I get more than my fair share of e-mail - most likely you, too, if you've been running long enough - from well-intentioned vendors who want to provide us the next level of additional value to our running. Some are really good; others are the offspring of the creature my day job likes to call the "good idea fairy."
I had heard of this particular beast intermittently during my first few years after college, but at this (late) point in my career there are an increase of coworkers who have been - as it is euphemistically described - downrange. Thus a sudden increase of sightings; it's like you don't realize it's there until someone else tells you it is...then you tend to notice it everywhere, that 'evil mythical creature that whispers advice and ideas into the ears ... causing ... unnecessary changes and countless wasted man-hours ....
My latest "good idea fairy" sighting found it disguised, or cloaked if you prefer, in the seemingly common-sense running after dark guidance which every runner should consider, now that we've left what is known as Daylight Savings Time (DST). Perhaps even the concept of DST was inspired by some "good idea fairy" somewhere. For the love of Pre, everyone knows daylight cannot be saved and certainly cannot be withdrawn at a later time as needed...like those times when the temperatures are less than infernal and you really feel inspired to get out and run, right?
The guidance included:
1. Let friends know where you are.
Perfectly good sense, in my humble opinion. While the group who sent these recommendations suggested using their value-added application, a simple on-line mapping program works, too.
2. Know where you're going.
Ties in well to #1, if I don't say so myself. My missus learned this the hard way a couple of weeks ago, when she decided to jog in a neighborhood I told her was not the best...even during daytime hours. She called it a morning after a mile or so.
3. If listening to music, leave out one earbud and be aware of your surroundings.
No. No. A thousand times no. Human beings stink at multitasking; one of the great deceptions of our society is that we can do more than one thing well at a time. It's a zero-sum game at best. Your mind focuses on dissociation from the discomfort of running AND the potential hazards which surround you, like the slightly uneven surface just waiting to trip you up or worse, the soccer parent who's five minutes behind on their evening commute...and in a hurry. The only thing worse than two earbuds blasting Taylor Swift into your ear while running in the dark is doing the same with one earbud. Not only can you not hear someone - a cyclist who's not wearing lights, reflectors or helmet - coming from behind, for example - the second source of outside noise scrambles your perception of what's coming up on the other side. If you need music on the run, please do your run at a gym or some place where you're on top of a nice, safe treadmill.
4. Carry an ID on you in case of emergency.
A great idea. Too many words, in my humble opinion; just carry a form of identification. Cell phones have a tendency to break upon impact, and most folks have theirs password-protected. There are a lot of companies out there with identification options which are affordable and with varieties which align to the desires of most runners. Even your drivers' license in a pouch or pocket will work.
5. Run against traffic so you can see oncoming cars.
Very common sense. In many cases drivers will frustrate and or temporarily blind a runner by punching on their high beams. Learn to focus your vision on a point which is not directly into the beam of oncoming vehicles. I used to wear running sunglasses with switchable lenses, putting a yellow or amber lens in to cut the glare. Good sunglasses are out there, but learn to focus where the lights aren't.
6. Make yourself visible with bright-colored or reflective clothing. Light the way with blinking lights or headlamps.
Both good. This is not the time to reprise the classic Monty Python "How Not To Be Seen" skit. Sure, there are drivers who don't like runners on the roadway, but I'd put good money on the fact they're the same folks who hated you during daylight, during the summer and on race day. You can go inexpensive by purchasing a simple reflective (or lighted) vest to wear over anything, or purchase clothing items which have reflectors. Clip-on lights are cheap, easily-replaced and easily spotted.
7. Buddy up and find groups or a friend to join you.
In many cases, depending on the location, there is safety in numbers. Just make certain that whoever you join up with follows all of the precautions, also. I recall an experience several years ago where a weeknight run group allowed two new participants to go out on their downtown course without reflective gear or lights, and with headphones. They were struck by a motor vehicle at a poorly-lit intersection just half a mile from the run terminus.
8. Watch for pedestrian walkways and stay on the sidewalk or close to the curb.
Refer to #5. And pay attention at intersections, because in most cases the motor vehicle operator isn't.
9. Avoid rush hour or times when heavy traffic could be difficult to navigate.
Uh huh. And in many cases rush hour is very close to sundown/dusk, the most common time for vehicular accidents. Human eyesight is adjusting to the change in lighting, from very bright (to the point of right in your eyes) to quickly darkening. They're in a hurry to get the two-point-five off to soccer, swimming, and such. Their mind is not on your safety...and sometimes they're adding on a little more hindrance by texting, phoning and reading stuff off their devices on the way. Remember how I mentioned that humans suck at multitasking? Add your multitasking to theirs and someone's gonna get hurt...and they've got a couple of thousand pounds weight advantage and a foot-pound force advantage at 35 miles per hour which is nearly three times the amount of force needed to break a human bone.
So, please, don't let someone else's "good idea fairy" meet up with yours.