How to Protect Yourself During Trail Running
Prevention is better than cure. Prepare well before you head out for trail running.
When you’re going out for a trail run, whether in Singapore or overseas, there are many elements that you have no control over, such as weather, navigation, injury, unwanted attention or even encounter with wildlife.
Besides physical and logistic preparation, safety preparation isn’t something to be taken lightly. The recent news about a rape case in MacRitchie Reservoir on a broad daylight serves as a reminder that runners and trekkers should always take precaution when venturing out into the trails.
Here are safety tips that could protect you during trail running.
Safety tips for weather
- Check the weather forecast. If the forecast predicts extreme weather ahead, it’ll probably be wise to postpone the trail running to another day.
- Bring the right gears. If it’s going to be a hot and humid day with little to no shadow, wear a hat and sunscreen. If it might rain, bring a raincoat or lightweight waterproof jacket. In general, wear the clothes and shoes designed for trail running.
- Study the map and highlight shelter/rest areas. Familiarise yourself with amenities within the trails, such as shelter, rest area, toilet, water cooler, exit point and transportation mode available at the exits in case you need a shelter from the weather or you can’t continue the journey.
Safety tips to avoid getting lost
- Do your research. Study the trail route that you’ll be exploring, save a copy of the trail map on your phone, or better, print it out and carry it in your bag. Locate the entrances, exits and amenities of the trail.
- Make use of technology. Google Maps, Google Street View, downloadable offline maps, power bank, local sim card and GPS smartwatches are useful technologies when it comes to venturing into the unknown region. Signboards are often misleading, do review your location from time to time to make sure you’re not off the trail.
- Bring more than enough food and water. When you’re hungry or thirsty, it’s difficult to stay focused, let alone make correct decisions.
Safety tips to stay accident-free
- Stay alert. Running on a trail is tiring, yet you need to stay alert and focused on your steps. Be extra careful and slow down when facing terrains such as slopes, slippery rocks, river crossing, narrow paths. Watch out for the possibility of falling tree branches.
- Wear good trail shoes. A pair of good trail shoes minimises the risk of slipping and protects your feet from hitting hard or sharp objects.
- Balance your water intake with electrolytes. Cramping often occurs due to electrolyte imbalance.
- Bring bandage or plaster. These are life savers when suffering from cuts and blisters.
Safety tips regarding unwanted attention
- Avoid running alone. Run with a friend or a pet where allowed. Solo runners are the easiest target of crimes.
- Avoid running in the dark. If you only have time to run when the sun has set, do it at open places where there are many other runners and joggers around, such as a park, track or gym.
- Tell someone where you’re going to and update them often. If you have to run alone on a trail, tell your family or friend where you’re going to and update them at a certain interval. Also, remind them if you don’t text them, say, every 20 minutes, they should check on you.
- Do not wear headphones. You want to be aware of your surroundings. By being alert, you’ll know if someone is watching or following you.
- Activate your phone’s SOS. Certain phones have an SOS feature which, when triggered with certain action, will send alerts to the specified contact person. Find out if your phone has this function and activate it.
- Make noise. Scream as loud and long as you can when faced with an intruder.
- Run fast. Run away from the intruder as fast as you can.
- Learn basic self-defence. In addition to giving you a boost in confidence, self-defence skills train your physical conditioning to deal with dangerous situations.
Safety tips for encounter with wild animals
- Know what animals to expect on the trails. Learn how to handle the animals that you might encounter on the trail that you’ll be taking on. In Singapore, NParks has a guideline on what to do should you have an animal encounter.
- Stay calm. Stay away from the animals and do not provoke them.
- Call for help. When it’s life threatening, call for help immediately. The emergency ambulance contact number in Singapore is 995.
Despite the risks in trail running, do not let fear stop you from doing it. With the right preparation, trail running will bring you more benefit than harm.
The list of safety tips above is not exhaustive. Do leave us a comment on other methods to stay safe during trail running.