I ran the New York City Marathon in November 2018 and since then the universe has been sending messages for me to take in. My training for the marathon was impacted late by injury, and I have dialed in to training techniques that take the load off my lower calves and knees. Interestingly, along the way I have become more aware of how to run and train safely. Let me explain.
Dan Owens , an inspirational runner from Tasmania shared some of the woes that befell him on his return to Australia after running the marathon. I shared these on the podcast that we recorded with Dan while in New York. Dan was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis on his return to Australia, after feeling short of breath and not recovering from a knee injury sustained in New York. He was diagnosed just days before running a major race in Tasmania . The thought of running the race, non-diagnosed would have been concerning to say the least and potentially deadly as the worst possible outcome.
Concerning that something supposed to be healthy, could become so serious and this was rammed home again shortly after. The weekend after publishing the podcast with Dan, Sharon and I were driving down to one of our favourite running spots, when we happened across a collapsed runner. It had just happened and the person he was running with was frantically in the initial stages of first aid. Unfortunately, the runner, a long time runner well known locally and nationally, could not be saved. This was despite the sustained efforts from a nurse who stopped and helped and the paramedics. Just before he collapsed, the runner complained of being short of breath. Just the week before, our collapsed runner had completed a major long distance event in Australia. In fact memories were recounted that he surged home strongly to finish in a great time and leave other much younger runners in his wake. Life is certainly there to test us.
I mentioned a string of events from the universe and the final one was when our remedial massage therapist described the time she was attacked while running. She was running along the river at South Bank, Brisbane, listening to music on her Iphone when she was ambushed by a gang of ladies who stole her Iphone. She was tuned in to her own thoughts and the music and wasn’t completely aware of her surroundings. Since then she hasn’t run as much, especially not singly.
Messages are there for us to take note of. In this case, running is a relatively new pastime for me and its important to take steps to be safe while running and training. These are my tips.
My Strategies to Run and Train Safely
- Music – Many people run with headphones locked into both ears. We get immersed in our music and lose awareness of our surroundings. Personally we run with just one headphone in, so the other ear is unplugged. This allows us to talk with each other as we run and stay aware of what is happening around us, including traffic, bikes and other runners. While this in itself may not stave off people who want to do harm, it helps with maintaining our safety.
- Run with others. Wherever possible, we should run with others or in relatively populous areas. Where our veteran runner collapsed was on a quiet suburban street, which may not have seen traffic for a while, pedestrian or otherwise. Having a runner with you gives you a fighting chance if a serious collapse does occur. Additionally, running with others is usually more fun than running by yourself.
- Listen to your body. Runners get used to constant niggles and stiffness, but when something out of the ordinary comes into being, listen to it. If you are fit and healthy, and suddenly find yourself struggling for breath, that could be an indicator of something more serious. Don’t write it off and try and fight through it. That could be the worse thing to do. Stop and get it seen to.
- Running in the dark. I know this sound obvious, but many runners run early morning or early evening and often in light that is less than desirable. Wear reflective clothing and small lights to create visibility for traffic.
- Look after your legs and feet. Running gear can be expensive, and some may be tempted to take save money. Our feet and legs are important to us so it’s important we look after them. Get your stride tested and get the shoes that best suit your stride and foot impact. Often the major shoe manufacturers will discount superseded models when they bring in the latest season model. The new model will contain new features, but last season’s model becomes exceptional value as they clear it out. You don’t have to purchase the latest and greatest, last season’s latest and greatest will do with great value. The other thing is to ensure that you are doing exercises between your runs, which strengthen your upper legs, hips, glutes and core muscles. This ensures that your running load is shared by your larger muscles and not just loading up on your lower leg calf muscles and achilles.
This list is certainly not exhaustive but is one that I adhere to. I have learnt some of the lessons the hard way, and from what has happened around me. Take the tips and get healthy, but remember to run and train safely.