Are You Afraid of the Dark? : Tips for running (safely) in the dark.
Updated: Oct 21, 2021
Yes, it’s true, the daylight
hours are getting shorter each day. But is that an excuse to not get your running in? No, absolutely not, progress doesn’t happen only during hours when the sun is up, so I don’t care if it’s dark and cold, go lace up and get out for your training run.
Before you go here are some tips on how to run safely and effectively even in the dark.
Running at night is a unique and awesome experience. Whether you are running first thing in the morning before the sun comes up, running after work when the sun has already set or running through the night training for an ultra-marathon, you can have an incredible time and make it a very valuable training experience as long as you take a few key safety precautions beforehand.
- So you don’t get hit -
The first step in getting ready for a run in the dark is to “Get Lit” There is no amount of light that is too much. You should strive to look like a roving single person rave plodding along down the path. If you wonder, do I have enough reflectors, blinky light up stuff, or a bright enough headlamp… the answer is always no, put on more.
A good way to test this out is to go into a dark room in your house and turn on all of your reflectors and lights.
Headlamp - The headlamp is for YOU to see where you are going, it is helpful for others and vehicles to see you, but its primary purpose is for you to see where you are running. A quality headlamp is critical to running in the dark. You want something that is light, comfortable, and most importantly bright!
There are other options, knuckle lights, toe lights, chest lights that will aid in lighting your path, however, the headlamp follows your eyes. Where you look, the light follows which means you are rarely staring into the darkness and you can always see where you are going.
Reflective and LIGHT UP Vest - A running vest with reflectors and built-in lighting is critical for visibility. The vest and reflectors are there for OTHERS and vehicles to see you. You want BOTH Light up and reflection on your vest, not just one. A vest that has only lights does not draw additional attention when a vehicle light hit it, additionally, should your batteries die or a malfunction happens you have a backup visibility tool. The vest is the piece of gear you want to border on being obnoxious. I would much rather someone be annoyed by all my blinking and flashing than to not see me.
Gear I use:
-My go-to headlamp for training runs is this Petzel Actik headlamp
-For longer runs and overnight runs where batteries may die I turn to the ultrabright and long-lasting Black Diamond ICON
-There are lots of great and cheap vest options on the market. This LED/ Reflective vest is the one I have been using recently.
- but if you must, FOLLOW THE RULES! -
Whenever possible avoid roads, especially when running at night. Vehicles and vehicle traffic are the biggest concern with running at night, and it is the primary reason we make ourselves so visible. If you can avoid the roads and move to sidewalks or other non-motorized vehicle footpaths, that will only increase your safety.
If you must run on roads, it is absolutely vital that you follow the golden rule of road running and run AGAINST Traffic. In the US this means running on the left side of a two-way road. Running against traffic gives you a chance to respond and react to an immediate vehicle threat by diving into the bushes, over the guardrail, or behind a parked car; it at least gives you an opportunity to protect yourself.
But again, your first choice should always be non-roadway running.
DON’T RUN ALONE
- Populated areas or groups-
There is safety in numbers. Running is an often solitary activity, many of us choose to run for the solitude, but running at night should be done in populated areas or with groups to avoid any unwanted interactions.
Being in a group or running down a more populated and active sidewalk will help to keep you safe while running at night.
- Leave your headphones at home -
Whether you are running in the woods through the night for an ultra-marathon or in the city before dinner you should not run at night with music. Having full awareness of your surroundings and being able to hear what is happening around you can be critical for your safety be it from wildlife, vehicles, or unwanted interactions, just leave the music behind for these runs!
Honestly, running in the dark is one of my single favorite activities. There is something incredible about being alone in the quiet dark and your perspective being narrowed to only what is visible in your headlamp beam. It is an incredible feeling of focus and effort. But it MUST BE DONE SAFELY. There are certain risks associated with running in the dark for all, and unfortunately more risks for the female runners among you, but if you take the proper precautions you can still get an effective and SAFE training session in while the moon is up!.