As I drove to and from our local pizzeria last night, I spotted a runner out. This usually makes me feel pretty happy to see a peer out there getting their jog on. It makes me even happier when I see a runner on my turf. Despite this happy feeling I get most of the time, I also get a little upset when runners don't adhere to the rules of the road. Now, there are rules and laws that the state and local governments put out there for pedestrians but I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the common sense rules about running on the road.
Rule #1 - Run against traffic
This should be the first rule any runner learns when running on the road. Here in the US, we drive on the right, ride our bikes on the right, and run on the left. This is so that oncoming traffic can see you and you can see them. I've always done this and the only exception I make is when I'm running a race and I run the tangent. Outside of that, I'm on the far left side of the road.
Rule #2 - Be visible
This is where the night runner from last night pissed me off. He was moving along at a great clip and his form looked good. But his outfit was deadly. He wore all black. Black pants, black shirt, and black hat. He had all of three tiny reflective dots on him. I swear if those dots were on his hat he would have looked like a black deer. Completely suicidal. Compare this to the runner I saw the other day out for a run. He was running during the day and had on a florescent green long sleeve shirt and a brightly colored hat. I could very easily see him, even in the sunlight. When I run outside, I try to clash as much as possible. Not only do I try to clash with the environment I run in (bright colors) but I also try to clash with the colors I'm wearing (bright green with bright orange with bright yellow). I try to go by the motto: "If you can't see me running, then you're blind and shouldn't be driving." So even though it's a bit of a jerky thing to do, I will shine my headlamp in a driver's eyes just to make sure they can see me at night.
Rule #3 - Prepare to bail out
This is one of those things I learned when I learned how to drive. My father taught me to look for places to wreck the car should something unavoidable happen. Sounds goofy as all get-out but I've found that it works great when running on the road. I only use this when I see a car coming but all it means is to look for a semi-comfortable place to jump should the oncoming car decide to swerve in your direction. I have had to bail a few times but every time has been because of cars coming from both directions and they'd need to pass each other right where I'm running. In other words, the cars barely have enough room to pass each other so I damn well better get off the road. I've also used this once (the planning part, not the actual jumping part) when I had a driver slow way down just to watch me run. She creeped me out so I was actively looking for escape routes.
Rule #4 - Pay the fuck attention
I know, I know, so many of us go out for a run to lose ourselves and to get away from the stresses of life. We want to tune out and just float on the runner's high. But we can't. At least not too much. We need to keep a waking eye open for anything that may be a problem. When I run on the road, I usually ditch the headphones. This allows me to hear cars coming around a blind curve or even coming from behind. It also lets me hear barking dogs (and nails on pavement means the dog is chasing you too). I also wave to passing drivers. If they wave back, I know they're polite and they see me. If they don't wave, then I watch them close because they may not see me. Usually they just don't like runners and ignore me.
Rule #5 - Protect yourself
Usually this means just wearing what's appropriate for the weather outside. But it also means knowing where you're going and telling someone. Or running in a group. Or not running right at sunrise or sunset because of sun glare. Or wearing a headlamp during the day because you're running in the rain. It can also mean carrying a cell phone, pepper spray, or some other self defense tool.
How ever you boil it down, you need to be proactive and reactive when it comes to protecting yourself on the run. All of these rules (and many more tidbits of advice) can save your life. So don't be an idiot and run at night in all black. You aren't a fucking ninja.