Be Safe On The Run

Craig Davidson, with 23 years of running experience, says the unexpected is the rule, `You get up the morning of the race and think you`re going to run very well, and you run poorly. Then, some mornings you think you`ll run poorly and, all of a sudden, you run very well.` Even with the `road` experience of more than 100 marathons, unexpected safety issues can come up and roll right over you. Davidson said it happened to him. `I was in a state of shock. I couldn`t believe it happened to me,` the Phoenix resident and Runner`s Den employee remembered. `I got hit by a bicycle while running down Bell Road. I kept saying to myself, `He`s going to look up, he`s going to see me.` I had stopped and tried to get out of his way, but he hit me dead-center. His bike came to a complete stop, he flew over the handlebars and I fell into Bell Road.` Two days and three runs later, simple breathing became excruciatingly painful when his body called attention to the two cracked ribs he had sustained. Davidson paid painfully for not being more defensive on the run. Serina Acker, who ran while in high school, said she returned to the sport two years ago. She recently completed her first marathon at Walt Disney World but not without falling into one of the dangers of training -- literally, she fell, twice. `We had water with us on the trail run, so we washed off my cuts and scrapes,` says the founder of West Side Runners group in Avondale. `The other time I happened to have my cell phone, and I called my husband for help.` A friend of Davidson`s, however, fell prey to one of runnings more dramatic safety issues -- being attacked. `She had a Walkman on and never heard the guy jump from behind the bushes,` Davidson said. `Fortunately, she screamed and he ran off.` Experts say wearing headsets while running greatly increases the chance of being attacked or being hit by a vehicle or cycle. Davidsons friend still wears headphones, but only over one ear. Detective Bob Ragsdale, Phoenix Police Department and a former runner, says statistics are not kept specifically on runners` incidents, but from personal experience, he`s seen situations when even man`s best friend can turn dangerous. `Never trust a dog to be friendly,` he cautioned. `If you come upon one, stop and forcefully yell `No.` Most dogs will respond to that command.` Expecting the unexpected falls short, if preparedness isn`t part of the equation. Here are some safety tips from Davidson, Acker and Ragsdale based on thousands of miles of practice and a collective concern for their running comrades safety. A DOZEN AND ONE SAFETY TIPS 1. Be aware of your surroundings. When approaching another person up ahead, move to avoid close physical contact but do make eye contact. Then, looking away, keep the person in view peripherally. 2. Don`t wear headphones. Headphones mask sounds and encourage more of an inward focus, which tends to block one`s awareness of surroundings. 3. Carry identification, ALWAYS. On a piece of paper, write your name, address, contact(s) in case of an emergency and telephone number(s), and any medical conditions. Some runners put ID in their hats, fanny packs, pockets, shoes . . . anywhere it`s comfortable, can be found quickly but is safe from accidental loss. 4. Carry a cellular phone, if possible, especially if running alone, in an unpopulated area, when it`s dark outside or whenever personal injury could be greater. Some runners carry a bell or police whistle to alert passersby of injury or attack. 5. Carry pepper spray. Disabling a human or an animal attacker with a potent spray may give runners just enough time to escape and reach a safe environment. In an attack, it`s important to create noise and to yell, drawing attention to the situation, trying to discourage the attacker from staying at the scene. 6. Carry money. Carry at least a dollar in coins to make an emergency call or to buy a drink to replenish lost fluids. 7. Wear reflective materials. Running shoes and attire often have reflective areas. If not, apply self-sticking, reflective tape. Also wear light-colored clothing. 8. Don`t `run` a red light. Obey the rules of the road and avoid crossing against a red light. Face oncoming traffic while running and keep a safe distance from the roadway flow. And, if eye contact can`t be made between runner and driver, or if the driver`s attention isn`t alerted by yelling, never proceed into an auto`s path. 9. Keep to the right. Allow room for other runners and bicyclists to pass on the left. 10. Be unpredictable. Vary the route, day and time of a running schedule to guard against attack. 11. Walk or drive a new route first. Check out the safety of a new route before actually running it. Scope out the people, cars, dogs, homes, businesses, surface conditions and lighting. 12. Don`t run in stormy weather even when the storm is off in the distance. Lightening hits from many, many miles away. 13. Use common sense. Run with a partner or group to build confidence. Be prepared for various situations, instead of regretting an action later. If you feel hesitant about any aspect of a run, don`t go.

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