You’ve signed up to your event, you’ve chosen your training plan, and you’ve got your eyes set on the finish line. Now you’ve just got to lace up your trainers and start running! But before you rush out of the door and bound down the path towards your next 5k, 10k, or Half Marathon, it’s worth taking a little time to consider how to safeguard yourself from the hazards and challenges that runners face if not prepared.
Wherever you are running in the world, whatever your level of running experience, and regardless of the distance you’ll be covering, there will be ways in which you need to be smart and savvy with your running; from route planning to the tech you use, and from weather conditions to kit choices.
Plan your route in advance.
There’s nothing worse than being out on a run and realising all too late; that you’re lost or you’ve run too far in one direction and now you must run back, therefore overshooting your target distance by an unmanageable amount, or both.
We recommend, in addition to giving yourself time to warm-up, protecting time to choose your route carefully. There are several ways that you can plan ahead, for example using an previously-tracked route, using a route shared by a friend or by using free websites such PlotARoute (international) and Mapometre (UK only).
When planning your route, consider keeping your training to areas that you are familiar with, using paths and trails that are weather appropriate and won’t introduce additional underfoot hazards, making note of key landmarks, shops or train stations so you feel confident that you will have somewhere to go should you need to cut your run short.
Change your route regularly
Whilst we understand there is a temptation to spend the entirety of your training plan running the same comfortable and familiar route, you may unknowingly put yourself at risk.
Aim to change up your route regularly or alternatively have a few different routes in your running ‘virtual toolbox’ that you use on rotation. This way you are reducing any risk of being seen by the same people, in the same area, at the same time, on the same days.
Wear clothes and shoes suitable to terrain and conditions
What you wear to run in should ultimately be comfortable, activity-appropriate and financially viable to you as an individual. Wearing the latest elite-sport training gear is not a prerequisite for achieving your running goals.
However, checking-in with your pre-planned route and the current or forecast weather conditions before heading out the door will make sure you don’t find yourself in the unpleasant situation of being too hot, too cold, too wet or too muddy to finish your run.
Carry your phone
Under normal circumstances, you might find that taking time away from your phone would be the recommendation. But when it comes to safety, there’s something to be said for these small functional devices that keep us connected on the move.
Of course, some preparation is needed to make sure that our chosen device is charged appropriately, especially when you consider that any GPS tracking that is active will be consuming charge throughout.
Use headphones mindfully
We’ll be the first ones to admit that an upbeat playlist or a rousing podcast discussion is the best way to get motivated for a training run – particularly towards the end of the week. When running alone, near traffic or in lower-visibility conditions (such as bad weather or in the dark) running with headphones can reduce your awareness of the hazards around you. Consider running with only one earphone, if music is a non-negotiable, or go headphone-free.
Tell someone or take someone
Regardless of the time of day, weather conditions, area, length of run or anything else, it’s always a great idea to tell someone where you’re going and how long you expect to be running. It’s reassuring to know that a trusted person knows your whereabouts should you come into difficulty. Alternatively, take a pal with you and run together*. An accountability-buddy sometimes gives us that extra boost of motivation, and there is safety in numbers.
Visibility is key as a runner. Whilst brightly-coloured workout gear helps us stand out during the day, it provides little in the way of visibility at night for other road-users such as traffic, cyclists and pedestrians. The easiest way to achieve good visibility as a runner is by training during daylight hours, but if that’s not possible in your routine then make sure to wear a high-vis vest or purpose-design running kit which has reflective properties.
Good hydration makes for a better run but requires constant attention! Your training will suffer if you have not drunk enough in the time leading up to your next session and, similarly, your recovery will suffer if you don’t re-hydrate post-exercise. There’s no need for fancy drinks or gels if they aren’t your thing – simply make sure to drink enough H2O consistently each day and your performance, risk of injury and wellbeing will all benefit.
*Current COVID guidelines (correct at time of publishing):
- You can exercise outdoors with your household, bubble or living circle.
- You can also meet with one other person from outside of your household for exercise, ensuring you remaining socially distanced.
- Remember to wear a face-covering where required and wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20-seconds when returning from any outdoor exertions.