It’s the dog days of summer, which brings about many challenges for runners. It’s hot, it’s humid and it’s also rainy season. That means we have to pay particular attention to the weather if we’re going to be running outside. A little rain can be refreshing, but thunder and lightning is dangerous. Many of us are running earlier or later to avoid the hot sun. But this puts us out in the dark, which brings about its own dangers.

Dangers we need to consider include predators: both human and animal, trip and fall injuries, heat related injuries and collisions with vehicles. So how do runners stay safe? There are a lot of safety gadgets available to runners these days, and I’m sure every runner has a little something up their sleeve, but common sense and thoughtful planning goes along ways too.

This starts with avoiding danger. Run with a friend, a group of friends or have someone support you on a bike or in a car. Consider your routes carefully. Seek out routes that are populated and well lit. If you must cross highways, do so at designated crosswalks. If you’re going to be running in the dark, make sure you can be seen. Wear light or bright clothes and wear a head lamp or carry a flashlight. Don’t forget to light up your backside. I like to clip a red flashing light to the back of my hat. If you are in the market for light up gear, look for rechargeable LED. These are now reasonably priced and last a long time.

You might also consider an ID bracelet. There are some specifically designed for sports enthusiasts. One in particular is Road ID. In an emergency, this band will allow emergency personnel to obtain your medical information and contact your designated contacts.

What about lurking dangers — a loose dog, a creepy person? You might just need to make some noise. You can yell, or you can pull out a noise making devise. Small air horns make a huge amount of noise and don’t take up too much space. But if you want something a little more compact, a whistle works too. If these don’t work for you, you should be prepared to protect yourself. Some runner carry mace or dog repellent. Others carry bully sticks. My girlfriend Debbie carries a flashlight that doubles as a Taser. You can find any of these things online with a little searching.

Some additional safety thoughts include running with a cell phone and letting someone know where you’ll be running and when you expect to be done. Most cell phones today allow you to share your location with another person. Even my running watch now allows for live tracking. Of course live tracking isn’t going to tell your loved one that you are in trouble, but hopefully a cell phone can.

What if, worst case scenario, you’re in an emergency situation and can’t get to your phone. Well, some of the new fitness watches are now coming out with models that allow you to send an alert programed numbers, 911 included, from your watch. My new Garmin watch allows me to have three contacts designed. Should I be in an emergency situation, I can use my watch to send my location to my emergency contacts.

A final aspect of safety is maintaining proper hydration and recognizing the signs of heat related illness. Good hydration starts before the run and continues long after a run. If you experience nausea, cramps, dizziness, confusion or profuse sweating, you need to stop running, find some shade and let someone know you are in trouble.

Of course running should not be doom and gloom. But if we are going to be out there, we do need to be alert. And we need to make sure we are prepared for as many bad situations as possible. Because being prepared allows us to enjoy our runs without excessively worrying about all the “What ifs.”

Betty Staugler is the Charlotte County extension agent for the Florida Sea Grant Program and an active runner. Contact her at staugler@ufl.edu or 941-764-4346.

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