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Preventing the Ultimate Injury

Preventing the Ultimate Injury

Preventing the Ultimate Injury

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The bulk of entries in this series have covered the most typical (and sometimes esoteric) injuries incurred by the average runner. Without exception, all have fallen within the category of non-fatal ailments. (We won’t count those that cause some individuals to have to be “talked down off the ledge.”)  This month’s installment, however, does address a potentially more serious problem.

I love running in Central New York, though for roughly 8 of the 12 months of the year, there is one thing I can’t say I’m particularly fond of.  Because I run early in the morning, most of my runs during that period are completed in the dark.  My problem with this lately has been not so much with not being able to visually appreciate the beautiful countryside, but rather with what appears to be increased risk to life and limb.

Maybe it’s just coincidence, but it seems that over the past few weeks my running partner and I have had more “close calls” with vehicles veering in our direction – in some cases actually coming onto the shoulder of the road – than ever before.  I very much want to believe that these incidents have all been unintentional, but even if that were true it would be of small comfort to my survivors should I have an encounter of the closest kind; the end result would likely to be the same.

I suspect that the increase in these occurrences is more likely the result of what seems to be a proportional increase in distractions affecting more and more drivers: cell phones, texting, MP3 and CD players in cars, PDAs, etc.    The adoption of legislation outlawing the most egregious of these activities may help, but I for one am not prepared to either wait for this to occur or trust that all drivers will adhere to these laws.  (NY already has a law banning hand-held cell phone usage in cars; observation during any 15 minute drive to work on any given day will illustrate how well that’s working out.)

The smarter move, in my opinion, is to take a proactive,defensive running approach.  For years, I have been wearing a reflective vest and, when possible, reflective clothing and footwear when running in dusk-to-dawn conditions.  While this seemed to do the trick most of the time,due to the above-mentioned developments, I believe it is no longer good enough.

For the past month or so, I have also started wearing a headlamp and a flasher, and I can confidently say that this appears to make a real difference.  It seems very apparent that drivers are alerted to my presence on the road much sooner, as evidenced by the movement of their vehicle away from shoulder and towards the middle of the road.  Both devices are easy to obtain and inexpensive; when comparing the cost to that which would befall you should a car not see you soon enough, there is obviously no debate about whether they are affordable.

All runners (and walkers) should adhere to the #1 Rule of the Road to avoid the “ultimate injury”: see and be seen. Keep the following in mind:

  • Run on the left side facing traffic so you will be able to visually follow the path of oncoming vehicles and will be able to move off the road and/or shoulder should they drift toward you.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings – watch and track vehicles as soon as you see them and be aware of an “out” should you need one.
  • Do everything you can to maximize your presence and visibility to drivers.
  • Never assume they’ve seen you until they’ve already passed you!