Yes, it’s that time of the year when running in the dark seems to happen, whether you are running early in the morning or later in the evening. And with the demands of family life, running times are limited to early mornings before work or late after sunset, so that basically means most of my running happens at night during the winter.
But for some, this means spending more time on the treadmill and an end to running outside, but you don’t have to. By making just a few personal safety adjustments, you can continue running your regular neighborhoods or trails, even in the dark.
Run where you know
It’s important when running at night to stick to well-lit and familiar areas. Try to run on routes that you know well. Exploring unfamiliar terrain in the dark is a good way to get injured. Uneven sidewalks, small potholes, sticks and stones, and cracks in the pavement can cause twisted ankles or embarrassing falls. Don’t risk serious injury that can set back your winter running.
Stay light on your feet
Even if you run in familiar areas, you’re bound to step on something unexpectedly. The other day, when I was out running at night, it had been raining previously for several days, but the roads were fairly dry. I had been running on dry asphalt and had forgotten about the soggy ground. As I rounded a curve, I ended up stepping into a huge puddle of mud. Fortunately, I was running with my older running shoes, so I wasn’t as pissed. I moved back onto the pathway and kept my pace. When running after dark, remember to keep your weight on the balls of your feet and be prepared to react to unexpected foot strikes.
Don’t sweat the pace
As you run, pay extra attention to the ground in front of you and less to your tempo. It’s easier react to surprises when your pace is a little slower. It’s more important for you to complete your workout without injury than it is to keep the same pace you keep in the daylight. Slow down on the darker stretches of road and save your speed work for the well-lit areas.
Safety is top priority
Your personal safety should always be a concern during nighttime running sessions because you can’t always see people hidden in dark areas. Let someone know where you will be running and what time you expect to return. If possible, run with a buddy or with man’s best friend.
Stay Street smart
When I run near the street, I like to run against traffic so I can watch the traffic approaching, rather than allow them to come from behind. You don’t stand a chance if a drunk or distracted driver veers off the road in your direction from behind you.
Be visible to them
Runners are very difficult for drivers to see. You may have adjusted to the dark, but a driver may be distracted by the glare of oncoming lights. A driver may not be looking into the area in front of them that is illuminated by their headlights. This light prevents drivers from developing good night vision, so things on the side of the road, including you, appear extra dark and difficult to see. Your best bet for safety is to wear bright clothing and some reflective gear. Here is some of my recommended night gear.
Reflective Vest: Most vests are lightweight and fit over any top to provide high visibility. The zipper or combination zipper and velcro straps can be easily adjusted for most sizes.
Headlamp: I was given a headlight as a gift and found it to be a really handy item. It was powerful enough to cut through the darkness, allowing me keep my pace and still see the path. You can clip the newer lightweight models to your hat or visor and will hardly notice it’s there.
Flashing Light: These lightweight lights are a bright and effective way to make your presence known. Wear the red flashing lights on your back and the white/clear ones on the front of your body. This will help drivers and fellow runners know the direction you are travelling long before they can actually see you. They make you feel safer when you are pounding the asphalt in the dark.
Have a happy and safe winter workout. If you have winter running tips, please share them with us in the comments section.