Safety tips for running a race

Jennifer Bonn

After forty years of racing, I have seen some crazy things happen on the road and trail that occurred because of a lapse of common sense in the safety department. Here are a few reminders to help you with safety on race day.

Selfies while running

A woman was running in front of me when she lifted her phone and stared at the screen as she tried to take a selfie of herself and the runners behind her. Because she was focused on her phone and not the road, she collided with the curb and went down hard. Selfies are best-taken standing still.

The children

I love to see children racing, and I always hope running will become a passion for them, but the way they run in a race can be hazardous if you are not alert. They tend to sprint out at the beginning, but then they will stop abruptly with no warning. They also occasionally wind in and out of crowds of runners without a sense of space. Cheer them on, revel in their joy, but be alert if one is in front of you.

The scary start

Barely bridled excitement, runners crowded together, and a sudden start can be the perfect storm. I have seen several people tripped in the first several feet, fall, and create a nasty domino effect. Be focused before the start. Don’t talk to the runner standing next to you or be thinking of what you want to do the rest of the day. Be present at that moment.

Signal to stop

Runners can be just as distracted as drivers, so if you are running in a crowd, raise your arm to signal you are stopping to avoid having someone collide with you.

Turn the music down

There are some races that ask runners not to wear earbuds because they see it as a safety hazard. There are many times when you need to hear what is happening around you, and music can keep you from being able to do this. I know some people use music to focus, but you might want to turn down the volume to stay safe.

Passing in trail races

It is customary to say, “On your left.” when you want to pass in a trail race. This gives the runner you are passing a chance to let you go by while keeping sure footing. Be aware of where you are when passing through. I was in a recent trail race when I came around a sharp corner and saw a steep drop to my right. I was thankful no one wanted to pass at that moment.

Don’t follow too closely in a trail race

The only thing worse than falling in a race is taking someone down with you. Falling is a common occurrence in trail racing because there are roots and stones to navigate. Because falling is relatively common it’s not a good idea to run too close to the person in front of you.

Train for your race

I have had conversations with runners at races who had no idea what their friends had talked them into doing. You could survive a 5k without much training, even though you will be sore the next day, but I spoke to a young man doing a half who had never run a race or trained for one. He was miserable.

Bring an emergency kit

This is especially important for me because I fall quite a bit on trails, but I have also been able to help other runners because I am prepared for everything. Many races hand out sample packets of first aid medicine. I save these and bring them to races. At one race, I was running with a friend that I describe as a giant because he is so tall. We went through some low-hanging branches, and my friend was stung by several hornets. Luckily, I had some ointment for stings in my bag. He told me later, “Jen, you saved me!” In your kit, have some cleansing wipes, first aid cream, band-aids, KT tape, Tylenol, sunscreen, and ginger candies for stomach upset.

I hope these ideas help to keep you safe out on the run. I would love to hear some of your ideas.

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The author after a gnarly half-marathonPhoto byJen Bonn

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I am passionate about running, parenting, education, and self-help information. I enjoy writing articles that will offer readers the information needed to help them in some way. I recently retired from teaching French and Spanish for forty years. I run every day and have done all kinds of races from 5ks to ultra-marathons. I have three children and three grandchildren. I write for several magazines in my area, I am a contributor and in charge of the Pinterest board for a parenting magazine called Screamin Mamas, and I have a second book about to be released through Loving, Healing Press called 101 Tips to Ease Your Burdens.

Kennesaw, GA
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