The running community was dealt a staggering blow recently. Avid runner and mother of three children Meg Cross Menzies was out for her morning run in the Richmond, Virginia area, when she was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver. Meg’s friend Brooke Roney began a virtual run campaign, asking for runners everywhere to dedicate their runs to Meg’s memory, using the hashtag #megsmiles on social media.
The virtual run was intended to bring awareness to the dangers of drunk driving, distracted driving, and overall safety of runners and cyclists everywhere. In the wake of the tragedy, runners everywhere are brushing up on safety tips, remembering that we share the road with drivers. These tips aren't just useful, they could save a life:
1. Plan out your route in advance. If you don’t have access to a designated pedestrian area, like a park, running path, or trails, then plan your route with safety in mind. Stick to roads that have sidewalks or wide shoulders. Try to steer clear of heavily trafficked roads or areas with busy intersections.
2. Make sure you’re running or walking against traffic so you can see what’s coming, and drivers have more time to see you. However, use your judgment -- if there is a section of your route with a blind corner or hill, then run where it is safest for you in terms of maximum visibility.
3. Tell someone you’re heading out. Give them all the details -- what your route is and what time you expect to be back (or what time you can text or call them, if no one is home). If someone is expecting you and you don’t turn up or check in, they can raise an alarm or look for you. I was reminded of this last summer when I took a different road on a run near my cousin’s house, then freaked myself out thinking about bears and the fact that no one would guess which way I had gone. My cousin’s helpful response when I told him about it afterwards was, "Bears? No, you’re much more likely to see cougars." So reassuring!
4. Run without music. I know it can be difficult! However, when your headphones are in, that’s one less sense you can use to gauge the safety of your environment. If you have to have music, follow a few simple rules: keep your volume low enough to be able to hear traffic; have one earbud out (the ear closest to the road is a good idea); and in particularly busy areas, you may want to take both earbuds out until you get to a safer area.
5. Wear reflective gear. There are so many options for reflective workout clothes, there really isn’t a reason not to wear them. Even if it’s the middle of the day, it’s still helpful to have clothing that will bounce light to make you even more visible to motorists.
6. Consider wearing an ID band. If the worst happens, and you are hit by a car or have a medical emergency, you’ll want your loved ones to be contacted immediately. Even if you carry an ID when you’re out exercising, if your clothes have to be removed for medical personnel to help you, your card may be overlooked. There are lots of inexpensive options available for ID bands to wear on your wrist when you take your workout outdoors.
7. Use your judgment in terms of the weather. As much as you may not want to take your workout indoors, if it is very foggy, icy, or raining, it might be worth it for safety’s sake.
8. Carry your phone with you. Invest in a runner-specific pack, belt, or arm band that is big enough to hold your phone without feeling bulky. Also, if you’re using your phone for music or for a running app, make sure you have a fully charged battery.
9. Assume that everyone out driving is not paying attention. Keep an eye on your surroundings and have a plan if you notice a car swerving or not slowing down. Think about where you could jump that wouldn’t injure you and get you out of traffic quickly.
What would you add to this list? Leave your safety tips in the comments below -- your advice might save someone’s life!