Second in an occasional series on preparing for the Marine Corp Marathon.
Right now, at least 34,000 runners from across Northern Virginia and around the world are in training for the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon. Thousands more are lacing up their running shoes to meet other personal goals. Some meet on evenings and weekends as part of local training groups. Others are venturing out alone. Proper stretching, footwear and apparel are only part of the necessary preparation to ensure a runner's safety.
"Try to run with a partner,"said Mary Kate Bailey, former Marine and 2004 Marine Corps Marathon female winner. "Not only can they encourage you through training, but even on the safest trail, you just never know when you might have an accidental injury or who you might unexpectedly encounter. Having a running partner only makes it safer."
Plan the route in advance, trying to run on sidewalks or populated trails. Vary the trails and the time of day you run. Tell a friend or family member which route you plan to take and how long the run should last. Make note of where police stations are located, and where businesses, stores and offices are likely to be open and active.
If you need a training partner, try contacting one of the many local running stores like Gotta Run or Pacers in the Arlington/Alexandria areas, Potomac River Running Stores in Ashburn or Leesburg, Metro Run Walk in Falls Church or Virginia Runner in Woodbridge or Fredericksburg.
WHENEVER POSSIBLE, run during daylight hours, but if training runs must occur at night, take extra precautions with attire and shoes. Craig Vanderoef, a marathoner and global apparel and accessories product manager for Brooks Sports, recommends lighting yourself up as much as possible.
According to a study by Cornell University, yellow and white can be seen from nearly 150 feet away, while reflective materials can be seen from 500 feet, said Vanderoef. Plan your outfit carefully and be sure to incorporate reflective materials. The brighter the better.
For great technical gear designed for running in the dark, check out the Brooks' NightLife Collection at www.brooksrunning.com. Beyond shirts, shorts and other attire that virtually glow, the Brooks NightLife line offers affordable nighttime running accessories like attachable magnetic lights, reflective arm bands, hats and gloves.
Before heading out the door, be sure to grab an ID including your name, phone number and blood type, and your cell phone. Leave your iPod and headphones at home. They can block out noise and make you less aware of your environment on an outdoor run.
"Runners should look at their relationship to other people and vehicles along the route," said Lt. Donald Grinder of Arlington County Police Special Operations. "Runners need to be aware of their surroundings, whether running in a densely populated area with vehicles or a dimly lit trail."
In heavily populated areas with lots of vehicle traffic, always run against the flow of cars. This helps drivers see you as you run, but also helps you observe any approaching vehicles. If you notice a car pass you more than once, take note of any distinguishing characteristics of the car and a license plate number, if you can. Make it obvious you are aware of the vehicle.
"While running in the city, wait for traffic lights to change and be careful when proceeding through crosswalks, even though it's sometimes difficult to break pace and stride," said Grinder. "On the trails, be aware of overgrown areas, or areas you know people may hang out, whether it's drinking or just loitering. If you notice something suspicious, don't be afraid to call the police. If it's an emergency, call 911 from the nearest pay phone or a cell phone. If the issue is important but less immediate, call when you get home."
REGARDLESS OF the environment in which the run takes place, use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Be friendly, but keep your distance and keep moving. Do not approach a car to give directions or the time of day. Point toward the nearest police or information source and keep moving.
Even the most cautious runners sometimes find themselves injured on a training run. Whether it's a twisted ankle or new blister, you can get help and stay safe. If you carry a cell phone while running, call for help and move to a populated area if possible. Otherwise, ask for assistance from other runners on the trail or wave down law enforcement vehicles. Avoid asking non-runners or approaching civilian cars.
Whether you are a seasoned marathoner or a beginner, outdoor training for the Marine Corps Marathon, the Marine Corps 10K or another event requires a few precautionary measures. Safety is a primary concern on race day as well. At the Marine Corps Marathon, Marines and police are spread throughout the course for the runner's protection. All participants must wear an official bib number, and spectators are asked to remain clear of the course, which is designated by orange cones. Strollers and headphones also pose potential safety hazards on race day and are not allowed on the Marine Corps Marathon course.
Beth Cline is the public relations coordinator for the Marine Corps Marathon.