Hi everyone! My name is Joe Stilin and I train and compete full-time for Soleus sponsored Zap Fitness, an elite running team based in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I ran for Princeton University and the University of Texas during my college years, and I now enjoy the professional runner lifestyle immensely at Zap.
I’d like to share a few thoughts on staying safe while you run alone. After all, running is tons of fun, but like those low budget science class videos always stressed, safety does come first.
This topic is particularly close to my heart. In 2015, our Zap Fitness team mate Cameron Bean was struck and killed by a car while running alone on a quiet road in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Cameron was a great runner, being the tenth-ranked steeplechaser in the US in 2013. More importantly, he was a super funny and engaging personality who we dearly miss.
Cameron was obeying the laws of the road that day, but his death reminds us just how important it is to take precautions when you inevitably go on a solo run.
Here are some tips for staying safe when you run alone.
- Tell someone where, when, and how long you’ll be running
Hopefully nothing terrible ever happens to you on a run, but it’s paramount that you prepare for an emergency. Before you head out the door, make sure the world knows where they can find you if you don’t return in time. If you have a favorite route, it’s a good idea to make a map of where you’ll be running for your family and friends in case of a problem.
- Carry ID
If an emergency does happen, the first person to find you likely will be a stranger. RoadID.com makes lightweight ID bracelets and bands for your shoes that feature your name and emergency contact info.
- Wear reflective gear and/or lights on night runs
The more you look like a shiny Lady Gaga Super Bowl Halftime Show backup dancer, the better. Most performance apparel companies now build reflective materials into everything from shoes to pants, hats, and shirts. Select your nightwear wisely (not that kind of nightwear. Get your mind our of the gutter!). Wearing a headlamp on a night run isn’t dorky – it shows everyone how hardcore and dedicated you are.
- Run against traffic
Seek roads with sidewalks as much as possible. Inevitably, you’ll find yourself running in the road on parts of your runs. While cyclists should ride with traffic on the right side of the road, runners should stay to the left and run against traffic where they can see oncoming vehicles. Give traffic as much room as possible. And of course, obey all normal pedestrian rules and right of way laws.
- Leave the earbuds at home on road runs
Lots of runners love to listen to music or podcasts during solo runs. That’s fine if your trail route doesn’t bring you near traffic and moving vehicles. But if you plan to run in or near the roads, you need to be able to hear what’s coming! Stay alert by keeping your eyes peeled and ears unsealed.
- Avoid dangerous areas
Save the exploratory runs for when you have running companions. Don’t trespass on private property. Give dogs a wide berth. Stay away from areas you aren’t familiar with when you run alone, especially in cities and hazardous areas. It’s a good idea for every runner to be versed in basic body self-defense. While I personally don’t bring a phone on runs, if you’re running alone in a new place, having maps and a means of making a call can save you lots of time in case you get lost.
The bottom line
Plan ahead when you know you’ll be running alone. Solo runs can be nice meditative experiences in which you go your own pace and enjoy your own thoughts. By keeping these tips in mind, you can help ensure your safety on them.