Staying safe while running isn’t something that many runners want to think about. I mean really think about.
I know that my own runner didn’t give much thought to it, until he needed to. I don’t share this story to scare anyone but truth be told, it wasn’t ever something that had crossed our minds until my son had a particularly terrifying incident.
Let me share what happened so that you can understand the burning desire to share practical running safety tips.
When we realized we needed to think more about runner safety:
My son was running at a local park during cross country practice, and while he was running solo he wasn’t alone. There was a teammate about 10 seconds ahead of him and a teammate was about 20 seconds behind him.
As he got to a particularly secluded place, there were two men standing by a sign, one pointed to the other and said “that one.” At that time, the second man, started running step for step with my child.
My runner boy said he kept looking straight ahead pretending like he didn’t notice the man next to him. He said he started sprinting and didn’t stop until he was near an adult.
When he got close to an adult he turned around and looked back and the two men, were getting in a car and driving off.
Talk about chilling.
For the record, I was at the practice, actively participating, I was at the start/finish line recording the runner’s times.
I would never have realized, until it was far too late.
After contacting the park and learning that there were not any cameras in that area (which is a mistake because that is the only part of the park that is secluded but also had an access road) and talking to the police, it became very clear to me that my family and I were alone in this.
Over days, weeks and months that came after this event, we put some practices into place that I wanted to share with you.
Tips for staying safe while running:
- Invest in a running alarm of some type.
We discovered the Nathan runners alarm, when we purchased my son’s there wasn’t the option of the strobe light feature, but I think that it is an even better product with that addition. Either way, the alarm is light weight, doesn’t bother my son while he is running and is LOUD.
- Let someone know when/where you are running.
Here is why I don’t say run with a buddy. While that is at the end of the day ideal, runners who are training for races or anything beyond running for fun or exercise, become a bit bogged down if they have to slow their pace to their partner or push themselves to a pace that they aren’t ready to run if they have to try and keep up.
- Bring Your Cell Phone
Prior to this happening, we didn’t have a cell phone for my son who was 11 at the time. Because he runs long distances and no one in our family can keep up, it made sense to get him a phone. We use Verizon Smart Family and it will track his location. As bonus if he gets lost or if we wonder what is taking him so long, we can communicate with each other.
- Get a RoadID
My son wears a running specific watch to help him track the stats of his runs. But what I like best about his watch has nothing to do with the watch itself but rather what is on the watch. We invested in a RoadID which is a small discrete id tag that slips on to his watch band. There is a place for identifying information and emergency contact phone numbers.
- Make sure you wear visible clothing.
This tip is less about personal safety, and more about physical safety. If you can’t be easily seen by cars or other people then the likelihood of an unintended accident happening increases.
- Get a headlamp
Staying on the physical safety track, making sure that you can see while you are running and adding another layer of being seen to the clothing portion is important. Headlamps are incredibly inexpensive and will light your way while running while also help you be more visible. Parent Bonus: It gives you something to watch for if you child is running at dusk.
- Have a plan in place
For me, the worst part of the story is that we hadn’t discussed with my son what to do in the event of something happening to him. We were just lucky that he instinctively knew what to do, and is very fast.
Running has been such a gift for my son and it is something that we have discovered he is very good at doing. After the incident happened, we were afraid that he wouldn’t want to run anymore. But after we put some guidelines and safety measures in place, he felt good about getting back to what he loves to do.
I only wish that we had put things in place to ensure safety sooner.