Hey, New Runners: You’re Doing It Wrong

For better or for worse, this whole quarantine situation has many of us trying out things we’d never even imagined back in the ancient era of February.

For some, that means cooking at home instead of ordering delivery or streaming a workout instead of hitting the gym. For others, that means home-schooling children while fielding sales calls or cultivating your own sourdough starter as yeast goes scarce. From baking a red velvet cake in a crockpot (my brother) to planting radishes from seeds (me) to drinking bleach (NO ONE! PLEASE DON’T DO THIS, EVEN IF THE PRESIDENT SAYS IT’S OKAY!), we’re all testing out previously unthinkable new hobbies and recipes and pastimes in an effort to stay sane.

Heck, even Lucille has traded her salon visits for DIY blowouts.

“Do not expect a tip.”

And what if, during this strange time, you’ve picked up running?

First of all, welcome! It’s a wonderful sport, which, if done right, can relieve stress and nervous energy while allowing you to stay socially distant.

Second of all, you might be doing it wrong. (I’m sorry, but someone had to say it.)

Now I don’t mean you might be wearing the wrong shoes (you can fix that) or ramping up mileage too quickly (you can fix that) or passing your neighbors a little too closely for comfort (you can fix that, too.) No, the biggest mistake new runners are making in abundance – and I know because I see it daily with my own two eyes, or four eyes when I wear glasses – is running on the wrong side of the street.

In case you didn’t know (and it’s not your fault! They don’t teach this in drivers’ ed!), proper running etiquette dictates that when you exercise on the roadway, you always walk or run AGAINST traffic. That means in the U.S., on the left side of the street, in the U.K., on the right side of the street, and on the moon, no rules.

I am a (U.S.- based) artist.

Facing incoming traffic may sound counter-intuitive to those of us more used to riding in cars than logging miles by foot, but there’s good reason for it: If you’re running in the shoulder and need to step into the street quickly to avoid a pothole or stick or roadkill, you can easily become roadkill yourself when the cars are approaching from behind.

It’s much, much safer to see them coming toward you – that way, you can choose when it’s a good time to edge further into the roadway to avoid an obstacle, or when to step deeper into the grass if they’re passing a little too closely or – most importantly – when to offer a smile, nod and wave to any magnificent driver who slows down and gives you a little extra space as they pass. Bless you.

Once you get the correct-side-of-the-road-thing right (or left, if you’re in the U.S.! Homonym jokes!), the rest is easy. Lace up, get out there, and move. Congratulations: You’re now a runner!

Join the club!



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