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Tips For Running Outside in a City

10 Things Anyone Who Runs in a City Needs to Know

Outdoor running is often associated with peaceful parks and secluded country roads, but the fact is, many major US cities are some of the most popular areas for runs. As such, there are many factors that should be kept in mind, when it comes to both your personal safety and consideration for the other people you're sharing the roads with, whether that's drivers, cyclists, or your fellow runners.

  1. Do: wear reflective gear, including clothing and shoes, especially if you are running before sunrise or after sunset. If there are cars out, you definitely want to be seen.
  2. Do: keep safety in mind and run in fairly populated areas like city parks, especially when running solo. Consider investing in a RoadID just in case someone ever did find you in need of help.
  3. Do: use good judgment if using headphones. In a perfect running world, everyone would keep headphone use to the treadmill. But if you must wear them out on the roads, keep them low enough that you can still hear the sounds of the people, cars, and possibly wild animals around you. If someone scares the crap out of you when they come around to pass, your tunes are definitely way too loud.
  4. Do: stay to your left, especially when running on the road versus the sidewalk. It's always good to be able to make eye contact with drivers in front of you than to let them sneak up on you.
  5. Do: always err on the side of caution whenever crossing the street, even if you know you've got the right of way. "You may be 'right' in trying to dart through traffic to beat that truck trying to turn left, but the end result could ultimately not be worth it," said Andre Laboy, a coach with The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project in New York City. "Never assume you're in the clear without making eye contact with a driver."
  6. Don't: run more than two abreast, especially on a narrow sidewalk or trail, especially if there are also cyclists on the trail. Similarly, move to the right side if you hear runners coming up to pass you from behind. "There's seemingly a never-ending war between runners and cyclists, especially in big cities like New York," Laboy said. "No run is so important that you have to prove a point about who's right. Share the road, and help to reduce the angry feelings when people may not be respecting each others' space."
  7. Don't: forget about hydration, especially if water fountains are few and far between on your route. In the hot Summer months here in Houston, I like to fill up and freeze a 12-ounce handheld bottle, which melts down fast and tends to last me at least five miles or so.
  8. Don't: get cranky if you get held up at a stoplight. Always better to be safe than sorry, and chances are you'll spend less than a minute standing there, which is negligible as far as your training and performance is concerned.
  9. Don't: obsess about your GPS data and pace, especially when running through urban areas with high buildings; busy areas are known to throw off GPS signals. You're likely going to come across this problem if participating in a major marathon such as New York, or another big city race, so just take it in stride.
  10. Don't: zone out so much that you miss trip hazards like potholes and cracked sidewalks. This is especially key if you're running in the dark. Slow down if you need to.
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