How to Survive Scary Running Situations

Even in the best of situations, running can be dangerous sport. But certain circumstances are more precarious than others, specifically: severe weather, running in the dark and wild animal encounters.

Use the following tips to stay as safe as possible during your run, no matter what curveballs Mother Nature may throw in your direction.

Running in Severe Weather

Hitting bad weather during a run is inevitable. You can take some actions to avoid severe conditions, but in reality, the statistics aren’t on our side; we simply run too much and there just isn’t enough good weather.

Here are some ways to deal with bad weather running:


Run in the morning when thunderstorms are not as common. If you plan to run later in the afternoon, look out the window before you go and keep your head up during the workout. You can often see weather coming, and in the some cases, storms can be avoided just by changing direction.

Find Shelter or Lay Low

Once a storm does hit, look for a house, porch, or some sort of substantial man-made structure. If there is lightning, do not duck under trees. Do, however, look for trees if there is a hail/heavy rain situation that doesn’t include lightning.

If there is lightning and you are caught in the middle of a field or open space (for example, the state of Nebraska), try to find a dry ravine or ditch for protection. If you can’t find anything below ground level, crouch on your heels, cover your ears with your hands, and make yourself as small and short as possible. Do not lie down—that just leaves more surface area to attract lightning. You should also avoid directly touching any metal objects.

Keep in mind that the larger the group of people, the greater the chances for a lightning strike. If you are running in a pack, follow the same rules above, but leave at least 15-feet between each person.

Stay Safe

Make sure the entire storm has passed before you move on. (A smart person would head home, but most runners would be more concerned about their lowering heart-rate than the weather.) If you must continue, be particularly careful and alert for the rest of the workout. Head to a more central location so that you will have more coverage if the storm returns.

Running in the Dark

Running in the dark is both unavoidable and exhilarating. Done properly, it’s a wonderful addition to any training routine; done naively, it can lead to some pretty uncomfortable and maybe even dangerous situations.

Here are some safety tips for running in the dark:

See and Be Seen

The number one rule of running in the dark is to wear reflective material. Though reflective vests are easy to find at any grocery or hardware store, some runners are hesitant to don the hunter-inspired fashion item. Luckily, many shoe companies have developed more fashion-forward reflective tops, fluorescent fabric strips, and even small, portable lights that can attach to hats, gloves or shirts.

However, the horizontal stripes on the hunting vests are pretty flattering, so you might want to try them out.

Choose Pavement 

Run on a well-lit route and don’t run on trails. This is one of those rare times where pavement trumps soft-surface running—it’s better to risk shin splints than a broken ankle.

Trails are also more isolated, and, in urban situations, may become home to some folks you want to avoid during the nighttime hours.

Don’t Go Alone

Find a friend. If you can’t find a running buddy, chose to run in an area where you know other runners tend to train in the evening or early morning hours.

Keep Your Cool

If you are confronted or harassed by a person or group of people, keep moving and run towards the nearest public place. Yell (loudly) the instant you get feel threatened to attract attention and potentially deter the perp in question.

General Wildlife Safety

  1. Stop running. Do not try and run from the animal.
  2. If you can, back away slowly from the animal.
  3. NEVER turn your back on a nearby lion or bear.
  4. Make eye contact with the animal.
  5. Do everything you can to appear larger: Raise your arms or if you have a jacket, open it up. Try to look as little like a four-legged animal as possible.
  6. Throw stones or branches (if you can get to them without turning your back).
  7. Do not approach the animal.
  8. If attacked, fight back and try to stay on your feet. Animals don’t like prey that fights back!

Just In Case…

Don’t be scared off by the circumstances described in this guide. These are extreme, rare examples of some of the adventures running may throw your way–but you also may live a long, fit life and never see a mountain lion, get stuck in a hail storm, or be forced to run after dark. But now you will know what to do, just in case. Happy, safe running!

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