Posted by: rundadrun | February 24, 2010

Clash! or how to be safe when running on the road.

In the 1987 movie “Good Morning Vietnam”, Robin Williams is “interviewing” Mr. Leo, one of his many characters in the movie.  Mr. Leo is a fashion commentator who has a problem with camouflage.  He says at one point that his problem with it is when you put it on and go into the jungle, “I can’t see you”. His advice is simple, “I say if you are going to fight, CLASH”.  The same can be said of runners when they hit the roads.

As the ice and snow give way to Spring, more and more people will be hitting the pavement to get their running mileage in.  The road is my primary place to run, but with it comes a few dangers that we need to be aware of.

First and foremost, always remember that we are not alone on the road, and that our main companion outweighs us by a couple of tons!  You must always be vigilant, because we will always lose the battle with a car. So, what can we do to avoid this “no win” situation?

  1. CLASH! As Mr. Leo said, BE SEEN.  With all the choices in reflective tech gear, and high visibility devices, there is no excuse for not being as visible as possible.  That being said, NEVER assume that you are seen.  Always be ready to move out of harms way.  I never cross in front of a car unless I have acknowledged that the driver has seen me and knows that I am crossing in front of them. Don’t just give the car a wave and cross, or you may be unpleasantly surprised.
  2. Choose your time as best as you can.  That does not mean you can’t run at night or in low light situations, as long as you follow tip # 1.  I do however try to avoid times when I know there will be additional distractions for the drivers, such as sunset or around times when people are coming and going from work.  I have been chased into yards while out running before sunrise, because a driver was not paying attention (it appeared she was putting her coffee back in the cup holder).  Don’t be a statistic. If you must run at times when the odds are higher that drivers will be distracted, keep your senses alert to the danger.
  3. Headphones: This is a major fight starter with a lot of runners.  I am not saying that you should never run with headphones on. What I am saying is never let them get in the way of you having all your senses working for your safety.  For me, that means if I run with them (which I occasionally do), I only do so when I am away from the dangers of a busy street.  I do wear my headphones when I am running on a treadmill or a dedicated trail.  If I choose to wear them on the road, I keep the volume at a very low level and usually keep the traffic side ear bud out of my ear. I know this is a touchy subject with many runners, but as far as safety goes, I would rather go without the music than not hear an approaching auto that is not paying attention to me.
  4. Know your local laws, but don’t die for them.  I have a friend who in college was crossing a street at an intersection. She assumed that she had the right of way and stepped out into the street. She woke up a week later in the hospital with life changing damage to her legs and head.  Whether she was in the right or not, she lost. Again, refer to #1.  But also, as much as we can as runners, we need to follow the traffic laws and be good ambassadors of running. That also applies how we react to drivers who are less than courteous or aware of us when we are out there running.  I know that it is tempting to scream and yell and maybe even tell drivers what we think of them in less verbal ways, but it does nothing but harm. NEVER try to pick a fight with a driver. They have a very large weapon that they may use on someone else if you are not available.  Just keep running and if you need to, let the police take care of things.

There are a lot of other safety concerns I will address in a later blog, like encounters with dogs and other animals(some of them 2 legged), but this post is getting long.

Please remember that we are very vulnerable to encounters with cars, and that we never win in these encounters. But also remember that we are also drivers on occasion. Do your best when you are driving to keep your eyes open.

And last, but not least, PLEASE wear an ID of some sort. I am a firm believer in Road ID, but anything is better than nothing.

God bless and Happy running,




  1. These are some great tips. When I’m out running it’s amazing how many drivers plow through stop signs, and you can tell they are not paying much attention!!!

    • I ahve been bumped a few times and chased onto lawns, but I have been blessed to not get hit yet. You can never be too safe.

  2. I just finished reading several of your posts and I really enjoyed them! I had no idea you were such a great writer in addition to telling great stories in person! 🙂

    I really appreciated the solid advice too. I’m reading a textbook on running for my “Jogging for Fitness” class and it has a lot of the same concepts but without the added humor and Christian perspective! Thanks!

    • Thank you Laura! I enjoy the blog and it has been fun testing out being a bit of a writer. Good luck with your running. Feel free to pass the blog address around to your friends.
      Love ya and Happy running,
      Rundad(Uncle Rob)

  3. You mention some things I never thought about..the ID for one. Hmm. I really can’t stand running with music in my ears because then I can’t hear the birds or the wind in the trees or the killers as they come up behind me, not to mention the crazed dogs and maniacal bears. The bears are the worst. Thanks for a great post, especially the clashing part! That was a new concept for me. So much to learn….

  4. Hey Rundad, I wanted to mention that if you want to remove that pesky “Just another WordPress blog” in your header, go to your dashboard and then to “settings” on the left hand side and you can write out a subheading that suits you!

  5. Thanks Fit Living,
    I will do that. I agree with the music getting in the way of my enjoying the world around me. I do make an exception when I go longer than about 12 miles on a protected trail, cause I really love to listen to some inspirational Christian music, mixed with some of my old Rock classics.
    Happy running,

  6. Hi Rundad,
    Just read everything on your blog. Love it! Sounds like we share a lot of the same goals, and write about handling similar situations. Have you read Born To Run? I think you would enjoy it. I have had to force myself to put it down every few chapters so I can savor it. It’s the kind of book that makes me want to go ultra…
    BTW, there’s nothing crazy about running in the cold- we’ll miss it when August rolls around!

    • Thanks Elizabeth,
      I have yet to read Born to Run. Maybe I will pick it up soon. I actually do love running in the cold, I just have trouble with the snow on the road. I am not a very happy summer runner. I have a very low tolerance for heat. I will be running a lot in the ealry morning this summer to avoid the worst of the heat. I look forward to following your blog.
      Happy running,

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