Urban Running: Three Things You Should Consider Before You Head Out on the Road

When someone talks about running, we often picture an oval track or a trail through the woods. But for millions of people, running paths are made of asphalt and concrete. Today, we’ll discuss all the considerations you should make before you venture into the world of urban running.

Written by Lucas Collins
Edited by Pavlína Marek

Running on pavement might seem the same as running on other surfaces. However, there are many different things to take into consideration when you choose to go for a jog on the road or a sidewalk, from the obvious ones, like safety, to more nuanced ones such as a lack of shade. This article will help you prepare for the streets and start (or continue!) your urban running adventures.

1. Safety First

The most important topic to cover is safety. With so many people, vehicles, cyclists, and so much going on around you, it’s imperative you stay aware of your surroundings and do what you can to minimize any potential problems. Some steps you can take to mitigate those risks include:

Traffic Awareness: Always be aware of vehicular traffic! Vehicle safety is one of, if not the most important aspect of urban running. Run against the flow of traffic so you can see vehicles as they come toward you. Stay on designated sidewalks, running paths, or bike lanes whenever possible. Obey traffic signals and check every direction a vehicle can come from before crossing roads. Try to make eye contact with drivers when possible to ensure they know you are there. Make your intentions clear before committing to crossing, and use designated crosswalks as often as possible.

Reflective Gear: Increase your visibility by wearing reflective clothing or accessories, especially during low-light conditions. You don’t have to look like a traffic cone in your entirety—a hat, armbands, or reflective tape added to a jacket can all get the job done, too. This allows motorists and pedestrians to spot you from a distance, reducing the risk of accidents.

Good visibility is even more crucial when it comes to running in the dark, something many runners either prefer or have to do out of necessity.

Headphones: Music can make your running experience better. However, if you have headphones that really let you get lost in the music, consider keeping the volume or switching to open-ear designs that allow ambient sounds. Being aware of your surroundings is crucial in urban areas, as unexpected obstacles or approaching vehicles could require you to react quickly. Being able to hear what’s coming can really make a difference.

2. Route Planning

It’s a good idea to plan your running route beforehand. On top of knowing exactly where everything is and how far you’ll be going, being familiar with the areas you’ll be passing through is invaluable for staying safe. You can also more effectively find the best running spots in your town or city.

Urban Parks: Seek out urban parks or green spaces along your route. These areas provide a refreshing break from the concrete surroundings, offering cleaner air and softer surfaces for a reprieve from the unforgiving pavement. Trees also tend to cool down the air and their share can be invaluable on a hot day. There are usually other like-minded runners in these areas as well, and if you’re so inclined, you can try to group up with them and keep each other motivated!

Avoid Busy Times: If your schedule allows, you can choose to run during less congested hours to minimize encounters with heavy traffic. Early mornings or late evenings are typically quieter, providing a more peaceful and safer running experience. 

3. Environmental Considerations

Since urban running is so different than its track and trail counterparts, you need to take into consideration the environment you’ll be running in.

Air Quality: Urban areas often suffer from higher pollution levels, impacting air quality. Check local air quality indexes and, if necessary, consider adjusting your training schedule or route to avoid peak pollution times. Try not to travel into industrial areas where much of this pollution stems from and instead run in parks or along riversides where the air may be cleaner.

Cal Calamia runs up a hill on the San Francisco Marathon Course

Cal Calamia runs up a hill on the San Francisco Marathon Course.

Hydration and Shade: Running on sun-drenched roads can intensify heat and dehydration. Plan your route accordingly and carry a water bottle. Look for shaded areas to take breaks and cool down. Urban parks or tree-lined streets can offer natural shade and respite from the sun. You can also make tall buildings work in your favor by adjusting what time of day you go out for your run.

Urban Terrain: While generally made of the same materials, road surfaces in urban areas can vary wildly, from smooth asphalt to uneven pavement pocked with potholes. Practice running on different terrains during your training to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. Strengthening your ankles and feet through exercises and wearing appropriate running shoes will help minimize the risk of injuries.

Despite the challenges, urban running has its own, undeniable energy. Use the sights, sounds, and vibrancy of the city to your advantage. The camaraderie of fellow runners can also provide a unique and inspiring experience, and in population centers, they should be easy to find! Running in an urban setting presents its own set of considerations, but with careful planning and a mindful approach, you can conquer the challenges that come with running on the roads.

No Replies to "Urban Running: Three Things You Should Consider Before You Head Out on the Road"