5 Tips for Running Outside Safely

running in central parkl

photo by nwardez (Flickr Creative Commons)

Last week, Meg Menzies was hit by a car and killed while out on her morning run. Unfortunately, this isn’t a unique occurrence. Google “runners hit by cars,” and you’ll see what I mean.

So first off, there is NO EXCUSE for drunk driving. None. If I had my way, anyone caught driving drunk would go to jail, and their driver’s license would be shredded. They would have to report it to all their current and future employers and wear a sign saying, “I put other people in mortal danger to get my kicks.”

If you can’t afford to pay for a car home (and back to pick your car up the next morning), then you can’t afford to get drunk. Period.

You know what’s cheaper than a cab ride? Water.

I’ll stop my rant there, because we can’t always control the stupid stuff other people do, but we can take steps to keep ourselves safe. Here are some tips for staying safe while running outside:

1. Know Your Route

It’s definitely fun to go exploring and find new paths on a run, but save that for runs on a bike path or trail. If you’re running on the street, it’s better to have an idea of where you’re going – and to tell someone else where you’re going as well.

In addition to knowing where you’re going, know where you can escape. If you’re running on a road, is there a place for you to jump out of the way of a swerving car? Are there people around, or at least within hearing distance?

2. Light It Up

No, that reflective logo on the butt of your pants isn’t enough. And even the brightest neon pink shirt is hard to see at dawn and dusk. Invest in some lights. I personally like to run with the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp. If you’re not a fan of headlamps, try knuckle lights, or LED lights that clip to your shirt or running belt. There are tons of options out there. You can even go low budget and just carry a small flashlight.

The point? Make yourself seen. It doesn’t have to be pitch black for you to need lights to make you visible. When in doubt, wear a light. Cars are more likely to swerve away from a light – and away from you!

3. Take Your Phone

I know, I know. How can you escape the oppressive technology bubble if you have to have your phone with you on your run, the most sacred alone time. Put it on silent, throw it in your belt and forget about it.

Odds are, you will never have to actually use it, but you might. My mom always says, “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

And if you see a car swerving down the road, call the police and report them. You may be saving a fellow runner’s life.

4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Put the headphones down. If you have to listen to music or podcasts, then leave an earbud out. Bottom line – make sure you can hear what’s going on around you. You may hear danger before you can see danger.

5. Run With Others

Running with other people isn’t only more motivating, it’s safer. If you don’t have a running buddy, check with your local running store. They usually have organized group runs.

Of course, it’s not always possible to make every run into a group run. If you’re running alone, it’s doubly important to make sure someone else has an idea of where you’re going and about when you should be back.

What do you do to be safe while running outside?


  1. So tragic what happens to Meg. Actually this just happened around the corner from where I live. The same week a runner in Roanoke, VA was hit as well. He survived but with heavy injuries. You listed good tips! My advice is to only run on side walks and trails when it is dark. At least you are safe from cars there.