City running defies usual running logic, so here are some rules to keep in mind

By Catherine Orda | Photo by Zac Ong/Unsplash

Urban dwellers don’t need to be told about the drawbacks of living in the city—but for those aching for a few minutes of outdoor exercise, a few precautionary reminders might be necessary.

Running in the city is an obstacle in its own right: There’s terrible traffic (and terrible drivers) and construction sites, rabid dogs, and potential attackers. It’s also true, though, that if you know how to properly navigate busy streets, running in the city can be rewarding. Here are a few reminders to get you started:


Watch out for hazards

This should go without saying, but here it is anyway: Keep your eyes peeled for bikers, people, construction barricades, and of course, cars. It’s already dangerous enough to be a pedestrian simply trying to get around the city by walking, so imagine what it’s like for anyone who tries to run around the city.


Be visible

By which we simply mean: Wear brightly colored clothes or even reflective gear. This rule applies best to night running of course, but it won’t hurt to try to wear neon shirts or even high-visibility jackets when you’re running in the morning or at noon. Remember that running in the city means running around lots of cars and people, so you will definitely want to be seen.


Ditch the music

While a good run is one that has a kind of meditative quality to it, it’s crucial that you stay attentive when running around the city. Which brings us to the question of music: Is a perfect workout playlist worth risking your safety for? That’s an extreme way to put it of course, but some runners seriously suggest that you run without headphones, as this may be the safest way to run in the city. But if you can’t imagine running without listening to music or podcasts, there’s still the option of turning the volume down.

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Follow traffic rules

This is self-explanatory (as are most of the items on this list), but it’s worth reiterating: Don’t dart through traffic, don’t run across a street if a stoplight is on red light. If you get hung up at a stoplight, you can actually use that 15,20 seconds of downtime to catch your breath or even do squats or lunges to keep your momentum.


Plan a safe route

Before you go out into the streets, try to plan a safe route. Obviously, as much as city running is about caution, you’ll still want to enjoy your run by not having to fear for your life the entire time. A safe route in the city is simply one based around parks and other pedestrian-friendly sites. Another thing is timing—try to avoid running during times with heavy pedestrian and car traffic.


Consider the surface

You’ll encounter a lot of hard surfaces during these runs, so it’s best to find running shoes with good cushioning. The reason being that running on surfaces like concrete and brick is detrimental to your joints (especially your knees), so you’ll really want increased cushioning in order to counter all that impact.

Say no to concrete

Another word on surfaces: As much as possible, avoid running on concrete. Of all surfaces, it can be the most taxing to your joints. And this is true even if you’re wearing shoes with excellent cushioning. If you have the option of running on grass, dirt, or asphalt, then run on those surfaces instead.


Bring a few things

This may seem counterintuitive, but city running defies usual running logic. When you’re out running on the streets, it’s a good idea to bring with you your phone, ID, a bit of money, and even a bottle of pepper spray. For good measure, you can also carry with you some important medical information (medical conditions, allergies, etc.)


Run with someone

This isn’t mandatory of course, but it’s definitely something to consider if you’re planning to run at night. People are less likely to be robbed or mobbed if there are more of them. Another tip: Always tell a trusted person where you’re going (or at least give them a general idea of where you’re planning to run).

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