Let’s start off here by saying none of these pieces of advice are bad or wrong. Not in the least but they aren’t the best advice for every runner out there all of the time. I was thinking about this the other day on my long run as I was walking a very sharp turn on our rural but busy in the summer road. These things are usually great pearls of wisdom most of the time but sometimes it might get you in some trouble too. I don’t think people out there dealing out this good advice are trying to steer you wrong for even a second but that doesn’t mean you should follow blindly either. Think about stuff you hear critically and don’t be afraid to break the rules if that makes sense to you on occasion. With that in mind here are some scenarios where I think breaking the rules makes sense and you might too!
Run home on the same side of the road to avoid injury
Road ways and to a lesser extent side walks are often angled to one side for reasons of drainage and centripetal acceleration. That means all of your steps could have the very same lean to them and set you up to get injured and to imbalances sooner or more often. That’s all true but in rural spots with no separation from the road it’s not worth following that. Following that advice in rural situations means you’ll be running very close to the roadway with cars zooming at the back of your head. You won’t see them before they pass you. If something bad is about to happen you won’t know until it’s too late. On narrow possibly rural roads you’ll feel more comfortable always running facing traffic and throwing out the idea that you should run in and outs on the same side of the roads to be nicer to your joints. Also remember that other humans, including the ones driving the cars around you are programmed to notice faces, and therefore you if you run towards them not away.
Always run facing traffic
But you just said… I know, I know I’m a complicated lady. Yes all that stuff above is right and yes generally run facing traffic on all but the widest boulevard streets. The exception might be around tight turns, specifically the inside of the turns. Rural picturesque roads often involve hairpin turns with narrow shoulders. The inside of the turn (aka the tighter side) is often two shades sketchier then the outside. Drivers come up on you on the inside side seemingly out of nowhere. On the outside you have a bit more time to make yourself seen. Sometimes the shoulder on the inside is even thinner or at least it seems that way. Sometimes if there is a crazy turn on your route it can be safer to cross the road well ahead of the turn where it is safe, run the turn on the ‘wrong’ side of the turn with traffic and then cross back when it’s safe. The litmus test for a turn for crossing or not is … does running that side make your heart beat faster and you feel nervous. If yes cross next time and see if that makes you feel better. Whether you cross or not best practice for turns is to walk them and move as far over as you can even if your shoes get a little wet or the tall grass tickles your legs a bit.
You can run any time of day or night
Yup, you can and in theory you can do it safely. In practice this world is populated with other pesky, error prone and sometimes irresponsible people. Two things there are no guarantees and anything really can happen at any time. Running in the dark is safe if you wear the right amount of lights and reflectors like I write about here, hint it’s a lot. I often run at night even after 10 at night. However I avoid doing so on Friday and Saturday nights and party holidays. The reason is that I think (and studies show) there are more drivers over the limit later on these nights. Usually a driver will stop and help you if they hit you. At least I think that’s the case but I doubt a drunk driver would. I also didn’t love running late on the ‘party’ nights in the college district for all the cat calling that happened then. Also you might run into a lot of drunk pedestrians and that can be sketchy too. Is it your right, legal and your prerogative to do it? Yes and all the things I’m describing are examples of despicable behavior but I’d rather not encounter it so…
As a road user you have a right to be there in any conditions that’s true but I’m also a driver and sometimes that’s a few notches harder. When visibility is really low like dense fog or driving snow drivers are already pushed to the max and some of them just suck at the best of times. Take that into account and don’t make it harder for those drivers if the weather is too bad and keep yourself safe by staying inside!
You have to have the right gear
Its always more helpful and very nice but its not always a have to. In extreme conditions (especially heat) it’s more critical but not every run or workout is extreme. Not every shake out or recovery run has to be done in your super expensive super light weight race shoes, not every winter run requires a hat with a specific thermal rating and you can even join a friend for an unexpected run in your regular street shorts. On race day I pick my best shoes, consider the sweat wicking properties right down to the undies and make sure all my other goodies are ready to go. For recovery runs which I had to learn to love (okay tolerate) I prioritize running in clothes I love and look cute over those that work the best. In the cold sweat wicking is almost a non-factor for me, slow runs with the trainees are a perfect place to put the last miles on a mostly dead shoe and clothes with some wear visible are almost never an issue. New runners or those with OCD and or deep pockets can go all in on gear unnecessarily.
The second best option is often more than good enough for most of us at least most of the time. A piece of gear that makes you look good and more confident can be a better choice that the technically perfect yet too tight piece of gear that experts say you should be wearing. A piece of gear you already own is always better than one you can’t really afford to buy right now.
Keep that in mind before you spend money you shouldn’t, throw out a favorite or get suckered into buying something you don’t even really want or need yet. There’s always another deal around the corner on another day too. That thing will keep existing and you can buy it another day when you do need it and when you’re ready. In the meantime you can read about how to pick up gear for cheap here too or stuff you really don’t ever need here.
The 10% rule
I’ve written about the 10% rule and even how to break it before. Its the rule that states that you can’t increase your weekly milage by more than 10%. Spoiler alert in this post about the rule I don’t recommend breaking the rule but I know some of you are going to do it anyway. This week we’re coming at it from the other side of it though. That is a lot of the time there is no reason to push that hard. 10% a week is a lot for new runners to increase by each week. I tend to think of to as most applicable to runners who have been through several training seasons already and are working towards a distance they’ve run before. So much so that my next set of training plans will be the long drawn out variety for newer runners or those that want to fill a whole training season with one race, so stay tuned.
If you are new to running and just want to run further there is no reason to increase that fast. Add a km a week to one run, stick at the same milage for a while before increasing or do the 10% one week and maintain it for the rest of the month. You’ll get to where you want to be or makes you happy in no time in the grand scheme of things. Plus you’ll love it more, be less exhausted and still be making all sorts of progress. 10% per week is a lot and its hard plus that might lead to injuries that you can avoid. Take it from an injured runner no one wants that.
Really all of this is good advice and I’ve rarely if ever read totally, straight up wrong stuff on running anywhere on the internet. But even great advice does have it’s exceptions. No matter what you’re reading or where (even here) think critically about it, try it out if you want but remember not everything is true for everyone! What’s the one piece of running advice you sometimes ignore on purpose?