The Casual Runner

Keep Safe – Keep Left

Ok, I am going to apologize from the outset, today’s feature is going to be a little bit of a rant.  We all have those things in life that annoy us, as in REALLY annoy us, or REALLY REALLY annoy us, and that does not change when we become Casual Runners.

Ban Buds 1This past summer I ran with Candace and Steve the most, and those two running buddies heard me gripe about this subject more than anything else. Now it is time to share my gripe with the rest of the Casual Running community.

As readers of Casual Runner, you know that the Team is very concerned about all Casual Runners staying safe when they hit the road.  Whether it be running in cold weather, running in the dark, jogging with strollers, or just or not chafing, we want to do our part to make sure that all Casual Runners enjoy their workouts and return home safely. So why is it that some people just feel the need to tempt fate?

Some time ago I read a national running publication (who shall remain nameless) who published a letter from a reader saying that she preferred to run with traffic rather than against it, and then went on to list a few reasons why. However, said publication at no point sought to correct said reader, let alone inform its other readers, why this is a bad idea.

Needless to say I was irked by this, and every time I see a walker or jogger on the side of the road with traffic (rather than against, which is where they should be), I am flabbergasted (and at times, vocal to my running buddy who is forced to endure yet another diatribe from me!).

IMG_20150510_072540028Ok, yeah, Steve may have mentioned to me a time or two how I sound like a broken record – but how hard is it to run/walk on the correct side of the road? And don’t even get me started about people who walk down the wrong side of the street while pushing a kid in a stroller. We see this a lot when we are out doing our training runs, and it never fails to bother me as I cannot understand why so many people would take risks with their safety when all they have to do is move over to the correct side of the street.

Ok, so let’s start from the beginning folks. When you go out for a run or a walk on a street where there is no sidewalk, you should always proceed AGAINST traffic, not with it. Why? Well, there are plenty of reasons, but first and foremost, in most places it is the law. That’s right, there are actual, honest to goodness laws in the United States that say that pedestrians (which includes Casual Runners!) must be on the left side of the road facing traffic (if there is a sidewalk present, some places require you to use the sidewalk). I am a lawyer, so you know that you have to listen to me on this one – because people always listen to lawyers, right?

What is that you say? Following the law isn’t enough to convince you that I am right? Fine, I’ll give you some more food for thought.

Even if running against traffic is not the law in your area, like gravity, it continues to be a pretty good idea. Running while facing traffic allows you to see oncoming traffic.  When you see a vehicle coming, you have plenty of time to adjust for it.


It has been said that the number 1 rule of road running is to never trust a car because you never know if they will be watching out for you.  If you are running with traffic (remember – don’t do it!), you will not see the cars coming and won’t know whether you need to adjust where you are to allow safe distance from the high school kid who is drifting onto the shoulder while texting. Yes, I have had this happen to me while running in my community. Fortunately, I was running against traffic (as I always do) and I saw him start to drift, thus I was able to safely step off to the side of the road (which unfortunately was a deep, cold snowbank, but that is a story for another time!).

As a reminder for our international readers, in the United States we drive on the right side of the road, which is why keeping left as a pedestrian will allow you to run against traffic. When I lived in St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands, where they drive on the left side of the road, I ran on the right side of the road in order to run against traffic. See how easy it is? As a reminder to our Southern readers, snow is that cold white stuff that you should be glad you never have to deal with.

Now, if you are like me and you always run with music, making sure you can see traffic coming is even more important as your hearing will be impaired by your earbuds. It is always a good idea to keep your music turned down low enough so you can hear your surroundings, but any music will necessarily impair your hearing somewhat. As a result, putting yourself in the best position to visualize any oncoming traffic or hazards is even more important.

IMG_20150704_081725309In most locations, cyclists are required to ride their bikes with traffic, not against (for those keeping score at home, this is the opposite rule of what applies to pedestrians). This means that when you do as you should and walk or run against traffic, you will not only see cars coming, but you will also see cyclists approaching and can keep a safe distance when you pass.

It is also a good idea to stay as far over to the shoulder as you safely can. I know that the sides of roads are inconsistent: some have nice paved shoulders where others don’t; there can be a buildup of sand or gravel; and there is always the risk of a broken beer bottle or two. That being said, you should move over as far as you safely can to allow the maximum amount of distance between you and the passing cars.

There you have it. Next time you go out, run against traffic not with it. You will be safer, increasing the chances that you will return home safely to your family and, if you should happen to pass me, I won’t have to annoy my running buddy with yet another ran about people running on the wrong side of the street!

If you need some help getting started or keeping yourself going, Casual Runner is here for you. Here are some of the features we have shared in our Getting Started series:

5K-1– Help in finding ways to motivate yourself especially for those times when you feel like you have no motivation at all.

– Our checklist of the top 10 things you need to know to get up and get on your way to becoming a Casual Runner.

– Ask yourself: where is your own personal starting line?

– You need to buy the right pair (or pairs) of running shoes, because a good pair of running shoes are, after all, a Casual Runner’s best friend.

– Recommendations for picking your first race, the Top 10 Things to Know In Selecting a RunDisney Event, and my Top 10 Reasons Why I Run to runDisney.

– A look back on the Team’s New Year’s Resolutions and a reminder of the need to stay positive.

– The importance of keeping your Casual Running adventure in perspective and finding your stride.

The Casual Runner Team wants to hear from you. If you have any questions about anything we cover here on Casual Runner, if you have any questions regarding running gear or training for your own Casual Running needs, or if there is anything that you would like us to cover on Casual Runner, please leave a comment or email us using the links below.  To ensure that you do not miss all of the great content from Casual Runner, please be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and add us to your circle on Google+.  See you out on the running trails!  



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