With the end of daylight savings time and the arrival of winter come darker mornings and evenings, cutting short our time to run outside in the daylight. Unless you’re able to rearrange your schedule for optimal daylight running, chances are you’ll spend a few miles running in the dark during the next few months, so allow me to review some safety guidelines for running in the dark.
Print your planned route and leave it on your refrigerator. In case your loved ones have to send a search party for you or come pick you up because you sprained your ankle in a pothole, you want them to know where to start looking, right? Google Maps and training sites like LogYourRun.com allow you to map, save, and print your routes. And make sure you stick to routes you know well or have run during the day; running a virgin route in the dark can be dangerous and scary.
Take your phone. This was the first rule my husband made for me when I started running in the dark, and as much as hated the extra weight in my pockets, I eventually got used to it and now rarely run without it. If for some reason I can’t finish my run or I stumble across the proverbial dead body (as runners always seem to do in the movies and on TV), I have a means to contact my hubby or the authorities.
Wear reflective clothing. This was the second rule my husband made for me. In fact, he bought me a light-weight vest to wear over my running clothes for Christmas last year, and I supplemented my wardrobe with a pair of reflective gloves and a reflective ear warmer. Let’s face it: Drivers can be stupid and don’t always expect to see runners on the road when it’s dark. Always run against the traffic and assume an oncoming car has a driver that doesn’t see you.
Carry an ID. A good idea for any outdoor activity, especially if you have a medical condition, but when you find the proverbial dead body and call the authorities, you’ll want to provide your ID so they can rule you out as a suspect.
Notice everything. Learn the patterns of the people of your neighborhood. Which houses have dogs? Who normally parks in the street? Who normally has their lights on when you run past? Maybe I watch too much CSI, but you need to know what’s normal so you will know when something isn’t normal. Be friendly to dog walkers and neighbors. Leave an impression with these people. If you run with headphones, keep the volume low and be aware of what’s going on around you. And know your exits; if you need to high tail it somewhere, take off between houses, but be sure you know where the fences are.
Wear a headlamp for dark roads or stick to well-lit areas. Even though you’ve chosen to run in the dark, you still need to see the road. Heaven forbid you would twist your foot in a hole or, even worse, plant your foot in the middle of a dead raccoon!
Get a watch with Indiglo. My watch’s Indiglo stopped working about a year ago, and now every time I want to check my time, I have to get under a street lamp. What a hassle! Just bite the bullet and buy a decent watch.
Run during peak sprinkler time. This is more of a summer tip, but the sprinklers in my neighborhood all come on between 9 and 10 o’clock, and I run fartleks to catch up with and run through the sprinklers. It’s like being 7 again!
I’ve been running at night for a while, and this is what I’ve learned over the miles. I’m eager to read what others do to stay safe when running in the dark. Tomorrow I’ll have a review of running-in-the-dark gear. Happy (dark) running!
“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day. ” — Vincent Van Gogh