How to Handle a Running Emergency

Ashley Lauretta
by Ashley Lauretta
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How to Handle a Running Emergency

Hopefully, you’ve been lucky enough to never experience a true emergency on a run (and hopefully you never will). However, it is best to be prepared for anything. Whether you witness another runner collapse during a race or you find yourself in need of medical care out on a long run, there are a few things you should know — and have with you — to properly handle the situation. We talked to an expert to find out exactly what you should have on hand and the step-by-step process of handling a true medical emergency.


There are rules of running etiquette that are actually for the safety of everyone on the road (runners, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists included). This ranges from the side of the road you run on (against traffic) to not wearing headphones (or keeping one earbud out). The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) outlines additional safety information for runners, including what they recommend runners always have on hand in case of emergency.

“Carry identification or write your name, phone number and blood type on the inside sole of your running shoe. Include any medical information,” states the RRCA. “Carry a cell phone or change for a phone call. Know the locations of public phones along your regular route.”

These two items are the essentials Jennipher Wilson, EMT and president of Vital Education and Supply, Inc., also recommends. She emphasizes that a cell phone is your link for help; if you don’t like to carry anything in your hands (she doesn’t) you can get a small waist pouch. No matter how you carry it, you should carry it.

Your cell phone can be used for more than a call for help. It can actually provide a live feed for your friends and family as to where you are. While it is recommended to always tell someone when and where you plan to run, thanks to running apps and GPS technology, you can actually give them a live look at your location. For example, MapMyRun MVP users have access to the Live Tracking feature, which gives your chosen community access to your location in real time as you run. Not only is this great for safety purposes, but you can also use it during races so your cheer squad can track you on course.

If you’re looking for added protection, getting a safety vest, apparel with reflective accents and/or blinking lights or a flashlight, can help increase your visibility in the hours without complete sunlight — or during inclement weather — so you have an extra layer of safety.


One safety skill for everyone to have — runner or not — is to know CPR. This could, of course, help save someone’s life. Wilson notes that this is especially important if you race or run in large groups; your knowledge of CPR could be vital as you wait for emergency personnel to arrive.

“Most people believe that medical assistance is always quick to respond — 2 minutes or less,” Wilson explains. “Statistically, ambulance response time is 7–12 minutes. Factors can add to the response time, such as motor and pedestrian traffic caused by a well-attended race/event. Response can also be delayed if you have chosen a remote running spot.”


Having the tools to not only help yourself, but another runner in need, can make all the difference on the run. If you don’t run in a group or choose to run solo, the use of live tracking is an added layer to keep you safe and help reassure your loved ones. Wilson advises against running solo — for safety reasons — but if that is the only way you can run, you should do so as safely as possible.

“At the risk of sounding paranoid, I think everyone who participates in a sport or activity alone [is leaving] themselves vulnerable to unwanted attention or even an attack,” concludes Wilson. “If you can’t run with a buddy, change your route periodically, have your cell phone with you and, if possible, an emergency alert system to wear on your wrist. You might consider a self-defense class, but at the very least, be aware of your surroundings.”

About the Author

Ashley Lauretta
Ashley Lauretta

Ashley is a journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is the assistant editor at LAVA and her work appears in The Atlantic, ELLE, GOOD Sports, espnW, VICE Sports, Health, Men’s Journal, Women’s Running and more. Find her on Twitter at @ashley_lauretta.


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