February 08, 2009

Some Pre-Dawn Running Safety

Last week I headed out for a wake-up run at 5:30 a.m. Snow fell in the hours beforehand and balanced on the tips of branches like white spherical ornaments. The air was crisp but not painful to breathe like bitter sub-zero cold that threatens exercise-induced asthma. As the sky lightened, I detected almond-shaped hoofs along the side of the road for a few meters before the tracks disappeared into the woods. I decided not to follow them but continued on the roads to further warm up before heading into an A.V.I.S. reservation. Post-holing new tracks proved exhausting but added a brief and intense variety to my workout.

One benefits of pre-dawn (winter) runs is traffic-free streets. I have the option to run down the middle of side streets and secondary roads without concern for an abundance of commuters. While it may be loopy to mention running down the middle of a road, when sidewalks aren’t clear nor in existence, it’s a viable option depending on the time of day and the particular road. When I choose to do this it’s usually in neighborhoods with which I am very familiar.

Since the plows had long since passed that morning, the streets were a leopard pattern of slick packed snow, ice and asphalt. Footing was tricky and I was able to test out my
Yak Trax on more surfaces. Even when caked with snow, their springs still confidently gripped the road.

I was taught to drive defensively and I road run with the same vigilance. I assume that cars do not see me and I swiftly move to the side or off of the road entirely before they pass. Not wearing headphones while exercising (at least outside) allows me to hear and focus not only on my surroundings and safety but also on the rhythm of my breathing and my foot fall. When I head out in the dark (dawn or dusk) I wear my Princeton Tec Aurora head lamp for visibility (both to see and to be seen). Here's what the head lamp looks like before sunrise on a flashing-blinky mode:

Another benefit to running along the center or a road is that it tends to be less cambered than towards its sides. Running frequently on slanted surfaces might lead to increased injury, could aggravate running form and tinker unkindly with bio mechanics. Years ago a podiatrist told me to "get off the roads and head to the trails." What a wise man. Of course the uneven terrain of trails offers its own challenges but more importantly to me are its numerous benefits (more on that in the future). For starters, trail running strengthens the ankles and feet, tunes agility and focus and gets me exploring and appreciating into nature.

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