Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ultra marathon running safety considerations while training near roads

The holiday season is all but over and now it’s time to get back into proper Ultramarathon training as I look forward to my running goals for 2011.  Although it’s the middle of summer here in Australia, our recent visitors from the UK reminded me of the dark evenings and mornings in the Northern Hemisphere and the considerations for running in these conditions too. One important thing to keep in mind where ever you are in the world is keeping safe when out running.

My sister told me of a sad and thought provoking story about a runner who was out training on one of the trails we used to train on. It was late afternoon and the sun was low in the sky.  The guy was running with an iPod. He stopped to cross a road with runs though the middle of the park. He briefly looked down the road, and then continued to cross the road. He was hit by a car and killed instantly. A tragic event that should make us all think. The runner was very experienced, in fact he was a well known personal trainer, and it was a route he would cover regularly.

What can we learn such that we can keep ourselves safe while running?  Obviously with the sun low in the sky the driver of the car may have been dazzled and his vision affected.  The runner could have been wearing a reflective vest, which may have helped the car driver see him, but under these conditions I doubt it would have made much difference. 

Either way, it is your responsibility to be extra vigilant before you step out onto a road, after all you are the one who will most likely come off second best.

The real lesson we can take is that of running with an iPod. Had he not been wearing one he would most likely have heard the car approaching. Basically he was denying himself one of his key senses when it comes to alerting yourself of danger.

I think this is particularly important for lone runners who train on roads. With so many traffic dangers around you need all the environmental information you can take in. I have never run with an MP3 player for this reason, but also I find that it affects my balance just walking and I have to concentrate to even walk in a straight line. I’ve walked behind others listening to music and noticed this effect as they snake along the pavement!

I know that for many of you running with music is hugely important, and that’s a good thing as we all have our own ways of doing things and making them enjoyable.  So for you guys, simply pause the music when you have to cross or run along roads and keep safe.

It is all common sense, and whilst we all think we’re invincible and it won’t happen to me, keep in mind the conditions in which you are running.

Happy Running, and all the best for your 2011 running goals,


“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you think you can only do a little – do what you can”


  1. Happy New Year Andy! I agree 100% with you. I never run with music and don't even own an iPod. I felt excitement going through my body when I read your first sentence about starting ultra marathon training. I have some great ultras to look forward to this year. Have a wonderful 2011 of ultra running!

  2. Another thing I have found is to bring your phone, I came down hard one day last year and my ankle was in bad shape. I was on the trail and miles from home. Luckily I could make it back but I had no phone with me and had i broken my ankle I was in deep trouble. But yeah, music is dangerous unless you are sensible about it. Run strong mate.

  3. 1. Happy New Year to you! :)

    2. I agree! Could not agree more! Before 'the calf strain' I used to run with my I-pod 90% of the time. And, yep, I run on or near roads. The calf strain happened 8 miles into the NYC Marathon. I tried to limp/walk it out - with my Ipod to get me through. I felt miserable. And frustrated. So frustrated that I turned off my Ipod and continued 'music-less'. Can you believe that the rest of the miles, though the most painful, were easier on me mentally? After nursing the calf strain for 6 weeks, I'm slowly easing back into running. I haven't had my Ipod with me one single time. I always figured I wouldn't be able to run without, but guess what...I am! So, despite the obvious safety facts of not running with an Ipod, you'd just might not need one. Lesson learned!

  4. I've just started going without my ipod. It died on me one day before my run and so I had to do without. Had a great run anyway. On the plus side, I don't have to worry about cables and chargers any more. The best thing is when I'm exploring a new route and can enjoy it fully instead of tuning out

  5. how can you run with music in the ears ?
    It like learning without listening the teacher in class... you're here but on present on the right moment.

  6. That is sad. I also never wear nor will I ever wear one. It seems "unnatural" while doing one of the primal activities (running) in the world.

    Happy New Year mate and good luck on your 2011 goals!

  7. Thanks Guys, and Happy New Year to you all.

    Good point about the mobile phone Mally, I will include that in a similar posting related to trails.

    I don't think people who are new to running appreciate that your ears play an important part in your balance, as well as the other feedback they offer to keep safe and enjoy the outdoors. They just get caught up in the minds of those who don't run suggesting that to run is boring and you will need some form of entertainment to keep you engaged, but to me is the reason to run without any other stimulus.

    I like that story Silly, it would have been like throwing away a crutch that you didn't actually need, but thought you couldn't live without - there's a profound lesson somewhere in there I think!

    May you all exceed your expectations and smash your goals for 2011, give it your all and you may surprise yourself (and a few others too!)

  8. Yes that's right! I always discouraged my friends whenever they bring with them their Mp3's to use while running. But for some reason they said it makes their mind relax when listening to music.