Introduction: Running Safer on Rural Roads

Rural running adds new hazards, such as lack of immediate resources and environmental dangers, that many novice and adept level runners discover the hard way. This guide is designed to help new runners properly prepare for their next run off the main roads. The scope of this guide will involve a pre-run checklist, a list of environmental hazards, what to do in the case of road rage, and post-run suggestions.

Step 1: Pre-Run Checklist: Intro

Before you hit the road, perform an assessment of your route, gear, and vitality. When injury or bad weather occurs, a wise runner will benefit from preparation. Keep this pre-run checklist in mind before your next run. In the mean time, gather the materials the checklist suggests for maximizing your running experience.

Step 2: Pre-Run Checklist: Check 1

1. What is your body telling you? Does anything hurt?

a) If yes, do not attempt the run and find a less physically demanding exercise.

b) If no, continue.

Step 3: Pre-Run Checklist: Check 2

2. Are you wearing bright, easily visible clothing?

a) If yes, continue.

b) If no, put on a bright shirt so drivers can easily spot you on the road.

Step 4: Pre-Run Checklist: Check 3

3. Are you prepared for the weather?

a) Always carry a water bottle in warm to hot temperatures. When running on back-roads, you may not have the luxury of facilities offering free water.

b) If it is raining, cold, or snowing, wear layered runner’s clothing. Do not wear cotton shirts. The moisture cotton absorbs will make life miserable once you cease exercising.

Step 5: Pre-Run Checklist: Check 4

4. Are you carrying a phone, or other communication device?

a) If yes, great! Make sure the device’s battery will remain charged for the duration of your run.

b) If not, you will want to bring one in case of an emergency. It is not fun limping home 3 miles on an injured leg.

c) Use a smart phone with a sturdy case and endurance athlete headphones for a GPS, MP3, and phone all-in-one combination.

Step 6: Pre-Run Checklist: Check 5

5. How well do you know your route?

a) It is common for runners to need to take a “pit-stop.” Make sure your route contains at least a few areas to pull over when needed.

b) Is it safe? Speed limits on back roads are sometimes not well enforced, or unreasonably high. This leads to drivers recklessly flying around blind corners, not expecting runners on the other side.

c) Remember, however far you run away from your car or your house, you will have to travel that same distance back. Do not run far if you can't double-back the same distance.

Step 7: Pre-Run Checklist: Check 6

6. Have you stretched?

a) If yes, you are ready to go. Proceed to the On the Road section.

b) If not, proceed to the Stretching section.

Step 8: Stretching Intro

To prevent injury, it is important to stretch leg muscles before and after running. This is highly important for long distance running, as injuries are more common with greater distances. This short guide will introduce you to a few basic stretches, but this link for Runner's World will offer more advanced stretching techniques.

Step 9: Stretching: the “L” Stretch

a) Find a comfortable spot on the ground, and extend one leg straight out, with the other bent inward to form the base of an L shape.

b) Reach with both hands down your legs toward your feet.

c) Repeat this stretch with the opposite leg, slowly coming out of each stretch position.

Step 10: Stretching: the Bent Knee Stretch

a) Remain on the ground for the next stretch. With one leg straight, bend the other leg up and bring it around the straightened leg.

b) Twist your torso in the opposite direction of the straightened leg, and place the hand corresponding with the straightened leg on the opposite side of the bent leg.

c) Repeat this stretch for the opposite leg. Again slowly come out of each stretch position.

Step 11: Stretching: the Invisible Chair Stretch

a) This stretch will be one of the most important stretches you can perform for an IT band injury. Stand up, and find a sturdy object that will support your weight. For example, a sturdy railing, tree, or lamp post will all suffice.

b) Grab the object with both hands.

c) Take one leg, and cross it over top of the other leg just above the knee.

d) Lean back until your weight supporting leg is bent at a ninety degree angle, as if you were sitting in a rigid chair.

e) Continue to lean back and down until you can feel the stretch is working, and hold the position for thirty seconds to a minute.

f) Repeat the stretch for the opposite leg, slowly coming out of each stretching position.

Step 12: On the Road

The next two sections will deal with hazards you need to actively look out for while running. When you put this guide into practice, be sure you have faithfully completed the pre-run checklist and stretched before hitting the road.

Step 13: Being Mindful of Your Surroundings: Intro

You are on the open road, listening to exciting music, and bringing out your inner stallion. It is easy to turn on “auto-running mode” and zone out of the present. In this state, you become vulnerable to unexpected obstacles.

Step 14: Surroundings: Part 1

1. Does the route have blind corners?

a) If yes, plan ahead before you get there. Whether on the right-hand or left-hand side of the road, you need to be visible to a driver coming around the corner.

b) Remember, even though you are a pedestrian, there’s no benefit to being “dead-right.” Anticipate where and when a driver will see you and act accordingly.

Step 15: Surroundings: Part 2

2. If you have to pull over to make a pit stop, check the foliage.

a) Do you see any poisonous plants? If so, find another location.

b) Is the foliage a good habitat for ticks? If so, find a less dense location.

c) Here is a link to a MayoClinic webpage for identifying skin-irritating plants like poison ivy.

Step 16: Surroundings: Part 3

3. In the warmer seasons, snakes will often lay on or near the road for heat at the end of the day.

a) Always pay attention to what’s in front of you. Accidentally stepping on a snake is not fun for you, or the snake.

b) If you see a snake on the road, safely run around it and continue on your run.

Step 17: Handling Road Rage: Intro

It doesn’t matter how many “Look Out for Pedestrians” signs are on a road, it will still surprise some drivers when they have to brake for runners. Sometimes the driver will share their opinion of you running on the road, and you may find yourself running for more than just personal records. Yes, it happens, so pay attention and take this seriously.

Step 18: Handling Road Rage: Part 1

1. If you anger a driver, remember this word. Disengage, disengage, disengage.

a) If it is possible, calmly continue on your run and don’t show interest in arguing with the driver.

b) If reporting the incident feels necessary, covertly snap a picture of the license plate and continue on your run.

i. Be warned that the driver may not appreciate it. Therefore, be prepared to run faster.

c) If the incident gets out of control, call the police. Never encourage more conflict. There’s no gain in escalating the situation.

Step 19: Finishing the Run: Intro

Wrapping up this guide, the proper steps for cooling down after a run will be discussed. It is highly important not to shrug off this section. Although post-run side effects can be a sign of a good day, some can be very unpleasant, but mostly avoidable.

Step 20: Finishing the Run: Re-hydration

a) Even if you didn’t sweat that much, always drink a sufficient amount of water immediately after you stop running.

Step 21: Finishing the Run: the Cool-down Lap.

a) Take at least ten minutes walking half a mile to let your heart rate fall back to a normal state.

b) To save time, you can also re-hydrate and eat the post-run snack that you’ve earned.

Step 22: Finishing the Run: Nutrition

a) It is hard for some people to consume food and water immediately after a run, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

b.) Eat a snack, like a fruit, that is high in healthy carbohydrates. This will help keep your body from crashing into a fatigued state thirty minutes to an hour after your run. (Picture of Apple).

Step 23: Finishing the Run: Bragging on Social Media

a) This is the fun part! Whether you a full grown adult, or a high school teenager, you definitely have the right to post your run results on Facebook.

b) Some running applications, like “MapMyRun,” will record your total run time, best lap time, run distance, and chart your route. These be shared to sites like Facebook, where you can share your accomplishments with family and fellow runners.