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Running Safety On the Road & Trails: 8 Tips To Stay Safe While Running

Right off the bat, running doesn’t seem like an extreme sport. However, there are potential risks and hazards that we can avoid if the correct precautions are taken. Controlling these factors and following some basic running safety rules can aid in keeping us free from harm.

From frigid temperature to the gear, GPS tracking systems, and training plans, road running to hitting the trails, we will give you our top 8 tips to stay safe while running. 

We will discuss the following running safety basics: 

  • Running Safety In Extreme Weather Conditions 
  • Running Safety On The Road
  • Running Safety In The Dark
  • Running Safety With Route Knowledge
  • Running Safety With the Company of Others 
  • Running Safety When Responding To a Wildlife Encounter
  • Running Safety and Being Alert At All Times 
  • Running Safety and Being Properly Trained

Ready to get into the nitty-gritty of our running safety tips? 

Let’s jump in!

Running safety

#1: Prepare For Extreme Weather Conditions

You must be prepared for the weather you are venturing into, from scorching heat and humidity to frigid temperatures and wind chill. Follow these running safety tips for extreme conditions.

For hot and humid weather, wear light, quick-dry clothing, bring plenty of water and electrolytes with you, and cool off periodically by dousing the back of your neck with cold water. Consuming enough liquid and electrolytes and keeping your body temperature down will help keep you from suffering from dehydration

When planning your run in these conditions, calculate the estimated time you’ll spend out there and bring along more than what you would usually need. It’s always better to be over-prepared than underprepared to avoid putting yourself at risk. 

For bitter cold weather, ensure proper layering paying attention to every detail. From wool socks, fleece-lined tights, face, and ear coverings, depending on the temperature, you may need to be covered from head to toe to avoid discomfort or potential harm to your skin.

Ice and snow can cause treacherous conditions, making it unsafe because of a potential slip and fall or a car veering off the road. 

Be smart about your choices. If the weather is too extreme either way, think about an alternative. Having access to a treadmill either at home or at a gym comes in handy in these situations. It could save you from facing a potential hazard.

Running safety

#2: Take Precautions on The Road

Even though road running seems low-risk as the terrain is predictable and seemingly safe, details must be considered.

Depending on the time of day you need to train, there may be substantial traffic on the roads. To avoid accidents, run on the side of the road where you can see the cars coming towards you. Unlike on a bicycle, we want to run against the traffic to see what’s coming. 

Just as we want to see the cars coming, we want cars to see us. Bright-colored, fluorescent clothing like neon green, yellow, pink, and orange is a great way to be seen on the road. 

Even so, always err on the side of caution. As you think you are visible, a driver’s slightest distraction may pose a threat to you on the road. 

So, when possible, stay on the sidewalk, the shoulder, or better yet, choose neighborhoods with less traffic. Taking a bit of extra time to drive to a nearby area to ensure your safety is well worth it. 

Running safety

#3: Take Precautions When Running In The Dark

Aside from traffic, there is another potential running hazard that can become an issue due to difficulty scheduling workouts. Due to our busy lives, we may need to run either before the sun comes up or after it goes down. If this applies to you, precautions should be taken to avoid risk and for running safely in the dark. 

Again, dress in bright, neon, and reflective clothing, visible to drivers. In addition, use a headlamp or flashlight to illuminate the road in front of you, alert the cars of your presence, and ensure your footing is safe.

When possible, choose naturally well-lit areas with street lights where you know it will be safe to run during these hours. This brings us to our next trip, knowing your route.

Running safety

#4: Know Your Route

Most likely, your runs during the week will be on home territory, so you’ll be familiar with where you will run. However, longer runs are an excellent opportunity to venture out and discover someplace new, whether it’s on the road or on the trails. 

The most important thing is to plan accordingly and be prepared for these adventures. Plan your route in advance with maps, Strava, Trailforks, or whichever application you usually use. 

Suppose you are in an unknown area due to travel. In that case, you can use these applications to find the most commonly run routes using heatmaps or Strava segments. You can also search for a local running group to see any activities for that particular weekend in the area. 

If you are on the trails, be sure not to stray from the path. Dodgy footing or unknown terrain could lead you into trouble, such as getting lost in the woods or taking a fall down a ravine. It seems extreme, but it does happen, so let’s do what we can to avoid it at all costs. 

Try and choose marked trails, such as national or local parks. Get to know the markings you need to follow well, so there are no surprises or moments of uncertainty during your run. 

In an emergency, you should always run with your phone and a whistle in your pack. Also, always let people who are not running with you, know where you’ll be.

Running safety

#5: Run Accompanied Or Use Live Tracking

Running with others is not as easy as it sounds. Factors such as varying scheduling, fitness level, goals, and training plans may make it tough to find someone to train with. However, if possible, it is ideal to have a running partner. This not only helps pass the time during a hard or long workout but adds to your safety. 

You are always safer in masses, whether it’s for power in numbers or having someone there to help in case of an emergency. If for some reason you get off course, two heads are always better than one, and having someone there may save you both some panic. 

If you can’t find a running buddy on your own, you can join a local running club. Look for groups particular to the type of running you do, whether marathons, a couch to 5k group, trail, or ultra running.

Finding others with the same goal may find you others to train with. Joining the running community is not only a way to ensure safety, but it makes training even more fun. 

If you must run alone, an excellent option is using GPS devices such as Garmin and Strava Beacon with Live Tracking. This handy-dandy tool will alert a previously chosen contact when you begin your activity, where you are at all times during, and when you have completed it. This will give both you and your loved one peace of mind.

Running safety

#6: Be Prepared For Animal Sighting

Depending on where you live and run, your fauna will vary. From bears and jaguars to alligators and snakes, you want to proceed with caution when encountering any wildlife.

We can’t possibly be experts and know what to expect with every type of animal. Therefore, it’s important to become familiar with the area where you run, so you know what to do in case of a possible animal sighting. 

Most animals are more afraid of you than you are of them, though it may not seem that way. A general rule is to not turn your back on the animal and walk cautiously away backward to avoid spooking it. Do not run! You will just provoke most animals into chasing you. 

Always watch your step when running the trails as snakes and other animals can be hidden in plain sight on the paths. Being aware is key to avoiding potential run-ins with wild animals. 

The most important rule is don’t panic. Stay calm, stay as far away as possible from the potential threat, and retreat slowly, not taking your eyes off the animal while doing so.

Running safety

#7: Always Be Alert

From oncoming traffic to animals sightings and general footing, be alert at all times while running. 

Try diminishing the chance of becoming distracted, as this can only ensure your safety even more. If you are running with headphones, keep the volume at a level where you can still hear cars and other potential hazards around you. 

Be aware of your surroundings, and if something doesn’t seem quite right, your intuition is probably correct. Turn around and backtrack or cross the street if you feel you are heading into an unsafe situation. Better safe than sorry! 

When running in the trails, paying attention to route markings and signs is imperative to not get lost along the way. Keep your eyes peeled to stay on track. Maintaining complete focus will also help your footing and avoid tripping and falling over roots and rocks. 

Staying alert is one of your best bets to staying safe out there.

Running safety

#8 Train Adequately For Your Race

An essential safety precaution is to train appropriately for your race. Taking a risk on race day is not the way to have a pleasant experience, or worse, you may even put yourself in danger. 

I have often seen people in ultra-marathons show up underprepared and undertrained. Later on, it is not uncommon to see the zombie walk or multiple DNFs scattered throughout the aid stations. Runners can put themselves in danger if not prepared for the feat ahead. 

Fueling, hydration, and sheer fitness all come into play when racing. Yes, you will most likely have aid stations along the way where you can find help if something were to occur; however, training well for your goal race is the better option. 

Plan enough time to adequately build up mileage and strength and follow a well-thought-out training plan created by a professional. If you can join a running club or have your very own running coach, even better. The better prepared for your race, the less chance of risk you are to yourself and others. 

Now that you’ve got our top tips to stay safe while running, get out there and train, taking the proper precautions! 

Running safety

If you are looking to train for your next big race and need guidance, you can check out our training plans:

Couch to 5k

5k to 10k

Half Marathon

Marathon

Ultramarathon

Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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