Athlinks had the chance to sit down with Pete Kostelnick — the ultrarunner who, on October 24, 2016, broke the world record for the fastest run across the United States — to get some serious insights into the topic of running safety. He ran from San Francisco City Hall to New York City Hall, a distance of 3,067 miles, in 42 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes.
Here’s what kept him from getting killed.
“We live in a time where drivers have never been more distracted with cell phones, eating while driving, fussing at their kids, or not enough caffeine on their morning commutes,” Kostelnick told us. “Coming in to my run across America, safety was the item I overlooked the most. With the tens of thousands of cars that passed me over the course of my run and the 100+ hours I ran in the dark, I count my lucky stars that nothing fatal occurred. When thinking about whether or not I would ever attempt a run like this again, what gives me pause is not the physical toll it takes, rather how unsafe I felt on the roads.”
“My most frustrating days were not those where I had mountain passes to climb, but rather high traffic areas. I needed to stay alert, while communicating my presence and making eye contact with any drivers pulling in and out of businesses,” he said.
“I’ve heard of too many bicycling and running accidents lately, when one is already too many. Safety is something we often overlook on the roads, but I beg every runner to be as prepared as possible–especially when there doesn’t seem to be any sunlight left in the morning or night at this time of year. Be safe and have fun out there!”
Here are his top 10 tips for staying alive running on the roads:
1. Run facing traffic, except on blind curves, so you can see oncoming vehicles in the lane closest to you. Stay away from roads with little to no shoulder space.
2. Never assume that a driver can see you. Wave a hand in the air or shine a light at oncoming traffic so they know that you acknowledge them and you appreciate their attention.
3. Be aware that a car may be passing another car from behind, and therefore never run on the road if you don’t have to.
4. If you run in busy areas, avoid wearing headphones or only use one ear bud so you can hear what’s going on around you.
5. Make sure you are visible from the front, back, and both sides; look for products that offer 360-degree visibility. I wore a variety of NATHAN Safety & Visibility gear during my run and can easily say it saved my life.
6. Run with a partner. If not, make sure to tell someone when and where you will be running.
7. Vary your running route and timing so your runs aren’t predictable. Always drive or run your route in the light beforehand so there aren’t any surprises.
8. Obey all traffic and pedestrian laws.
9. Use multiple points of light, including active lighting pieces like a headlamp, LEDs, and a lighted armband or shoe LED, to make sure you can see where you’re going and be seen by those around you.
10. Pick a populated running route at night, staying away from dark alleys and dimly lit back roads.