently during that time, there were not a lot of cars on the road. Now that it’s getting busier out there, I thought this would be a good time to talk about safety. First of all, you want to make sure you are visible to vehicles. My favorite running hat is neon orange. It may not be the most fashionable (and people make fun of me all the time!), but it sure does make me stand out on the road. One day when I was on my weekly long run wearing a hot pink shirt, hot pink knee-high compression socks, and my trusty orange hat, the FedEx guy passed me on the road and yelled out that no one could miss seeing me. I gave him a thumbs up, since that was exactly my plan! If you are running out in nature (as we in Sonoma County are fortunate to be able to do regularly), remember that colors like blue, green, and brown tend to blend in with trees and shrubs. So even if you are not particularly fond of pink, orange, and bright yellow, those do make good colors for running apparel. When running at night, be sure to wear a headlamp not only for your benefit, but also for the benefit of cars, bikes, and other runners you may encounter. Many running jackets and hats have reflective material that will also help keep you visible at night.
My second visibility recommendation is to run on the sidewalk against traffic. If you are used to cycling, you are used to traveling in the same direction as traffic because a bicycle is also a vehicle. The safest place for a runner to be is moving in the opposite direction of traffic flow so that you know what is coming and are not surprised when a car approaches and passes you. And while it is unlikely for a car to veer off the road and onto the sidewalk, it is not unheard of—especially in wine country. By running towards oncoming traffic, you will have more warning should you need to get out of the way.
Safety is not just about visibility, however. Sometimes, especially on a long run or walk, the unexpected happens. Always carry your phone. If the clothes you are wearing don’t have pockets, there are lots of products on the market that can help you carry your gear. A backpack works if you are walking or hiking. But if you are running, a backpack bouncing up and down on your back can cause chafing and be very uncomfortable no matter how light the contents may be. You may find something like a flip belt (or similar product) to be more comfortable, or an arm band that holds your phone. If you don’t want to be disturbed while you are running or walking, feel free to put your phone on do not disturb, airplane mode, or even turn it off completely. But it is a good idea to have with you just in case.
On the topic of ‘just in case”, you may want a Road ID. A Road ID contains your emergency contact information and other important medical information (such as allergies and medical conditions) that a first responder should be aware of in the event that you need a first responder. It can be worn like a necklace, a bracelet, or attached to your shoe. Road ID’s are good to have with you not only when you are out exercising but in other situations as well. For example, I always wear mine when I travel, just in case.
Finally, I always carry a whistle. I have never had to use it, but it is lightweight, fits easily into my hydration vest (or flip belt or pocket) and is good for a variety of uses, especially since I am a woman often running alone along the road or on a remote hiking trail. As you may or may not know, I volunteer for Sonoma County Search & Rescue. I hope you never find yourself at the bottom of a ravine unable to get out. However, if you do and have no cell coverage, having a whistle readily available can help alert passersby to your location.
I hope you will not let all this talk of the negative things that can happen scare you. I’ve been running and hiking regularly for more than 14 years and have not encountered any life-threatening situations. However, it is important to be aware, so that you can be prepared. Have fun, stay active, and be safe out there, folks!
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