By Cindy Lapeña
Hurray! You’ve finally decided to run and you’re taking it one baby step at a time. That’s perfectly all right. As long as you go out, even if it’s just for five minutes the first time, keep doing it. Before you know it, you’ll be out for twenty minutes then an hour then there’s no stopping you! Just remember, like everything else you do, especially physical activity, you need to remember basic safety rules and take whatever precautions are needed to make your run safe.
I’ve already talked about how it’s really safest to stay on the side of the road facing traffic. Besides being common sense, many runners like to wear headphones or earbuds and listen to music, so facing the traffic keeps oncoming vehicles in sight, even if you can’t hear them that well. However, it’s never safe to drown out the noise of traffic, so keep that music low enough to hear but not so loud you can’t hear what’s going on around you. It’s the same thing you’d do if you were driving. It’s always optimal to hear what’s going on around you, because many times, you’ll hear what’s coming before you see it.
Pain is something you’ll no doubt encounter, and really soon, if you’re not used to running. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the pain, especially if it’s localized. Your body will slowly get used to the idea of all that pounding as you run and the pain should mostly go away as your strength and endurance improve. Even if we know runners just love to suffer, as a beginner, you should take it easy, never push yourself more than you can take, rest when you have to, definitely catch your breath when you need to. My understanding is that you really need to be able to breathe. I don’t think your body will ever get used to not being able to breathe.
Bring along identification. You never know what will or might happen to you while you run, so always make sure you have an identification card with you. It’s really just a precaution. It also helps whoever finds you if you accidentally cross an international border, collapse, get seriously injured, or fall unconscious (or worse, knocking on wood!). If you stick a twenty in with your ID, it’s also really useful if you have to walk into a bar and grab a drink after your run or somewhere along the way you pass a bar or diner you’ve never tried. You can also use that twenty if you had to flag down a cab to get you back home if you find out you’ve run farther out than you planned and you don’t have the strength or energy to get back.
Plan your run. I’m saying this in light of what happened in the last paragraph—that is, you ran farther out than you planned. Instead of running straight out and back in a single direction, try to map a route where you can go around in a circuit. That way, no matter what happens, you’ll always be heading back at some point. You can start running around your house and by the time you can do that maybe twenty times without getting tire, you can probably run around the block unless you’re in the countryside where the block might be, oh, ten kilometers on each side, assuming there’s a block at all, in which case you could just run around your one- or ten-hectare farm. I’d recommend running on the beach because running on sand can be more challenging but less impactful because the sand yields under your feet, but on PEI, you might end up on a different shoreline before you know it, so you need to be careful about timing your run so you do a 180 degree turn before you’re in the next county.
While there’s no restriction on when you can run, again, common sense should rule. If you’re running during the day, slather on sunscreen, wear a visor, don a pair of sunglasses, carry a water bottle. If you’re running during the night, stick to well-lit roads or carry a runner’s light, which sometimes has that flashing option in case you’re in trouble, wear reflectorized clothing—hat, shoes, shirt, jacket—don’t run in a dark outfit at night because you’re not likely to be seen, especially by sleepy or reckless drivers.
There’s also no real restriction on where you can run, except that you really don’t want to run on bumpy tracks or gravel roads or hiking trails that are natural. That really means you should run on smooth surfaces like paved roads or smoothed-out trails, including the Confederation Trail. When running on roads, as much as possible, you should run on sidewalks and particularly when there is no sidewalk, run against the traffic. Many roads have sidewalks only on one side, so sometimes you don’t have the choice of going against the traffic, but at least, you’re on the sidewalk, so try to stay there. Don’t cross the road without looking or stopping for traffic and whatever you do, don’t run across the road suddenly. You’re likely to cause an accident and it’s not the vehicles that will be the most hurt.
Finally, consider the weather when you run. If where you run is wet, slippery, or muddy, take smaller strides, slow down, or walk if you have to. Better yet, move indoors. The only thing you’re likely to slip on is a freshly-mopped floor or someone’s spilt coffee.