Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Running into the Dark

Typically, I run sometime between 10pm and midnight. Like all runners, I am a crazy person. This is a fundamental truth. But even to other runners, running that late at night is odd. I do it because I'm a night person, the genuine real deal where my biorhythms will auto-reset to staying up all night and sleeping all day the instant I let them.


But isn't running that late unsafe?

Well, sure, running in general isn't all that safe. Almost every serious runner, and more than a few joggers, I know has been tagged by a car at least once. Runners are small and cars are big. But I have never been hit. (knock-knock-knock)

But you're a girl!

Well spotted. But stranger danger, jump-out-from-the-bushes assault isn't all that common. If you're getting assaulted, statistically speaking, you're almost 80% likely to know the person. That doesn’t mean don't pay attention, it just means that what's asking the question isn't logic, but urban legend shaped fear.  That having been said, I don’t run in mini-shorts and a sports bra.  Some logic has been deployed, I swear.

The only ‘but’ I pay much care to is "But how do you stay safe?"

And it's easy. The first step is to know your route. Drive or walk it during the day. That way you know what the houses look like, where the street lights are, any places where the sidewalk inexplicably vanishes.

The second step is more fun: Get to know your neighbors. This means waving and smiling at anyone you see on your run of course, but also smiling at people when they walk by your porch and nodding at them when your cars pass each others. Weird, I know, but just tell yourself that people who can put a face on the screaming woman zooming by are more likely to open their doors or call the police.

Thirdly, don't make yourself an easy target for high school pranksters. I run the same streets almost every time, but I run them differently. Sometimes I go clockwise, or counter, or zigzag. I also vary the start time. Don't be the 10:32 runner. Mixing it up will also keep you entertained, so bonus.

+A note on encountering people instead of automobiles: Keep your head up, and concentrate on your stride. Run like you’ll never be tired and this is an easy pace for you, but DO NOT pick up your speed. Only prey scampers, so don't make yourself into that. Nod or say “hi,” but don't feel like you need to whip out your toothpaste ad smile. They can see you're busy and they know it's late, most won't think you need to stop and chat. Project confidence and never fear. 99.99% of the rest of the world simply doesn't give a shit about you one way or another. You're just a blip.  So don’t assume the worst.

But the single most important thing you can do to be safe on night runs is BE AWARE. This means turning the Ipod down a bit and keeping your eyes scanning. Stay alert to cars that are a block or two away, and look down every driveway to scout for brake lights. People leaving their homes will never see you. Even when they've waved to you from the door, they magically forget your existence as soon as they set foot in their SUV. Never ever assume that drivers see you, because they don’t.  Make yourself hard to hit by jumping up on curbs if you’re in the street or by waiting if you think there's even a small chance of the two of you sharing an intersection. Because, sure, their insurance will skyrocket, but you'll still be dead.

Night running has a lot of perks.  Stay alive to enjoy them and to mock all your scaredy cat friends.

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