Sometimes the dark can feel gloomy and oppressive. Yet often, there is a stillness and clarity during night time or twilight hours, which calls us to get out and run.
Running in the dark brings with it a unique sense of adventure and exhilaration. Sounds, smells and even touch can become amplified as you bound over the ground in the dark.
With darkness in the months of November until February across the UK (late October to late March in Scotland), if you work full time and are juggling a career, family life and a social commitments too, then you will have no choice but to run in the dark, to keep up a consistent level of training. We say EMBRACE IT, as the reward for persuading yourself to go out in the dark is even greater. And running in darkness can be as safe and as comfortable as running in daylight!
Here are our top tips for staying safe when running in the dark:
1. Stay alert
Stay alert and use all your senses. If you run with music, either ditch your headphones and turn off your tunes altogether, or opt for open ear headphones, which keep your ears completely free to hear ambient sounds for improved situational awareness. (Check out our Aftershokz headphones range.) If you’re running in a busy area, be aware of pedestrians and traffic. Always run against the flow of traffic, so you can see vehicles coming towards you.
2. Be route wise
Be smart about your route choice. Ease yourself into night running gently with some easy well-lit runs before progressing to darker, more remote routes. Don’t try new routes for the first time in the dark. If you have a new route in mind, recce it in the daylight before running it after dark.
When recceing a new route, try to spot lamp posts or any sources of light at your disposal during the run. So you know what to expect from the route come nightfall. If the route takes in darker streets, roads or trails, prepare accordingly. Ensure you have a head torch to light the way and reflective clothing to make yourself seen.
3. Be seen
An obvious hazard for night running is the risk of not being seen. Make sure you wear the right gear so people can spot you. If you’re running near traffic it’s essential you are highly visible. There is some fantastic running kit available to keep you safe.
Every year, before the winter season starts, new clothing ranges from popular brands including Adidas, Nike and Ronhill land in our stores and most of them will focus on reflectivity. With a wide range of reflective shorts, tights, short sleeve and long sleeve tops, and jackets available, you’re sure to find the perfect piece of clothing to match your needs!
Brightly coloured jackets enhanced with reflective strips and details will improve your chance of being seen as well as protecting you from tougher weather. Some running jackets will provide 360 degree reflectivity, while others will only have a few strips. To help you choose the right reflective jacket you also need to consider if you need a water resistant or a waterproof one.
Reflective Shorts or Tights
It may still be warm enough in October/November to wear shorts and that’s more than acceptable. Even if the focus is generally on tights during winter time, many brands including Ronhill will design reflective shorts for this very reason.
Reflective tights will feature shiny panels around calves and/or quads to light up your runs! Running through winter requires warmer clothes, so you may want to go with a thermal tight.
Your extremities (hands, feet, head and ears) can suffer with colder weather so it’s important to keep them covered and warm! You can kill two birds with one stone by going for reflective hats, gloves and headbands; not only will they keep you warm, but they will also keep you visible thanks to their reflective patterns. This is another great way to improve your chances of being seen in dark, wintry conditions.
There’s no need to go overboard and transform yourself into a running Christmas tree! But you can add lights to various parts of your body for added visibility. Light clips are a great option to consider if you want a small, sturdy and ultra-bright light source to attach to your clothes or backpack.
It’s very important that you can see the terrain you are running over. Even if you’re running in a built-up area with street lights, you’ll encounter patches of total darkness, so often it’s safer to pack a head torch.
If you venture off road onto remote trails or rough tracks, a good head torch is essential. Head torch technology has improved dramatically over recent years with torches becoming lightweight, brighter and significantly less expensive.
For instance, Petzl offer models featuring ‘Reactive’ lighting technology, meaning they automatically adjust the light intensity to the needs of the user. For example, dimming the beam after your eyes have adjusted to a certain light level. Clever right?
If you’re unsure about running alone in the dark, make it a sociable run and encourage friends and club mates out.
If you’re more the ‘lone wolf’ type of runner, tell a family member, friend or flatmate where you plan to run and for roughly how long.
Garmin running watches have a ‘LiveTrack’ feature which lets your friends and family track your activities in real time using LiveTrack on Garmin Connect App. Knowing that you’re being monitored by loved ones can give you extra peace of mind and confidence on runs during the winter months.
6. Carry your mobile phone
Always carry your mobile phone and ID just in case of any problems. For the peace of mind, it’s well worth a little bit of extra weight.
With a little bit of planning and the right kit, there’s nothing to stop you getting out and enjoying the darkness. Remember to stay alert, stay visible and have fun!