Spring has finally arrived and the fair weather runners have emerged from their health club treadmill caves. With warmer weather making the outdoors bearable again, the number of people we share the roads, sidewalks and paths with will increase and so will some of the risks that accompany these crowded areas. As a die-hard runner, I braved most of the winter nights (I run mostly at nights due to other commitments but definitely do not endorse night running) and became accustom to being one of the few souls outdoors and may have became a little complacent during these cold, solo workouts. Over the past couple of weeks I have had a number of encounters during my nightly runs (and cycles) that have been a little concerning.
Firstly, I had a group of teens shadow me as I ran down a usually well traveled, main street of Toronto. Although, it was probably just their way of mocking me and having a laugh at my expense, you never know what may happen and you have little control when strangers approach from the backside. Another incident occurred last week as I cycled at night in a quiet, residential area opposite a large park. A group of younger men were walking out from the park to cross the street over to the sidewalk when they spotted me coming down the road. I wanted to avoid any possible conflict with the rowdy bunch so I directed my bike into the other lane but one of the men was determined to create a scene and doubled back to try to kick out my back wheel. Luckily, he slightly grazed the rubber of the tire and I was able to keep forward momentum as they shouted obscenities to remind me of my fortune. Add these two examples to the carton of eggs that struck me from a passing vehicle in the stomach as I cycled home from work last fall and you can see why safety is an ongoing concern to me as I train.
With these incidents fresh in my mind, I thought it would be wise to revisit some safety tips we should all consider as we continue with our passion for this sport.
-Run in the daylight if at all possible - Unfortunately, some of us have other commitments during these hours and must train in the night to stay active. In cases when you must run in the dark remember to stay in well lit, populated areas that are familiar to you.
-Run with a cell phone - When selecting a cell phone make sure it is light and compact to fit in your running gear. Also, purchase running gear that has a pocket large enough to hold your phone for emergencies.
-Run in groups - If you have friends, co-workers or neighbours that also enjoy running try to organize running groups that will give you the safety of numbers and also some nice conversation to help make the exercise even more enjoyable.
-Be seen when running - Make sure you have reflective material that can be easily seen by motorist, cyclists and others in your running neighbourhood.
-Carry a whistle - If you feel threatened give the whistle a blow to scare off strangers and attract the attention of others around you. I have seen some really good ones made for hockey coaches with elastic bands that wrap around your wrist.
-Do not carry money - Except for a quarter for an emergency call (if you do not own a cell phone) or bus fare please leave excess money and debit/credit cards at home. If you are approached you will have nothing to hide and hopefully they will not pursue you for anything else.
Although, I am not an expert by any means on safety or personal security, I believe I have experienced enough during my running adventures in this metropolis. Hopefully, some of these quick points will help you remain safe and sound so that you can enjoy this great activity for many years to come. If you have any other tips on running safety please comment on this piece as I would love to hear from other runners with their suggestions and opinions.