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The Dangers of Long Distance Running

Updated on August 15, 2013


Most people know that running has great health benefits. However, it is not without its downside. This is especially true for medium to long distance runners who spend a lot of time running out on the streets. Running on the streets exposes the runner to many risks which can result in many things including: scratches, bruising, broken bones, rabies, or even death.

All these things can easily be avoided if you practice safe running. Read on to learn of these risks and what you can do to eliminate them.

Crap on the Ground

When running, one typically is looking straight ahead at the direction they are heading. If not distracted by music or anything happening in the surrounding area, one can typically spot crap on the ground and avoid it. Occasionally one can lose focus and get distracted. When that happens crap or obstacles on the ground can take its toll and cause the runner to fall.

The most common obstacles on the ground that can cause you to slip or trip include:

  • uneven sidewalk or pavement pushed up by tree roots
  • sand or loose dirt
  • oil spillage or leakage
  • protruding rocks
  • animal poop

To minimize the risk of falling or slipping due to any of these, you need to stay alert. Occasionally focus on the path just ahead to ensure you can see and possibly avoid any ground obstacles. Uneven pavement, sand, or loose dirt are probably the easiest to miss. Take it slow when approaching such obstacles, or better yet, just go around them.

Beware:  Stray Dog
Beware: Stray Dog

*** Warning ***

The suggestions herein for dealing with attacking dogs are based on the author's own experience. As people say "your mileage may vary", as each situation is different. As such, use the content provided here for information only. The author, Hubpages, or anyone related to this article, shall not be held liable for any injuries, damages, or death resulting from any suggestions noted in this article.


Most dogs are cute, especially the small ones. Don't let looks deceive you though. Dogs are animals with an instinct to chase after anything running.

At some point in time, you will come across people walking their dogs, stray dogs, or pass by a fenced property guarded by barking dogs.

The fenced-in barking dog is really no threat, unless the fence isn't fully enclosed. They really cannot harm you, but be alert just in case they have a hole they can pass through.

Dogs that are being walked by their master on a leash has some risk. Although most dog owners will tug at their dog to lessen the slack on the leash, you'll come across an occasional owner who thinks their pet will not chase and bite after a runner because they know their pet very well. Some even take them off their leash!

If you see a dog walker not pulling or tugging on their dog after they see you, it's time to alter course. Run far enough to one side so that if the dog's chase instinct kicks in, it will not have enough leash slack to reach you. Treat dogs not on a leash as a stray dogs in order to be safe, rather than sorry.

That said, the most dangerous dog you can come across are the stray ones. To some degree, those dogs can be considered urban wild dogs. If you see one on your side of the street, see if you can swing over to the other side to increase the distance between you and the dog. As you pass by it, keep your eye on it. If you see it start to run towards you with that predator look, ready to pounce, you can run if you are within immediate reach of a place where it cannot get to you. If not, you must stay put. Don't even think about outrunning the dog. Unless the dog is really in bad shape and you can see it having difficulty running, most dogs can easily outrun you.

If you stay put, the best thing to do is act like you are picking up a rock on the ground, and you will see that the dog will respond by stopping. If there are rocks on the ground, you might as well pick them up and hurl them towards the dog. Most dogs will run away from that.

If you encounter a dog who isn't afraid, be prepared to fight and show the dog who's the master. If you hit it hard enough, it will retreat in fear. Should the unthinkable happen and the dog actually decides to bite and hang on to you, the best thing to do if you have no weapon on you, is to grab and crush its throat. Grab the part of the throat between the jaw and the neck as it is the softest part of the throat.

If you have a stick or pocket knife, hit the dog on the nose, on the throat, or the back of the neck. Do what you can to survive. No matter what, you'll have cuts and bruises; make sure to consult your doctor for rabies shots

Watch out for vehicles!
Watch out for vehicles!


Vehicles on the road are a runner's worst enemy. One little mistake with a vehicle and one can incur serious injuries or worse, die.

Here are a few rules to help minimize the risk of getting injured by a vehicle:

  • Run on the side of the street facing traffic
  • When crossing a street, look left, right, then left again as you cross
  • When crossing a 'T' intersection, watch out for vehicles turning into or out of your street; sometimes they aren't expecting a runner.
  • Watch out for cars turning right; they are focusing on the left, so they will miss you as you come in on the right.

To minimize the risk of getting hit by a vehicle, especially the case where one is turning right from the street you are trying to cross, run around the back side of the car. This will remove the chance of getting hit whether the driver sees you are not.

In all other cases, you simply wait for the cars to pass by, and then cross. Sometimes, the vehicles will actually stop to let you through. if so, you may safely cross, but continue to be alert for other oncoming vehicles.


Although running has very positive effects on health, when you run on the streets for an extended period of time, you expose yourself to risks. These risks--due to obstacles, dogs, and vehicles--can result in bumps, scratches, broken bones, or even death.

To avoid ground obstacles, be alert and look slightly ahead of your feet occasionally. If need be, just go around the obstacle.

Dogs are the next major risk to deal with. Don't run from a dog, or they will chase you. You need be ready to fight a dog should the need arise. Having a portable weapon can come in handy. Regardless, targeting the throat is the best approach to defeating dogs.

Vehicles are the most dangerous out there for runners. When running, face towards traffic. When crossing a street make sure to check all sides. If possible cross behind a vehicle that is turning to completely remove the chance of getting hit.

Now you know the risks and what to do to reduce them. Go out, run, and have fun, but stay safe.


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    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 4 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thats one way to look at things although many of these risk factors will affect someone who takes their dog for a walk or just nips to the local shops so are not really specific to running although could affect a runner.

      I'd have liked to have seen more about the health risks of long distance running- The increased susceptibility to infections and increased theoretic risks of death post exercise than what runners know they need to look out for.

      Sadly as a runner you haven'y in my eyes bought any new information to this hub that a self conscious runner is already aware of. CF

    • forlanda profile image

      Juancho Forlanda 4 years ago from US of A

      Lisa42, I'm glad I helped confirm something for you ;-)

      Thanks for stopping by and reading.

    • lisa42 profile image

      lisa42 4 years ago from Sacramento

      Now I know why I'm not a long distance runner. ;-)

    • forlanda profile image

      Juancho Forlanda 4 years ago from US of A

      Hezekiah, if one isn't careful, the physical obstacles can do some quick damage. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • forlanda profile image

      Juancho Forlanda 4 years ago from US of A

      Matt, knee damage is certainly a risk as well. In this article, was really focusing more on the running environment. So yes, it is another way of looking at it. Perhaps my article title seems scarier that it really is. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 4 years ago from Japan

      Interesting, I would say that the physical obstacles would out weight any potential health issues from running.

    • matt_elmore profile image

      matt_elmore 4 years ago from San Diego

      Never looked at it this way. I knew that knee damage is definately something to look out for but apparently there's a lot more to consider. Thanks for the info.