Living in Phoenix is seems I am always running in the dark. In the winter months an evening run is typically in the dusk. And with summer low temperatures hovering around 90, a 4am run is the norm to beat the sun. Some of my most memorable runs have been in the quiet of the early morning before any of the sane people have woken. Though I usually pass another runner or two. There is something magical about running in the dark. But despite this calm tranquility of a late night run, there is also high level of danger and risk if you are not careful.
The following are ten of the best tips I have learned over the years for running in dark. Some have been sage advice from a friend but most have been from trial and lots of error. Lots of error.
1. Ditch the dark clothes
Black is trendy. Black is sliming. But black is not the color to wear on a night run. This is a hard one for me since almost all of my tech shirts are some shade of blue or black. Even with the reflective qualities built into today’s running clothes, this isn’t enough to be seen by a driver that at worst odds are is texting and at best is simply just not looking for a runner in the dark. Ironically the reflective strips in your clothes are more visible in darker conditions so if you run in areas with street lights (see tip #4) you less likely to be seen by cars zipping by. So when the sun goes down (or hasn’t yet risen) throw on your white shirts. If you are bold or sassy, wear orange or yellow. Heck sport the lime green race shirt you got at that summer 5k.
2. Have the right gear
There is plenty of running gear out there that will make you glow. Maybe not visible from space bright, but certainly bright enough even for distracted drivers to take notice. One of the basic essentials for running in the dark is the headlamp. This is great to be visible to oncoming traffic as well as see the road better. Read Runner’s World recent review of a variety of headlamps. Another must is a reflective running vest. These are great since they alert drivers both in front and behind you. One of the best on the market is the Nathan Streak Reflective Vest. It is comfortable, offering a full-range of motion, lightweight and most importantly offers 360-degree reflectivity. Also popular are LED shoe clip-on lights, clip-on lamps and reflective wrist and ankle bands. Whatever your preference (don’t be afraid to use multiple options) the key is to make sure you use them each and every time you run.
3. Be cautious with your social media posts
Part of belonging the running community is sharing your running adventures on social media. While social media is great to build relationships with fellow runners, and there is a debate if a run counts if you don’t post it on Facebook, Instagram or Strava, but there is also a risk. Be careful when posting your routes as creepy people can learn will you will be and can show up unexpectedly. If you run a cool route that is not the one around your neighborhood, by all means, post it. But if you always run the same route that starts at your house, it is best to not share that publicly. So share and inspire, but be smart!
4. Run with your cell phone.
Sure many of us enjoy our runs as a way to decompress and get away from our busy lives. The last thing we want is for our co-worker or a relative to call with some crisis or just idle chit-chat about your nephew’s art project. However, it is critical you have your phone with you in the case of an emergency. This can be anything from twisting an ankle to getting lost to a creepster following you. Trust me it is a lot better to have a cell phone with you that looking for one than trying to find a pay phone in 2019.
5. Grab a buddy or join a group
There is a reason that animals in the wild travel in packs. There is safety in numbers. A group not only makes you less vulnerable than running along, it also proves extra eyes and ears. Plus we all know that in addition to the safety factor, we all know that running with others increases our motivation and commitment. Plus running is simply a fun social event for many of us.
6. Lose the headphones
I admit I usually run listening to music or podcasts. There is always a risk of reducing your ability to hear the noises around you, but in the dark it is critical for your safety to leave the headphones at home. Due to the darkness your vision is already impaired, don’t let your self be more impaired by reducing your hearing. When you run in the dark it is important to have a keen awareness of your surroundings so lose the headphones and listen to the sounds of your run.
7. Make sure you have ID
Before you head out the door, make sure you have some ID with you. whether it is your driver license tucked in your FlipBelt or better yet, get a RoadId. Hopefully you will never need it, but you don’t want to end up as a John or Jane Doe. Don’t think that your phone is a substitute for carrying ID. If there is an accident or an encounter with a nefarious character could result in a broken or stolen phone. So grab the ID!
8. Carry some protection
While I am by no means suggesting you pack heat and run with a gun, there are several defensive tools you can carry for your safety when running in the dark. Running with pepper spray is probably the best ways to protect yourself. Canisters specifically designed for runners have a hand strap with rang of up to 25 feet are easy to run with and offer heaps of protection.
9. Trust your gut
All of the previous tip are great but the most important is to trust your gut. Be aware of your surroundings and if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If you get that little feeling of doubt or uncertainty, listen to it. The little voice in your head advises running down a street, change your rout. Your hair stands up on the back of your neck when you see a figure approaching, run to the other side of the street.
Running in the quiet of the night is often a fantastic experience. While it may seem like I am being overly cautious, following these 9 easy tips, especially #9, will keep you running safe and sound after the sun goes down. So go lace up your adidas and head out the door for that pre-dawn run.