Running safety is always something runners are aware of, particularly, women runners and their companions. Winter brings on some additional concerns some of which I’ve addressed in prior blogs such as the cold, and falling or slipping on ice. Other potential threats are the dark and vehicles.
Yes, if you’re a road runner, vehicles are always a threat. As trail runners, who aren’t used to taking cars into consideration, migrate to the road for the winter it’s important to go over some of the basics.
Reflective vests and/or other reflective attire is critical when running on the roads in the dark and winter in the northern hemisphere brings longer winter hours, which means most runners will be running in the dark at least for a portion of their run. As counter intuitive as it seems given the night running, wearing black clothes is better if than wearing light colored clothes and you don’t want to wear white. This applies if there is snow on the ground rather than no snow. It’s just easier to see a runner who is wearing black on a white background (see picture above, her legs are much easier to see compared to her torso).
Headlights and taillights are also critical not only do they make it, so you can see in the dark, but it allows cars to notice you earlier. If wearing your headlight on your head is problematic because of tunnel vision or the reflection from the snow, try wearing it around your waist or carrying a flashlight that you can move a round more.
Let’s talk about the vehicles. Running on the roads can be boring and they are even more so if you’ve been running exclusively on trails for the majority of the year. It’s very tempting to just zone out and pop in the earbuds for some much needed entertainment. The problem is it’s easy to get lost in whatever you’re listening to, which means you may not hear things around you including cars. My recommendation is if you must listen to something keep one earbud out and make it a habit to check into the world around you every few minutes.
The other threat with cars is they slide in the snow too. Once a car slides, many drivers panic and over correct causing even more sliding or they turn their wheels the same direction as the slide and make things worse. Running on the road means you need to be aware of those cars and trucks more than usual. Be prepared to high tail it out of the way at all times, but most especially on corners or curves in the road. Also, if there’s been significant snow fall or weather conditions are primed for ice (warm weather followed by an over night freeze).
If a car is sliding, don’t wait to see if they regain control, just get out of the way. This extra threat also makes it more important to run against traffic or just get up on the side walk where you can. It can be tempting and easier to run in the tracks of cars on the road, which is fine, you just have to be alert. Although, I strongly caution against this if it is not a neighborhood road and the speed limit is above 35 mph.
Even though there are extra precautions you need to take during the winter months, don’t let them scare you away from running outdoors. Running in the quiet after a snowfall can be magical and is one of my favorite road runs (even though I don’t like winter). It is also a warmer time to run if their continues to be a good cloud cover.
So layer up and get out there.