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December 17, 2013

By Running Coach and Author, Joe Muldowney.  Over the next few weeks, I will frequently wish many folks a happy and safe Holiday season.

To my running friends and readers of this blog, "safe" carries a deeper meaning during the coming months.

Road and visibility conditions deteriorate at this time of year, and with Holiday shopping and extra glasses of Holiday cheer, some drivers, who detest we runners to begin with, become even more dangerous. Check out the chapter in my book, "Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes," entitled, 'Why Do They Hate Us So Much?' for examples of road rage against runners.

That being said, it is up to runners and walkers to conduct their activities on the roads with a sense of responsibility. If they do so, using some common sense, they can decrease their chance of dangerous encounters with motor vehicles, which weigh more and travel at much faster speeds than we.

The winter solstice occurs on December 21 this year. Until then, we continue to lose precious minutes of daylight. Avid runners have a limited amount of daylight, so many are forced to conduct their workouts during the pre-dawn hours, near dusk, or at night. It is absolutely essential for runners to make sure they are visible during these low-visibility hours. Wear as much reflective gear as possible. Most athletic apparel 

manufacturers offer outerwear with reflective strips. Many running shoes also display reflective patches somewhere on their products. There are glow bands that can be worn on the arms and legs. Some can be set to flash on and off in order to attract additional attention. Some runners have even purchased headlamps. Often, during winter months, we are forced to run more miles on the sidewalks, which can be quite dangerous if one cannot see what is covering them.

Winter weather conditions send many runners scurrying indoors to the treadmill, but most still prefer running outdoors. Safety is again a factor that cannot be ignored. Few running shoes are equipped to handle icy roads and sidewalks, so runners can now purchase running crampons, actual metal spikes that can be wrapped onto your shoe with a rubberized “sleeve.” They are expensive, and may only be used a couple of times a year, but considering the potential consequences, may be worth the price.

Take the road less traveled, or hit the trails whenever possible. By avoiding high traffic areas, you can significantly reduce the chance of encountering automobiles and their sometimes less than friendly drivers. 

In addition to the above recommendations, let’s take another approach to winter training.

Since your hours of daylight are limited, concentrate on shorter, faster workouts during the week. Save the long runs for weekends. 

Chances are you have run many races throughout the year, and perhaps are recovering from a fall marathon. Use the next month to relax and to heal. A day off here or there won’t hurt you. Build back slowly into regular training, and you will be stronger and healthier for your spring races. 

Don’t worry so much about your watch. On most days, be content with completing a workout when others have decided to stay in bed. Enjoy the winter scenery; while appreciating and preparing for winter’s dangers.

Be cautious and careful when you run on the roads this winter and you will, indeed, have a happy and safe Holiday season!

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