Most runners live in large urban areas. And while it’s convenient for grabbing a quick meal or doing the groceries, it makes life dangerous for people who love the sport.
Street running has been around since the 1960s when the athletics movement really got going and became something ordinary people did. Runners would hop on and off the sidewalk, in and out of parked cars, and around slow-moving pedestrians.
But from the start, it was clear that all was not well with the practice. Some people loved it because it let them create elaborate routes, both on-street and off, but there were downsides, too.
In this post, we take a look at some of the perils of street running and why you’re much better off doing laps of the park if you live in an urban area. Read on to learn more.
High volumes of air pollution
The amount of air pollution in urban areas is bad for non-runners. But it is particularly troublesome for those who run regularly. Running causes people to breathe more deeply which then opens up more areas of the lungs to damage.
Right now, diesel fumes are the biggest issue. Despite efforts to tax them into oblivion, there are still many cars on the road running on this fuel. And things don’t look set to change for at least a decade, probably longer.
Diesel is particularly harmful because of the small particles it contains. When these interact with alveolar lung cells, it causes DNA mutations that then lead to conditions like emphysema, lung cancer, and COPD. The number of runners with these conditions is rising, thanks to polluted city runs.
There’s also the general soreness and throat issues that city pollution causes. Inactive people remain unaffected. But runners tend to take the brunt of it, thanks to the rate at which they breathe. Heavy breathing thins the protective mucosal layer in the back of the throat, causing pain in the short term. Regular city air is not harmless.
Besides air pollution, street runners also have to deal with traffic concerns. Running through a city is an unusual activity, something that tech geeks might call a “corner case.” It’s not a normal part of life, so when someone does it, it can catch other people off guard.
For this reason, runners are at a higher risk of getting involved in accidents. Pedestrians, for instance, don’t expect runners to come up quickly from the side or behind them. Therefore, many step out in front of runners’ paths when they cross the street or turn on the sidewalk, leading to collisions. Granted, rarely are these serious, but they can be unpleasant. And, naturally, the runner is always the one who is at fault.
Then there is the risk of collision with bicycles. These tend to result in more severe accidents because the energies involved are so much higher. Cyclists and runners find it hard to predict each other’s movements. People on bicycles generally understand how walkers behave, but those galloping at full pace. Sudden changes of direction really confuse them.
Cars, of course, are one of the biggest threats. Every year, thousands of street runners get injured by moving vehicles crossing their paths. And, unfortunately, this can lead to serious injuries that prevent runners from enjoying their sport in the future.
Top of the list of dangers, though, are trucks. Many runners often wind up going to a truck accident lawyer to get compensation for life-changing injuries they sustain. The damage done by trucks can be immense thanks to their weight and power.
In summary, therefore, city environments are dangerous for runners. Street running might be fun, but the presence of other traffic makes it a covert high-risk sport.
What can runners do to protect themselves?
While pollution and traffic are significant urban running perils, there are things that you can do to protect yourself.
The first is, quite obviously, to change the location in which you run. If you’re not interested in taking risks for the sake of it, do laps at the park or drive out of town to a traffic-free green area where you can practise. It’s both healthier and it’ll keep you safe.
If that’s not an option for you, try increasing your visibility so that other people and drivers can see you coming. Avoid the temptation to wear stylish running gear. Instead, put on reflective strips and wear outlandish colours that people will notice. Pay particular attention to your attire if you go running after dark. Most people won’t be able to see you coming unless you have some sort of reflective patches on your body.
Furthermore, if you do want to run at night, make sure that you wear a light. These days, you can get lightweight LED lamps that you attach to your head, a bit like the type of lights miners wear. You can find these at camping stores.
In addition, make sure that you stay predictable. Run in a straight line at a constant speed. Don’t run too close to parked cars because you never know when someone might open a door. If you need to change direction, look all around you first to see whether anyone will cross your path. Don’t run too close to pedestrians if you are coming up behind them. Make sure there’s at least a two-foot gap between your body and theirs to reduce the risk of startling them.
Headphones are a bad idea for street runners (though they can be great if you’re out on the track). You can’t hear what’s going on around you, so warnings and traffic noise go unheeded. Don’t rely on sight alone, particularly if you are sweating a lot. Run headphone-free or, if you want to be safe, go to the park.
Lastly, be sure to stay alert. Many runners love the sport because it helps them to zone out and just enjoy the experience. But that’s not something you can do when there’s loads of traffic around.