Running Safety-What These Marathoners Want You To Know
What does running safety mean to you? Seven seasoned runners weigh in on smart running, risks to avoid and easy precautions they swear by.
Running is a decidedly simple and effective medium of exercise一but not without a catch. Though you do not need extensive experience or equipment to get going, you still need to keep in mind certain dos and don’ts. Apart from prioritising your nutrition and rest, mastering proper running form and finding a regime that works for you, it is also crucial to remember certain safety precautions. This is especially true if you ditch the usual parks and trails for a road run, where the condition of the roads, the vehicular activity and other obstacles can pose serious risks to your well-being. A 2019 study in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care revealed that in 2017, “16 citizens were killed and 53 injured every hour on Indian roads as per officially reported data, while a fair number go unreported”.
We spoke to seven individuals-from marathoners to a physiotherapist to a professional coach-about the hurdles they’ve faced throughout their years of running. Here’s what each of them suggested to be the most important rules of running safety.
1. In a group, run behind each other instead of spreading out.” – Coach Ravinder Singh
With years of carefully curating safe and sustainable running events under his belt, running mentor and marathoner Coach Ravinder Singh begins with a simple but firm statement. “We can’t expect others to take precautions,” he says. Apart from taking care of your general fitness, what you eat etc, here’s what he suggests:
- Though it’s preferable to not have earbuds in while running, try keeping at least one ear free. We need to be able to hear if someone calls out to us as well as the passing traffic.
- We should always carry a mobile phone and some emergency cash with us while running.
- In a group, it is better to run behind each other instead of spreading out on the road.
- Though most people run in the morning, you should opt for fluorescent clothing, reflectors or head torches if you’re running in the dark. That way, you are more visible to vehicles.
- Run in the opposite direction of traffic.
An avid marathoner as well as a health and wellness enthusiast, New Delhi-based Suresh Srinivasan maintains a regular blog on his experiences and advice as a runner. According to him, self-awareness is the paramount requirement for running safety. “Though running in a group may help you in case of an emergency, do not blindly depend on others. I almost got hit by a hand cart on my recent 6.30 a.m. run, but was able to avoid it by being aware of my surroundings,” he reminisces.
- Understand the conditions we live in. There are very few designated running areas in India. “Though many prefer roads, running in parks is the safest and is also beneficial for our mental health and well-being,” suggests Srinivasan.
- It is ideal to avoid running at a time when the traffic is at its peak. Mornings between 5 to 7 a.m. witness much lesser traffic, which is why many runners in New Delhi opt for locations like Amrita Shergill Marg or Nehru Park.
- Listening to music is therapeutic for many runners, but it might cause you to get too absorbed in your thoughts and miss out on road risks.
- Roundabouts or circular junctions are high risk areas for runners. Once you start running, it becomes difficult to interrupt your rhythm. Yet, make sure to stay calm, look around and then cross the roads.
- While running on roads, apart from abiding by proper COVID protocols, you must also be aware of your environment. “I was almost chased and attacked by a couple of stray dogs while on a 5:40 a.m. run, but I slowed down and showed no signs of fear,” recalls Srinivasan. You can also make a sound to alert the dogs, so that they don’t feel cornered or get aggressive.
Running her first half marathon in 2010, Reeti Sahai has since then come a long way一both on foot and experience. “Always stay alert and aware of what’s going on around you. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are,” says the fitness coach and mountaineer.
- Avoid dark, deserted or overcrowded areas. If you’re not running with a buddy, share your route with someone and carry a mobile phone.
- Run clear of parked cars and bushes. Do not wear jewellery while running.
- Run with an identification tag on your wrist or ensure you have your name, your emergency mobile number and blood group written somewhere accessible.
- Prevent injuries by checking your posture, using a mid-foot strike and doing strength workouts and cross-training. It helps to consult a coach for a proper gait analysis.
- Find the right running shoe for yourself and wear lightweight apparel. “Running gear is usually made from fabrics including high-tech versions of nylon, wool or polyester. Avoid cotton because once it gets wet, it stays wet, which can be uncomfortable in warmer weather and dangerous in the winters,” explains Sahai.
Along with winning ultramarathons and coaching runners, Hemant Singh Beniwal’s approach to running safety is a mix of practicality and feeling confident. Here’s what he recommends.
- First and most lethal condition is traffic, as well as the condition of roads. If the roads have loose pebbles, tapered or broken sewerage lids, uncovered manholes—it can pose obstacles on your way. The rising pollution levels are also a looming threat.
- Both running with company and going solo have their benefits. “The former can create a motivating and collective group conscience,” explains Beniwal. Further, it checks eve-teasing and snatching. But at times, long solo runs are decluttering, therapeutic and meditative.
- Apart from maintaining proper COVID protocols, you should run on the sides of the road with basic ideas of no takeovers (blocking roads and intersections), understand traffic schedules in advance and ensure that the roads are well-lit and spacious.
The founder of Run Academy by Shank, Shshank Pundir advises all runners keep these three points in mind while running on roads:
- Always run against the traffic and if possible on the curb or the pavement to avoid being hit by any vehicle.
- “I never run with music in my ear,” says Pundir. This hampers listening to horns of the vehicle coming from behind.
- “I always wear a blinker on my back, which indicates my direction to the traffic,” adds the ultramarathoner.
Dr. Rajat Chauhan has been a runner for 37 years, along with being a Sports-Exercise Medicine & Musculoskeletal Medicine physician, author and ultramarathoner. Apart from the general safety precautions, he also puts emphasis on proper running form. “Running is like a signature or a fingerprint,” he says. Everyone’s regime is unique, but these are some basic rules that can help prevent the common running-related pains (knee, shin and lower back).
- Always land softly on your feet. You can practice this by skipping.
- Don’t run too much too fast too soon.
- Do not swing your arms across your body. Swing back and forth to avoid pressuring your spine.
- Don’t slouch, run tall.
- Maintain a loose grip on your hands.
After a gruesome accident around 15 years ago, Chiro Mitra was unsure if he could ever run again. “Seven years back in Western Massachusetts, USA, after I was hit by a car in my university, I never thought I would be able to run a mile again and my running career was finished. Besides the dead vision in my right eye, everything came back but took seven long years,” says the now ultramarathoner in a 2013 blog. Mitra believes that your running routine and style depends on whether you’re running for fun or to calculate your time-nevertheless, these are the points he always remembers.
- Running or cycling can be risky due to the irresponsibility of rash and/or drunk drivers. Try to run in daylight, preferably daybreak, for better visibility.
- Running trails or natural environments are always safer than road runs.
- In case of injuries or irregularities, seek the help of a physiotherapist.