Like many others out there, I’m a keen runner and walker. And I like nothing more than pulling on my trainers and heading out for a gentle trot by the coast. But while this does wonders for my cardiovascular health and for my general mood, it can be a risky activity.
According to the Royal Life Saving Society, between 2012 and 2016, 300 people across the UK lost their lives to drowning whilst running or walking by the water – that’s an average of 60 lives lost per year.
Indeed, I had my own minor brush with potential calamity a couple of years ago, when I was running along the South West Coast Path near Falmouth in Cornwall.
I was negotiating a particularly steep bit of path, when a Coastguard helicopter flew overhead. I stopped briefly to watch it, when suddenly the path beneath my feet gave way and I found myself flat on my face and sliding towards the significant drop towards the rocks below.
Thankfully, I didn’t slide very far and was able to scramble back up to the path. But I was a little shaken and bleeding somewhat from a fairly sizeable gash on my leg. I was able to clean myself up, though, and continued on my run – though at a slower pace and paying a lot more attention to my surroundings.
Because I tend to go running either on my own or with my dog, and because I usually run off-road (and frequently in quite remote locations), I always take a number of precautions. And I would urge anyone else who runs or walks either by the water or anywhere remote to do the same.
- Always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. Also, be very clear with them what they should do if you are not back by your cut-off time. For me, I ask them to dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard (if I’m running near the coast), Mountain Rescue (if I’m running in a remote area – though note that you have to ask for the Police and then Mountain Rescue), or the Police (for anywhere else).
- Take a basic first aid kit – and know how to use it. Think about the sort of injuries that you could sustain and make sure you’re able to deal with them. Whenever I go running, I carry a small pouch with a couple of wound dressings, a compression bandage, some tape, a load of plasters and an emergency blanket. And I take a more comprehensive kit if I’m going on a longer or more remote trek.
- Have a means of calling for help in an emergency. For the RNLI, the Coastguard, Mountain Rescue or anyone else to be able to help you, they need to know two things. Firstly, they need to know that you are in trouble. And secondly, they need to know where you are. I always carry a whistle, a torch and a mobile phone (in a waterproof case). And if I’m going anywhere remote, I also take a personal locator beacon (PLB).
- Pay close attention to your surroundings. The best way to stay safe is to not get into trouble in the first place. So if you are running or walking by the coast, for example, stay off rocks and stay clear from the edges of cliffs. And be aware of tide times. If I’m out alone, I take great care to avoid putting myself into a situation where I could slip, trip, fall or get cut off by the tide. And if I’m running with my dog, I make sure that she’s under close control, too.
The Royal Life Saving Society is running a UK Runners and Walkers awareness campaign from 1st to 7th January, warning the public to be extra careful around water. This is because runners and walkers have the highest incidence of accidental drowning. You can find out more online.