Whether you're an early morning runner or you hit the pavement after work, this time of year can play havoc on your running routine as the light hours diminish and the long, dark days of winter set in. Although running in the dark is a challenge, it is not impossible. It all starts with a bright idea and a solid game plan.
Be seen. It's important to remember that just because you can see a car doesn't mean its driver can see you. Being seen is the first step to running in the dark safely. Wear light colored, high-visibility clothing with 360 degrees of retroreflective properties such as the Brooks Nightlife apparel line, the Nathan Safety Reflective Vest or any 3M products. These clothing items reflect light back to its source (car headlight) with minimal scattering, allowing you to be seen more visibly in dark or lowlight conditions. Wear a brimmed hat to shield your eyes from the oncoming lights.
Be smart. You may outwit the traffic only to get caught up in a pothole while running down a dark street. It pays to do your homework and create a few "dark" loop courses in your neighborhood. Run them by day to evaluate the conditions of the roads and seek out routes that offer wide roads for plenty of room to run, street lamps to light your way and sidewalks. Make mental notes on where potholes and other obstacles are located. Run shorter loops on harsh weather days when visibility is poor and footing is risky. Light your path with a hand held light or headlamp. Doing so will allow you to run more relaxed and with better quality.
Be aware. Run with a buddy or in groups when possible. There is safety in numbers and cars will more easily see a group of reflective runners. Always run against traffic and avoid busy roads with narrow streets and no sidewalks. Vary your routes, wear an ID, and bring a cell phone in case of emergency. Leave a note at home with the route you are taking or consider using a free phone application such as Glypmse which allows your family and friends to track where you are on the run. Avoid listening to music when running alone and be in tune with your surroundings, especially when running alone. Use the weather card in extreme weather conditions and hit the treadmill. You'll get in a better quality workout and be back on the roads safely when the weather subsides.
With these tips, you can enjoy a safe run--and peace of mind--the next time you run in the dark.
Coach Jenny Hadfield is the co-author of the best-selling Marathoning for Mortals, and the new Running for Mortals and Training for Mortals series. Coach Jenny has trained thousands of runners and walkers with her training plans. Improve your running performance or train for your next event with Coach Jenny's Active Trainer Plans.