Living in a big city means you have a glut of galleries, theaters, museums, bars, clubs, and restaurants to keep you entertained any time of the night and day. Though the city may offer art, culture and plenty of entertainment, it also means noise, traffic, pollution and plenty of people; in other words, everything that could make the most mild-mannered of runners irate.
We’ll show you how to keep calm and run safe in the city.
Avoid heavily trafficked roads
Rush hour can see the amount of traffic on the roads quadruple. And that means a massive increase in fumes and pollution. Traffic exhaust fumes can be noxious in the short term, leaving you gasping for clean air, and may even cause long term health problems if exposure is prolonged and frequent.
Try to time your runs so that traffic is relatively light or, if this is not possible, avoid the busiest roads. If you are very concerned about exhaust fumes and the potential damage they may do to your health, consider buying an activated charcoal anti-pollution mask.
Avoid rush hour
The more traffic on the road, the greater the risk of crossing paths with other road users. Increased traffic, congested roads, the pressure of time and impatient, frustrated drivers don’t just make running on busy streets a little more risky, but when roads are very congested, you often end up expending as much energy dodging traffic as you do moving forward. For both safety, performance and for the sake of your sanity, try avoid running during rush hour. If you must run at this time, plan your route so that you avoid major thoroughfares as much as possible.
Run against the traffic
When running on roads, run toward traffic rather than away from it. If your back is to any oncoming traffic, you may not be aware of an impending hazard approaching you. If you are facing oncoming traffic, and even if a driver fails to see you, you are forewarned and therefore better able to move out of the path of hazards.
Don’t take unnecessary risks
Runners like to run without interruption but that isn’t always possible when you run in traffic. Congestion, traffic lights and stop signs all conspire to block your forward progress. Though incredibly frustrating, don’t cut corners, jump lights or otherwise do things that increase your risk of accident and serious injury.
Shaving a couple of seconds off your best time by dodging dangerously in and out of traffic, will seem pretty stupid if you get hurt. Don’t do it, no matter how tempting it may be or how invincible (happy hormones from running) you might be feeling. You risk losing months of training or even worse if you get hit by a car, truck or bus.
Run in the early morning or late evening
Even the busiest cities are quiet and almost traffic-free early in the morning and late in the evening making it an ideal time to run. Though it may be dark, most city roads are well-lit, and running on quiet roads early in the morning or at night can be wonderfully therapeutic and relaxing.
Don’t stand still
Running in the city can be a bit of a stop-start affair. When you stop running your heart rate drops and you may lose some of the benefit of your workout. Rather than simply standing still or going for the dangerous option of running round an obstacle to avoid stopping, jog on the spot until it is safe for you to continue forward. Also take this opportunity to retie your shoelaces, remove or add a layer of clothing or take a quick drink.
Forget about setting records
Most runners have personal bests (PBs) for various distances such as one mile, five miles or even ten miles. Though it’s always nice to set a new PB, running in traffic is really not the best time (maybe worst?) to try and do it. Congestion means you have to stop and start and stop again which is not conducive to running a good time. And trying to set a new PB in heavy traffic will seriously tempt you to take crazy stupid risks as you attempt to dodge traffic to cut a few seconds off your time. Save your PB attempts for when the roads are quiet and you are free to run without obstruction.
If other road users can see you, they are more likely to be able to avoid you so it pays to be seen. While black might make you look skinny, it does nothing for your visibility – especially at night. Ninjas wear black for a reason. So wear high visibility clothing, stick to well lit areas and, if necessary, you might even want to wear a head torch on very dark nights to ensure you can see and be seen.
Keep the music down
Music players can make running so much more interesting as you can tune out the cacophony of city noise and enjoy music, audio books or podcasts while you run. Music being rhythmic is also awesome at helping you run evenly, in pushing you forward as you run step for step to the beat of the song and can be incredibly motivating (hence world-class athletes have their Beats by Dre headphones glued to the ears right up until they have to compete). And research does support music in boosting athletic performance. Unfortunately, while music does have benefits, it also means that you are less aware of your surroundings. Your ears give advanced warning of impending dangers – especially traffic approaching from behind – so make sure that, if you listen to music, you keep the volume somewhat low so you can still hear approaching dangers.