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Should You Always Run With Traffic?

BY Hal Higdon

On most occasions, we need to run facing traffic, but there are a few occasions when we should cross over.

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I understand that runners should run against traffic for safety reasons, but should you still do so going up hills? I was on an uphill the other day and did not see a speeding ambulance until it was nearly on top of me.


It depends a lot on the hill: mostly how much you can see beyond the top of the hill when you are heading up from the bottom. Yes, you are right—or correct. For safety reasons, runners should run on the left side of the hill (in the US), on the right side of the hill (in the UK and other left-side-traffic countries). For certain hills, I do switch over. There’s a short but steep hill on a narrow and winding street in my home town, where you cannot see over the top to know what’s coming. At least not until the last second. They can’t see you, and you can’t see them. I always switch going up that hill, but I make the switch well in advance, looking cautiously over my shoulder to make sure no cars are coming up from behind. I am very safety conscious when it comes to sharing the road with drivers of massive metal machines. You should be too.

It’s a judgment call, common sense prevailing. Not all runners realize it, but they may be breaking the law if they run with traffic. In our small town, by law, pedestrians must walk or run against traffic. On the other hand cyclists, ride with traffic. I’m not quite sure how the law treats Baby Joggers, since a number of runners run pushing their young children. My gut feeling tells me that that Baby Joggers should join the cyclists on the right (correct) side of the road. As a safety precaution, these mothers/fathers certainly should wear very bright clothing and possibly attach a high flag to the Baby Jogger to alert drivers.

In some cases, runners should follow local custom. On most off-road paths, paved or unpaved, runners usually claim the right and hope cyclists coming down the middle don’t hit them. In Bermuda, everybody runs on that island country’s narrow and winding roads with traffic, but the speed limit in Bermuda is 25 mph, and the drivers are used to dealing with runners.

In summary, on most occasions, we need to run facing traffic, but there are a few occasions when we should cross over. I caution everybody to stay safe on the road.

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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.