Safety First

One day early in my running journey, I came home from work just after dusk. As I turned a corner in our neighborhood, which had no streetlights, I came dangerously close to a couple walking their dog. They were on the side of the street, and I was neither going too fast nor driving outside the middle of the fairly narrow road. It startled and scared me and made me see that—although I saw very few vehicles—the drivers couldn’t see me most winter mornings. I realized cars that came uncomfortably close to me probably did so because the drivers could not see me until they were right upon me. Most runners will not fare well in a collision with a motorized vehicle. Our mothers were right: it’s better to be safe …  (excerpt from The Race Before Us)

Editor’s Note:  Beginning right after the first of the year – hopefully to coincide with your New Year’s resolutions – Coach Dan will begin and post regularly a simple plan to get you on your way to walking and/or running.  This post is preliminary to actually stepping out for that first walk or run.

Coach Dan Blankenship

Coach Dan Blankenship

Running or Walking Safety Principles – a must read before heading out for a walk or run

Before heading out for a walk or run, it is important to review some safety rules first.  Here are a few safety rules to keep in mind.  Most are common sense but still a good idea to review these rules every now and then.

  • Be aware of your surroundings – It is important to never stop paying attention to your surroundings and your instincts no matter how safe you think it might be.   Simply being aware, trusting your intuition, and making smart decisions is key to running alone or in small groups.  The best advice you can take with you on a run is to that inner voice and if you are unsure of a place or a person, avoid it.  Preferably, run in familiar areas and consider alternating your routes and times so that you are not predictable.  This also helps with boredom too.
  • Bring a buddy – avoid running alone if you can, especially after dark and stay away from poorly lit areas.   As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers so find a friend or running group to run with if possible.
  • Run facing traffic – You should always be aware of motorists on the road and always run facing traffic.  Stay out of the vehicle and bike lanes and run on the side of the road or sidewalk where available.  Unlike a bicycle, you need to see the traffic coming your way so you can move quickly out of the way if you have to.  It is important to make eye contact with vehicles so you know they can see you.  If you can’t see the driver’s eyes, most likely he can’t see you.  If you are running in a group, run single file when on the roads.  Remember, you can’t outrun a 3,000 pound car!  Be reasonable and use sound judgment when running on the roads.
  • Be visible – If you are running in dark, wear brightly colored or reflective clothing.  A lot of running apparel, including shoes, have reflective material that will help make you visible at night.


  • Don’t wear headphones – They don’t belong on the roads or in traffic.  New studies have shown a significant increase in pedestrian deaths in the past few years because more people are using headphones.  You can’t hear traffic or someone coming up on you so save the music for a track, trail or a treadmill.
  • Don’t wear jewelry – it can attract attention that you may not want.
  • Don’t challenge a car to a race – if you come to an intersection and see a car approaching, yield to the motorist.  Trust me, they are faster than you and the car will win every time!
  • Stopped cars making turns – Be aware of stopped cars waiting to make a right turn.  Stop and wait until they make a turn or run behind them.  A car making a right hand turn is looking left and not at you crossing in their path so be aware of turning vehicles.
  • Running alone – If running alone, carry your cell phone, a noise maker, pepper spray, or some other defense item with you if possible, and always have some form of identification on you.   If you have a medical condition, be sure to wear a medical bracelet.  Many first responders look for medical information and emergency contact information are critical in the event something happens.  One idea is to wear a road ID like the ones sold by
  • Write down your running route – or tell someone where you are running and when you expect to return so they can check on you in case something happens.  A great application to consider is the which provides a service that allows you to record your routes and emergency contacts if you do not log back on within a certain time from starting your run.


  • Don’t stop or give directions to someone, even motorist if you are running alone.   Your intuition and common sense will go a long way here.
  • Call police immediately – if you see something suspicious.  Don’t always assume someone else will call.  If you have a cell phone, dial 911 if you need to.

Always practice these principles to have a safe and enjoyable walk/run.  Best overall advice, use common sense and if it does not feel right, don’t do it, and if you see something suspicious, call the police immediately.

Coach Dan

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  1. #1 by Thomas Raper on December 5, 2013 - 1:24 pm

    thanks and great advice. If I may, another important one for city runners. For most streets (except one way) ALWAYS look to your left first, as you approach the intersection. This side carries cars that are your first threat…then look right. SO many runners approach an intersection looking right first…a bad habbit. thanks!

    • #2 by danblankenship on December 7, 2013 - 4:57 pm

      Great suggestion – Thanks Thomas.

  2. #3 by Dan Blankenship on December 7, 2013 - 4:55 pm

    Thanks Thomas – another good suggestion!

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