As a runner, I cringe when I see runners doing certain behaviors that might be harmful to themselves. As I was walking the dog this morning, a runner passed me and I had to hold myself back from giving her unwanted advice. But as I was coming into the house, I had a thought -- why shouldn't I give unwanted advice since I'll feel better for putting it out there and it might just save a runner's life or at least some of their physical well-being.
The advice comes in two parts. First, runners, you are not like cars and motorcycles and bicycles and other moving vehicles. You go much more slowly and you do not take up a lot of the road. Because you are flesh and blood and slower moving, you are more vulnerable. Therefore, for your own safety's sake, don't run on the right side of the road. Run on the left side. The runner who passed me today, the one that I almost stopped to give the advice to, was running on the right side of the road down Carlisle.
Why should you run on the left? Because on the left, cars can see you AND you can see cars. On the right, only half of that equation is true. Cars can see you, but you can't see cars because your back is turned to them as they sneak up behind you. So let's say that you are running on the right, and some guy having an argument on his cell phone with his girlfriend comes up behind you. She says something that really makes him mad. He is not paying enough attention to register that he is drifting to the right and that you are in the sights of his car bumper. You don't realize that his Mazda 3 is bearing down on you, because you are running blissfully along with your back turned. Blam - you are his hood ornament.
Relive scenario when you are running on the left. He is having same argument, coming toward you, drifting at you and not noticing that you are there. Because you are facing him, you realize what is happening, and take your own evasive action. You are not a hood ornament, and are alive to continue your run while he careens down the street.
It seems counter-intuitive, but as a runner, you should always run on the left if you are running in the street. I realize that many streets are sloped and that some people run on both sides to correct for uneven surfaces (i.e. left going out, right coming back). But it is risky.
Now, here's my second piece of advice. I always cringe when I see runners running on the sidewalk. I think about what their knees are going to look and feel like after 20 some odd years of running on concrete. Hello, knee replacements! Not to mention nagging injuries like shin splints and foot problems. Running is already hard enough on your body, even as it's good for you. Think about it. You when you are running you are pounding your feet and knees toward the ground. When you stand, your feet are supporting your weight, your knees a little less. When you run, you are adding more pounds. According to a column in the Asheville North Carolina Citizen-Times
, one hour of aerobic exercise puts 1 million pounds or more of pressure on your feet (and knees).
Why exacerbate this by running on the most unyielding surface you can? Concrete, which most sidewalks are made out of, is the hardest most unyielding surface you can run on. Now, being in a city, we don't have many options to choose from, but we do have them. Remember the NAC rule, which will tell you what surface to pick. Whenever you can, run on (N)atural surfaces, like earth or grass, a dirt road perhaps. These surfaces yield the most, and will put less stress on your feet and knees and reduce the possibility of serious injury over time.
When natural surfaces are not available, your next choice should be (A)sphalt, such as in streets or roadways. Asphalt is more yielding than concrete, and therefore should be the choice of most runners when running along city streets.
This is a tricky subject, because traffic laws differ in places. I have not been able to find yet what the law is in New Mexico. Here's a column by a guy in Oregon
where the law states that if a sidewalk is present, a runner should be on it. However, when it comes to avoiding injury, (C)oncrete should be your last choice to run on. As a runner, you are potentially doing yourself more damage than good when you run on concrete, so run on it only when necessary. I personally choose to run the risk of breaking a pedestrian law, and I've run on the asphalt instead of the sidewalk right by police who don't seem to think it's worth citing me. You are really better off on the street (the left side of the street) when you run, and much better off when there is a natural surface. I live near Ridgecrest Avenue, and the median of Ridgecrest is really nice for natural surface running for about a mile. Yet I see people running on sidewalk and asphalt there all the time. If you run on the softest surface available to you, you will save your joints and knees and will reduce your risk of injury.
I don't mean to sound sanctimonious. I just want runners to be able to do what they love without hurting themselves. Any more safety/personal health tips for runners?