Running is a fairly safe sport. You aren’t traveling at high speeds, climbing vertical rock faces or taking hits from a 350 pound lineman. But even though running is relatively risk free there are still some dangers out there. Here are the top ten ways to improve safety while running:

  1. Carry ID – One of the easiest and most effective ways to stay safe while running is to carry some form of identification. If you are involved in an accident and are unable to speak, emergency personnel or good Samaritans will know who you are and who to contact. There are several products out there for runners that can be worn on the ankle or wrist that include your name, an emergency contact and even vital medical information for first responders.
  2. Dress Appropriately – This may seem like a no brainer but we’ve all seen the occasional runner in shorts and a tank top in freezing temperatures or a runner in a full sweatsuit when the temperature is hot enough to melt wax. Overdressing can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Underdressing can cause frost nip, frost bite or hypothermia. Watch the weather and dress appropriately for the conditions so you can stay healthy for tomorrow’s run.
  3. Intelligent Hydration – You need to stay properly hydrated to avoid dehydration but you also need to avoid the opposite problem of hyponatremia, or overhydrating. Drink enough to replace your lost fluids but don’t overdo it. You need to be especially careful with your hydration when doing a long run of an hour or more. If you drink copious amounts of plain water you can dilute your bloodstream and become hyponatremic – a dangerous condition caused by low blood sodium levels. To prevent this condition during longer runs, sip a sports drink that contains sodium and electrolytes instead of plain water and drink only enough to replace lost fluids. When doing shorter runs, you should be fine with plain water but follow the same rule of drinking only to replace lost fluids.
  4. Stay Focused – It’s become a common practice for athletes to listen to a portable music device while they run. One of the problems with this habit is it can take your focus off your running, the environment and the road. There are hazards you need to watch out for, such as potholes, rocks, slippery patches, drop offs and many other road or trail hazards. If you’re rocking out to the Rolling Stones instead of watching what you’re doing, you may be setting yourself up for a trip to the emergency room. Stay focused on your running stride and the trail ahead. You’ll become a better runner and will hopefully avoid a nasty fall or injury.
  5. Face Traffic – It would be nice if you could avoid running near traffic, but that isn’t always possible. When you need to run in moderate or high traffic areas, run facing the oncoming traffic. Because drivers aren’t always paying attention, make sure you see them. When running facing traffic you can keep a close eye out for approaching cars and take evasive action. If you run with traffic, you may never see them coming.
  6. Run a Loop – When doing a long run, consider running a loop instead of an out-and-back course. If you are doing a 20-mile long run, an out-and-back course is 10 miles out and 10 miles back. If you run into any physical problems, you could be 10 miles away from your home or car. But with a loop course, you’re never far from help if you run into trouble.
  7. Don’t Mess With Mother Nature – Runners are strong and healthy individuals. All that strength and fitness can sometimes make you feel invincible. But there are a lot of forces out there that are stronger. Thunderstorms, lighting, high wind, heavy rain, hail and extreme heat and cold are just a few examples of the power of nature that can take a heavy toll on a runner. If any of those conditions exist, hit the treadmill or take the day off.
  8. Avoid the Dark – Running in the dark increases the dangers associated with traffic, road hazards and criminal activity. If you must run in the dark, run with a group of friends, in an area you’re familiar with. Also, wear highly reflective clothing and carry a flashlight.
  9. Breathe Easy – Running outside during periods of high air pollution can present a danger to any runner but especially those that have any type of respiratory condition such as asthma. The poor air quality can come from automobile traffic, industrial exhaust, wood burning or even forest fires. Check your local air quality index before heading out for your miles. If the index is 100 or higher consider running indoors on a treadmill.
  10. Carry a Cell Phone – Today’s cell phones are so compact you can easily carry them in a pocket or pouch. If you run into any kind of trouble when running you are only a few key strokes away from getting help.