Planning for Safety

If adventure is one side of the equation in running while away from home, safety is the other. Because as exciting as it is to be in new places, the truth is that you're not on familiar territory. Taking a wrong turn on foot somewhere can get you lost more easily than you think. If you don't speak the native language, have no map with you, or find yourself in the dark, you could be in big trouble.

And though most runners agree that it's particularly gratifying to do some of these runs alone, running by yourself exposes you to more dangers—anything from twisting your ankle while running on a trail to accidentally running into the bad part of town.

Use Common Sense

Such frightening scenarios are easily avoided by following common sense safety rules. First, trust your instincts. If a business trip on a limited budget puts you in a hotel where there's nothing but strip malls and highways everywhere you look, you may have to either use the hotel gym or limit your run to laps around the parking lot.

You certainly don't want to be running anywhere near a busy street or highway where cars are making quick turns or going at high speeds, not to mention feeling vulnerable in a setting like this.

Likewise, if you're a bit behind schedule and you get to your hotel, campsite, or bed and breakfast at dusk instead of earlier in the afternoon, however beautiful the setting, you should consider postponing your run until morning when you have the full advantage of daylight. Once you know a trail or an area and have gauged how far it is to run, then you may want to consider running at dusk. But don't run anywhere new in the dark.


There are certain areas in life where risk-taking can pay off big time. Running on the road is not one of them. If you wouldn't want a member of your family or one of your best friends to go out on the run you're considering, then don't do it yourself.

Another common sense safety rule is to leave a message with someone that you're going for a run. If you're traveling by yourself, you should leave a note in your hotel room, tent, or wherever you're staying. Indicate the time you are leaving and how long you expect to be out.

Another easy and practical thing to do is ask at the front desk whether there's a running trail accessible from the hotel. The staff is usually happy to tell you all about it, including whether there are loops of different lengths in case you want to do 3 miles one day and 10 another, for example. After getting the lowdown from the staff, you can let them know that you're going out on that trail and you expect the run to take you, say, a half-hour. Leave your name and your room number with the hotel personnel.

If you're traveling with others, make sure they know to expect you back within a certain time. Be generous with your estimate of the time but not overly so. You don't want them calling the police if you're not back in 45 minutes like you said because you decided to run a bit farther. On the other hand, you don't want them to figure you're just out enjoying yourself if you're not back within a few hours.

While on your run, carry identification with you. Write your name, home address, and phone number and the name, address, and phone number of the place where you're staying on a piece of paper that you can tuck into a pocket or gear holder. Don't wear anything that could make you a target, such as sparkling jewelry or your most expensive wristwatch.

You must wear or carry a timepiece with you. Best, of course, is your waterproof, lightweight sports watch that you've bought along with your other necessary gear for running. But if you have forgotten it, wear or carry your regular watch. Since you'll be setting off into the unknown, time is your best bearing. You might also carry your cell phone with you; not only can you tell time this way, but you can also call for help or directions if necessary.


When running in a new place, you need a fanny pack or a wrist or ankle attachment that can hold a few small things like your hotel key, a few dollars in pocket change, and certainly identification. You'll need to feel comfortable but not conspicuous.

Plan to run 15–20 minutes out, then 15–20 minutes back. Because your senses are working overtime to take in everything new, running toward your destination will seem to take longer than your return trip. Keep an eye on the time. You'll feel like you've been running for longer than your watch or cell phone says, but when you get to the halfway point and start to head back, you'll enjoy reliving sights from the run out, and time will go by more quickly.

More Safety Tips

There's an excellent website called “Run the Planet” that's loaded with advice on where and when to run throughout the world. Here are some especially good tips from a section called “Stay Safe While Running” by the Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club:

  • Take a whistle with you.

  • Know where police are usually to be found and where businesses, stores, and offices are likely to be open and active.

  • Do not wear a radio/headset/earphones or anything that distracts you so that you are completely unaware of your environment.

  • Take notice of who is ahead of you and who is behind you. Know where the nearest public sites are with some general activity—there is usually safety in numbers.

  • When in doubt, follow your intuition and avoid potential trouble. If something seems suspicious, do not panic but run in a different direction.

  • If the same car cruises past you more than once, take down even a partial license number and make it obvious that you are aware of its presence (but keep your distance).

  • Do not approach a car to give directions or the time of day. Point toward the nearest police or information source, shrug your shoulders, but keep moving. If you feel you must respond, do it while moving.

  • Do not panic. Do not run toward a more isolated area.

  • Use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Be friendly, but keep your distance and keep moving.

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