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November 18, 2009

Winter Safety; Lighting Up the Sky

“I just want to be where you are tonight -
I run in the dark looking for some light –
And how will we know if we just don't try –

We won't ever know -

Let me light up the sky, light it up for you.”
- Yellowcard, “Light Up the Sky” (video after post)


In case you haven’t noticed, it’s getting darker out there. Early sunsets and late sunrises are conspiring to steal precious hours of daylight from either side of our workdays, leaving us no choice but to venture into the dark if we want to sustain our outdoor activity fix.

I never really considered myself a dedicated runner until the first year that I ran consistently through the winter. For many years I was a spring-to-fall runner, hanging up my shoes as the days got shorter and the weather turned colder, too lazy or too poor (probably both) to invest in clothing or equipment that would make winter workouts a bit easier to bear. Of course, winter running isn’t just about having the right gear - there are other factors to consider as well, some of which are the topic of this week’s Monterey Herald column which follows below.

Also, an announcement on the subject of winter gear: from time to time, readers have asked me for lighting recommendations - either the merits of flashlights vs headlamps, or specific brands and models for various situations. I’m happy to report that I’ve had some opportunities to test several lamps this fall – and beginning in December, I’ll roll out reviews of each of them here. Think of it as my way of helping you light up the sky for some dark winter workouts.

**

Running Life 11/19/09 “Be Careful Out There”

This is the time of year when many of us start doing it in the dark. (Running, that is … what else did you think we meant?)

It’s also an important time for a refresher on running safety, so we can all be careful out there. Running in the dark requires some equipment, some advance planning, and vigilance.

Clothes and equipment: Wear light colored clothing, with reflective striping or accents wherever possible. Put some on your dog as well, if you run with one. Many runners wear flashing LED lights on their backsides – they’re inexpensive and easy to find at running stores or on-line. Use a headlamp to help you see the road and to alert oncoming cars to your presence. If you wear a thick hat to keep your head warm, make sure you don’t pull it too far over your ears or eyes. You still need to hear and remain alert.

Routes: Run on roads that are familiar, and preferably well lit. Stay on the left side of the road to face oncoming traffic. Always assume that the driver doesn’t see you, or even worse, is out to get you - because some day, he actually might be. Be wary of sideview mirrors that stick out from trucks, and give them a wide berth. Above all, don’t be afraid to step off the road and stop; your time doesn’t matter as much as your life.

Most critically of all – NEVER assume that a car sees you, or that the driver will do the right thing and avoid you. Some drivers feel like they own the entire road – and all it takes is one arrogant jerk to end your running career for good.

Form: Running in the dark naturally makes you more adept at “high stepping” to avoid small bumps. If you typically shuffle with your feet low to the ground, a few stumbles will quickly teach you to raise your feet a bit higher with each stride. Doing so is actually good for your overall form as well.

Partners: Find a friend or group to run with, for added security in numbers – an issue of increased importance for women. Each person takes responsibility for his (or her) own well-being, but also looks out for those around him. For example, don’t hesitate to yell a warning when you notice a car coming or see a hole in the road.

A recent running magazine study found that more runners are hit by cars when they run abreast of each other than when single file. We call this a “Well, DUH” kind of study … but just because the point is obvious doesn’t make it less important. If you’re running with a large group, the person out farthest into the traffic lane is in the most danger. So whenever a car approaches, cut the chit chat and quickly go single file.

Headphones and iPods: In a word: NO. Don’t use them in the dark. Sure, music is cool, but being safe is even cooler. In the darkness, you rely on your sense of hearing more than anything to keep you safe. You have to be hyper-alert to noises around you – especially in the era of whisper-quiet hybrid cars that can inadvertently sneak up on you.

Above all, don’t get complacent. These rules are simple, but they should be adhered to every single day that you venture into the dark. Be careful out there, and run safely all the way to springtime.

**

Yellowcard was a band that I pretty much fell in love with on my first listen; a multicultural pop-punk band with melodic hooks, uplifting lyrics, and – most interesting of all, to me – a violin player who wasn’t used simply as a gimmick, but actually contributed to the band’s unique style. I embedded the official music video for this song on my sidebar a couple of years ago, but for today, I’m going with a live version: the quality isn’t outstanding, but it displays the band’s energy and cohesion pretty nicely, in my opinion.

One strange thing about this video, however … only about 3 people in the audience seem to even notice there’s a band playing. Canadians aren’t really that clueless about modern rock music, are they?


Yellowcard, "Light Up the Sky" (click to play):


2 comments:

Anne 11/19/09, 5:07 AM  

Thank you for mentioning the headphones if you run in the dark. There have been recent (and not so recent)early morning runners hit by cars or cyclists, and in each instance the articles mentioned that the runners had on headphones when they were struck -- usually from behind because they were in a bike lane on the wrong side of the street.

No Reason Michael 11/19/09, 7:00 AM  

You could include another recomendation that would be especially useful to solo runners and those running in remote locations.

Running in the dark hours carries increased risk of injury or losing one's way. As a precaution, it's always good to let someone know where you're going and when you should be back.

That way, if you get lost or injured, assistance will be sooner to arrive than if no one is aware of your plan or whereabouts.

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