Rules of the Road
As the roads clear and the weather improves (in the reality that I choose to live in) you're bound to see more people outside moving their bodies. Walking their dogs, huffing and puffing through residential streets, on bicycles and scooters and skateboards to get from A to B or just because they CAN. I'm reminded of a video I saw of a young cow (I know there's a word for that, but I don't want to say calf and confuse you... this is at least a little running-related). This youthful bovine was finally let loose in open pasture after a winter cooped up inside and... (I'm tearing up just thinking about it) you have never seen an animal more full of joy. Elated to be outside, moving her body in all directions just because she could. So when the weather does get better because I have to believe it will or I will go insane, hop off the treadmill, open the door and go out and gallop with abandon. But not too much abandon!
It is a free country but there are rules to the road, some unspoken, some writ with blood!
Before you go outside make sure your body is up to the task. If you plan on going a distance you haven't gone before or if you have any doubt about your ability to cover the distance, it's best to just do shorter loops around where you start from. Personal anecdote: for my 29th birthday I thought it would be fun to run 29 miles (on hilariously minimal training), so I ran from my home downtown in a big Fargo-metro area sized loop and made it 23 miles before my legs said "you big dummy". So I had to stop at a gas station far from home, plead one of the cashiers to lend their phone to a sweaty madman, and call my lovely girlfriend to pick me up at 7am. It's fine to test your body, but don't test your loved one's sleep schedule.
Also, if you have a bit of a bad tummy, it's always good to stay close to a toilet you trust. Or develop a mental map of all of the porta-potties in the area. I have a lot of personal anecdotes to share in this department but my boss told me she "can't put that online".
Another element of preparation that I feel gets overlooked is visibility. We live in a very automobile-oriented society. In order to exist comfortably along these behemoths in low-light conditions we need to be seen, so make sure you are wearing some high visibility outer layer or even a few small lights, they make a world of difference. You don't have to look like a disco ball, but your piercing blue eyes probably won't cut it.
If you're scoffing at this advice because you usually run after work in the daylight, scoff not! The setting sun can obstruct vision pretty intensely in treeless suburbia. So make damn sure the drivers around you know you exist, especially at sketchy intersections. Give them a wave, look them in the eyeballs, and make them recognize your humanity. Be a responsible pedestrian and you will be rewarded!
Another great way to keep yourself safe that may seem counter-intuitive: if running in the street, run AGAINST traffic. If you have access to a well-maintained sidewalk, by all means use it, but if running in The Place Where The Cars Hunt, make sure there's no way one can sneak up behind you. Keep them in front of you, respect them, and be seen.
One last element of preparation that I wish I knew much, much sooner in my life is... LUBRICATION. Running is a high friction activity, your armpits, nipples, and inner thighs can get torn up pretty easily but, dear reader, there is hope. Just a miniscule amount of Sport Shield or Body Glide or strategically placed adhesive bandage can keep your beautiful body moving freely. It's nothing to be embarrassed about in the least. Personal anecdote: I have SO many chafing scars. Publishers these days are too scared to publish my children's book called "Everybody Needs Lube" but I'll get some bites eventually and fully indoctrinate every youth in America with The Truth.
Stay Healthy and Say Hi
Good things,-Caleb at Beyond Running