The Dangers of Trail Running: Safety Tips

Microsoft clipart trail running

Last week, one of our awesome rockin customers, Dave, wrote us about his friend who got bitten by a rattlesnake while running. (His tale won him a shirt and you can read about it in our equally awesomely rockin’ newsletter which is here).

Which brought to mind a very interesting topic: the dangers of trail running.

Now, trail running is awesome. You are one with nature, you have to engage different muscles and your core to provide agility and balance, and running on the dirt minimizes the impact on your body while you run. It is much better for you than road running or running on pavement or asphalt. Not to mention, it’s quiet, you’re away from traffic and you are among beauty and fresh air.

Of course, while you’re becoming one with nature by running in it, there is also a chance you could come in direct contact with parts of nature that may perhaps want to eat you or attack you for whatever reason. And this is where our special trail running to-do list can be especially helpful.

What to do when you come face to face with:

Coyotes: Use a loud and authoritative voice and scare it away with rocks and sticks. Most of the time, it will just flee.

Alligators: This one’s for trail runners in Florida mostly because in Florida, there is very likely at least one alligator in every body of water. So trail runners should always be aware of their surroundings and be aware that something could be hiding under thick brush. If you come face to face with an alligator, Wikipedia says, “Run!” (And since you’re running already, you’ll probably already be warmed up!) Alligators tire out quickly so you can probably (hopefully) outrun it. Don’t do that whole zig-zag thing that we’ve all heard about because running in a straight line can actually put more distance in between you and them (and their teeth.)

If you have the unfortunate experience of not getting away, FIGHT BACK. Its vulnerable spots are their eyes and nose, so poke away! They also have this little valve at the back of their throat that keeps the water from getting in, so if your arm is stuck in there (hopefully it is not), find it there behind it’s tongue and push it. It’ll probably release you. Then run! And take your arm with you!

Bears: Bears are a little more tricky. Do NOT run. Instead, stop, try to make yourself as large as possible and stand your ground.

From WikiHow:

“Speak softly. If the bear continues to approach as you back away, stop and stand your ground. Speak more loudly in a deep, calm voice, and wave you arms to make yourself look bigger. Keep an eye on the bear, but avoid direct eye contact, this can be interpreted as a challenge by the bear.”

There is actually something called “Bear Pepper Spray” so that might be something good to carry with you if you’re worried.

Of course, knowing *why* the bear is coming after you can help too. If it is hungry, you should fight back by throwing stuff at it. If it’s protecting itself, then this is the only situation in which playing dead by lying face down on the ground and protecting your man and girlie parts with the ground and putting your hands behind your neck might help. In any of these scenarios, however, WikiHow seems adamant about not running away and squealing because that will probably not help you no matter what.

Mountain Lions: Like a bear, make yourself as big as possible and (try to) stay calm. Speak softly but authoritatively and do not run. It will probably run without confrontation, but if it doesn’t and it gets you, FIGHT! Poke its eyes, hit it with rocks and sticks and DO NOT pretend you are dead. You can use that bear pepper spray on mountain lions too by the way.

Snakes: Do not panic. Stop and go around it with at least a body length (hopefully more). It won’t chase you so just go away from it. If you need to, grab a (really) long stick and move it. But really just try to go around it. If you surprise it and it gets you, you can remember you saw this post, call 911, then pull this website up on your phone (you are carrying your phone with you on your runs, right?) which is: What to do if you get bitten by a snake.

People: This one personally bothers me the most since I know plenty of people (me) who have been flashed and followed by scary people while running. And actually, I haven’t seen any of those other things on my runs but I have seen crazy people. (There are plenty of other dangers out there, why do we have to consider running from people?!) As you can see, this makes me bitter. Anyway, here are some tips to avoid the crazies out on the trail:
-Run with a buddy
-Do not discuss your itinerary with strangers along the trail & claim to be in part of a larger group.
-Do not respond to taunts or provocation.
-If they try to get you, use that bear pepper spray. It’s multi-functional.

And last but not least:
Zombies: We have to have all our bases covered here. It is almost Halloween so you never know and besides, there is a Zombie Survival Guide and the Centers for Disease Control acknowledged it. Let’s face it, the chances of being confronted by a Zombie out on a trail are pretty slim (unless you’re running by cemetaries maybe). They like to hang out in populated places like malls (lots of brains to feast on there) so if you’re trail running in a mall and run into a zombie, then just run back to the trail and then keep running. They walk really really slowly, so as long as you keep running, you’ll be ok.

What are YOUR crazy run stories? Do you have any run-ins with the above?

(If you leave your tale in the comments and if it shows up in our newsletter you’ll win a shirt!)

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Other sources: Runner’s World,,

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