By now most members of the running community have become aware of the sad fate of Meg Menzies, who was killed on Jan. 13 when she was struck by an SUV driven by an intoxicated driver while training for the Boston Marathon. As we have seen via the #megsmiles tribute runs being noted on both Facebook and Twitter, itís clearly a tragedy that has struck a chord with the running community.
Why is this so? While reasons are numerous, one factor that seems to haunt me is that this could have been any of us.
With the marathon now less than three months away, almost everyone who is running Boston is now in the throes of their training. Weíre getting up early, navigating ice and snow (well for most of us) just to make sure that we log the necessary miles to ensure that weíll be ready come race day. However, as we all embark on the journey towards Boston, what the tragedy of Meg Menzies also reminds us of are the very real dangers we all face as we take to the road in preparation for race day.
For many of us these dangers can involve factors such as snow, ice and cold, particularly in the January and February time frame. However, no matter where you live or where you train one universal danger that we all must face is the cars, trucks, and drivers that we all share the road with.
So, if you youíre one who insists on training outside and braving the elements, what can you do to ensure a safer training experience while out on the road?
1) Know Your Route
When it comes to road safety, knowing your route is more than just understanding mileage and terrain. Itís about understanding traffic patterns. Itís about understanding intersections. Itís about knowing how the road is used at various times of day and the type people/drivers you are sharing it with. At the same time, if you are running in unfamiliar territory, take some time to study your surroundings and observe the environment your training in and prepare accordingly.
By knowing your training route, you can proactively prepare for what you might encounter and where it might happen.
2) Use The Sidewalk
Iím a big fan of running on the sidewalk and only running in the road when itís absolutely necessary. By running on the sidewalk you still get to be outside, but in doing so you pretty much take the risk posed by the road out of the equation.
Personally, I find it baffling when I am out running at 5:30 a.m. and the sidewalks are completely clear, yet I still see others running in the street. While I am sure that they have their reasons, they could substantially mitigate the risk of deadly encounter by using the sidewalk, instead of the street, for their training grounds.
3) Run On The Left
If you must run on the road, run on the left in order to face the oncoming traffic. While this seems like perfectly logical advice, itís easy to forget to adhere to it. Very often we gravitate to the right, as that is what is natural when we are driving.
However, if you choose not to face the traffic, cars will be sneaking up behind you and with one misstep you could find yourself out in front of a car you did not see coming until it's too late. By running on the left you can not only see what is coming toward you and prepare accordingly. Iíd like to also think that drivers are also more cognizant of your presence as you are running toward, rather than away from, them.
4) Do Not Assume A Driver Sees You
When youíre out doing your training, its critical to remember that how surroundings are perceived from the perspective of a runner are much different than how they are perceived by a driver. Therefore, itís key to be cognizant of what is going on around you and realize that while we all share the road, as runners we donít necessarily own it. I know that this might be a tough pill to swallow, but when vehicle is heading toward you, be prepared to momentarily to step off the road, or at an intersection, wait for the light to change, or the car to stop before running across the street.
With the above being said, for anyone who runs during times of limited visibility, wearing reflective gear is a must. While this is a key element to ensuring runner safety, do not assume that it means that a driver is going to see you and take action to avoid you.
5) Lose the Ear Buds
When it comes to safety on the road, I personally believe that your ears are just as important as your eyes. Why? Your ears can warn you of dangers that are much further off, ones that may be too late to avoid by the time you see them. While I completely understand the value and benefits that music provides while training, ear buds also have the potential to block the warning signs associated with pending danger such as a honking horn and/or have the ability lull the runner into a less heightened state of environmental awareness.
As we all head into peak training season, my intent in putting forth the aforementioned ideas is to ensure that take stock in not only ďwhatĒ we are doing to train, but ďhowĒ we are doing it as well. While Megís untimely death is certainly a tragedy, if there is a silver lining, itís that it has made us all that more aware of the very real dangers we face as runners while out on the road and what we can do to collectively ensure our safety as we train in the weeks and months ahead.
I welcome your feedback as well as other thoughts and ideas you have around ways we can ensure our safety while training on the road.
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
- Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
- Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes