How to be comfortable running in public: part 4

Where to run

Consider where you’re running.  Some places will make you feel more comfortable than others.  Run where you feel comfortable.  Here are some ideas.

1. Runner-friendly areas

I do sometimes feel a little self-conscious in my neighborhood, especially in inclement weather (people will stare or offer me a ride) or when my neighbors are having a party, but once I get to the bike path/running trail, I feel right at home.  Even if I’m struggling, breathing hard, and badly dressed, I feel okay on the trail because there are so many other runners and cyclists.  On the other hand, as a beginner, you might feel more self-conscious around other runners, so you would avoid the trail.

Other runner-friendly areas to seek out or avoid, depending on your feelings, include parks (especially those with hiking trails) and the high-school track (check on availability, but usually residents can use it anytime the students aren’t).  Runner-friendly environments are nice if you’re doing speed workouts.  I feel stupid sprinting up the same hill over and over, right in front of someone’s house.  But no one thinks anything of it if you’re on a trail.


2. City streets

I also like to run on busy streets (as long as there are sidewalks and not too many stoplights).  I like the traffic noise, and for some reason I feel less conspicuous.  Lots of people see me, but none of them see me for very long.  If someone I know drives by, he or she will have a hard time recognizing me.  Still, it’s a large enough audience that I’ll be ashamed to give up and walk home.  In that sense, a little self-consciousness can be helpful.  Busy roads (with sidewalks) also feel safer to me.  If some weirdo grabs me, there are a lot of witnesses.  If I collapse, someone will see.

3. Country roads

Many runners love the solitude and the view.  I hate country roads because of all the unleashed farm dogs.  But I understand the appeal.  We lived for a year in the middle of a business park, surrounded by offices and distribution centers, but nothing else.  I loved running there because it was just me and the semi trucks.  If you live in town, you can drive to such a place.  There won’t be any sidewalks in the country, of course.

4. The short loop

Another good option is to run a short loop in an out-of-the-way place, as long as it’s safe.  Last spring, I lived in a neighborhood that wasn’t good for running, so every day I just crossed the street and ran sixteen laps around an old cemetery.  It was nice because there was no one to impress.  You can run laps around a small park, or even around your backyard.  If you’re worried about getting bored, well, yes.  That’s a concern.  I have a high tolerance for boredom, and it still bothered me sometimes.  You could run with music if you wanted.  I would memorize things and then recite them as I ran.  I also did a lot of speed work, just to keep things interesting.

The bigger problem with the short loop is that it’s really easy to give up and go home, since you’re never far from the start/finish.  On the other hand, you can push yourself harder without worrying about making it home.  One more lap is never too difficult.  If you take the short loop approach, make sure you don’t run the loop in the same direction every time.  That’s bad for your running mechanics.


I actually feel least comfortable running around my own neighborhood.  I do it anyway because it’s practical, but be aware that you don’t have to step out your front door and run around the block while your neighbors watch.  There are options.  It is okay if you have to drive a short distance and run somewhere else until you feel more confident.

I have big plans to talk about safety in other posts, but I must say it here as well.  You really should not run the same route at the same time every day.  It is not safe to be so predictable.  Yes, your family will know when and where to start looking, but this can be more safely accomplished by varying your route and letting someone know just as you’re leaving where you’ll be and for how long.  If you live alone, call someone and let them know.  It sounds silly, but even if this person doesn’t live in town, he or she will wait for the phone call saying you’re back, and that’s something.  Don’t do all this via Gmail chat, though, okay?  Just, don’t.  
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