Staying Safe on the Streets, Advice from Mindy Przeorbehind the scenes education fitness social responsibility
24 October 2022
I started my endurance sport journey about 16 years ago. At that time, I’d throw on my shoes and head out on a run without thinking about much more than trying to make it a little further or faster than last time. Over the years, unfortunately due to a few tragic events involving loved ones and stories shared in the news, I’ve learned to be more vigilant so I can continue doing what I love for years to come. From distracted drivers who don’t even notice us to those actively trying to do us harm, now more than ever we need to be aware. While it’s impossible to eliminate all risks, here are a few things I do to limit them:
- Running buddies. This is the biggest one for me as I strongly believe there’s safety in numbers. I know it means waking up earlier than I want to and driving further than needed to get my run in, but I love my running buddies and the comfort it brings me to be with them.
- Picking the safest route. This is a tricky one since it depends on the time of day, distance of the run, goal of the workout and whether I’m solo or with buddies. If I’m with others, we stick to canal paths and greenbelts to stay away from motorists. If I’m on my own, I prefer ‘busier’ areas so I’m not really alone. When on a street, as much as possible, I stay on the sidewalk (or as far from the road as safely possible) and run on the left side, opposite traffic. I run with the assumption motorists won’t see me and it’s my responsibility to keep myself safe. For those who prefer to run in the bike lane, I’m a cyclist as well and would like to ask that you reconsider this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up on a runner in the bike lane, on the right side of the road (so they're headed in the same direction with their back to me) with headphones in so they can’t hear me. Not only is this not safe for the runner, but it’s also putting cyclists in danger because we are having to merge out of the bike lane and into traffic to pass.
- Be an active observer. I make a game of counting and memorizing things. From street names to store fronts, landmarks to mile markers, it’s good to keep an eye on the environment around you. If you had to call for help could you tell someone exactly where you are? Would you notice if the same car passed you several times? Could you describe it and recite the license plate? I know this won’t be a popular suggestion but, when I’m running by myself outside, to aid in my awareness of my surroundings and will typically leave the music behind so I can take it all in.
- Vary the routine. Even if I need to get out around the same time each day, I try to change up my running routes so as not to make it easy for someone to say, ‘a girl passes by here every day at this time.’
- Communicate. I make sure my husband knows where I’m going and how long I should be gone for. I take my phone with me so he can track where I’m at and so I’m able to call if something goes wrong. Options like Apple AirTags or Tile Trackers are easily stowed in a pocket or water bottle holder and are a good secondary option to let family know where you are. There are also a number of great tracking apps for your phone out there and most are free!
- Have a plan. Where can you go if something happens or you don’t feel safe? How quickly can you call for help and what will you say? I hope none of us ever have to use it but it’s always a good idea to have a plan and carry some sort of personal defense item. From a whistle to mace to anything else you’re comfortable carrying and using, be prepared and know what you’re going to do should an issue arise.
- Most importantly, follow your gut. Don’t talk yourself out of making the smart decision. And certainly, don’t push it if it doesn’t feel right… No workout is worth losing your life over!
At the end of the day, we all started running for a variety of reasons but I’d imagine there are a few common threads. This is supposed to be enjoyable and a way to stay healthy, physically and mentally. If something doesn’t feel right, puts you in danger or takes away the fun of the sport, it’s time to make a change.
Have fun and be safe out there!