running safety

Now that the weather is warming up, you’re likely to see more people outside participating in different activities. Whether you’re on a bike, rollerblades, strolling through the neighborhood or lacing up your sneakers for a long distance run, it’s easy to find yourself distracted not only by the sunshine, but also by your phone, music or even the thoughts in your head. One group of exercisers especially vulnerable to dangerous situations is runners because they often perform this activity solo.

How can I stay safe during my run?

Running can take your mind to faraway places long before you experience the endorphins it provides. Whether you want to get lost in the act itself and focus on tempo or speed, or you burn your calories while still allowing that “to do” list to also run through your mind, it’s important to not lose sight of your surroundings.

When you’re listening to music, it may motivate you to run faster or further, but it’s also dulling your senses. Runners often are under the assumption that cars see them, but this isn’t always the case. As we know, people behind the wheel can become easily distracted. Last-minute maneuvers and ignoring crosswalk signs are common.

Whatever your preference – trail, track or treadmill – all require preparation and planning. For outdoor runners, however, extra precautions are needed. The following tips and tricks can keep you out of harm’s way.

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Use your senses to guide you when heading outdoors: sight, sound, touch and smell.


This seems obvious, but it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. When it’s dark outside runners tend to disappear on the road. If you run at dusk, dawn or night, wear reflective or bright clothing so cars can see you. Also make sure you stay in designated running lanes. Run against traffic so you can see (and hear) oncoming vehicles. Finally, while many runners enjoy the quiet of the early morning hours, consider running when it’s still light. Doing so can help you avoid a possible assault or becoming the victim of an auto accident.


It bears repeating: avoid running with your music blaring through your headphones. Keep music low so you can hear car honks or cyclists who may announce they are passing by you on a trail. You should not have music so loud that it drowns out your surroundings. Take a cell phone with you to call in the event of an emergency. Also, consider carrying a whistle to scare away animals or draw attention should you become injured or attacked.


Take a self-defense class. If someone were to surprise you, running away may not be an immediate option. ing for a person’s vulnerable locations on the body – eyes, knees, nose and groin – may buy you enough time to escape. Runner’s mace is recommended and could be used on a human or animal, if necessary, but make sure you know how to use it. If you encounter a dog without a leash or a bear searching for food, stay calm and move slowly. Do not make eye contact. Running away may give the animal a sense you want to be chased.


They say people can “smell” fear. Don’t allow it! Look confident and sure of yourself and your surroundings. The likelihood you will be attacked while running is low, but feeling prepared is as important as avoiding a dangerous situation altogether. Tell someone where you’re running and when you’re leaving, carry ID to identify yourself and switch up your routine so it’s not predictable. Whenever possible, run with a buddy. There’s safety in numbers and you become less of a target.

As for the physical act of running, make sure you start slow, get your doctor’s approval, stay hydrated, wear sunscreen and purchase proper shoes and attire for the weather. PinnacleHealth sponsors many sanctioned walks and races and we welcome you to join us in support of a cause or for your health.


About UPMC Harrisburg

UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.

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