Running in the dark can be exciting and thrilling but can also come with some potential precarious feelings and heightened vulnerability. With the winter upon us, days are shorter and it’s not always possible to run in daylight hours. Some races take place around the clock and we may need to practice running in the dark to acclimatise our bodies and performance. Whether you’re road or trail running, please don’t blow caution to the wind if you’re running in the dark, especially if you’re going it alone.
Here’s some healthy habits to make sure you run well, and more importantly, safely at night.
Keep Your Wits About You
It’s easy to get carried away on any run and find yourself in the zone. Try and stay alert if you can when running in the dark. You need to pay attention to your surroundings and all the sensory information that’s coming your way. If you’re running on the trails, you need to keep you eyes on where you’re going, about 3 or 4 steps ahead to prevent trips and falls. Even though you may be tempted to plug yourself in and listen to something, I would rethink this. When running in the dark, you need to be able to hear what’s going on around you.
Be Visible In The Dark
This is common sense. If you think running in the dark is going to be a regular thing for you, I’d suggest investing in a light. Lots of runners like a headtorch, and there’s plenty out there to choose from. I’ve a Kalenji chest light. It’s ridiculously bright and boasts a light on the front and back. I use it on trail and road, and it certainly makes me feel more confident when running in the dark.
I’d steer clear too of wearing your darkest running gear too. Keep it as light and reflective as possible. I’d suggest this even if you’re running in a built up area with street lights. It doesn’t matter where you are, you need to channel your inner glow worm!
Know Your Route
I’ve learnt the hard way here. With darkness rapidly approaching, I got lost on the Cornish coast path a few years ago near the Helford passage. I ran for longer than planned on an unfamiliar route, and ended up getting very lost. My phone was dying and I had no idea how to get to the road. I was lost. After almost an hour of back and forth I was bricking it, and was having visions of an al fresco nights sleep in the woods. Not great.
If you can, stick to a route you know well. You’ll be familiar with where you’re going and the terrain. I think this applies more so if you’re heading out on the trails. At least if you’re running on the road, you’re less likely to get lost with road signs to help you and a greater possibility of other people being around. If you’re wanting to explore somewhere less familiar, have at least one recce in daylight beforehand.
Let someone know your running route and how long you’re expecting to be. I always take my fully charged phone with me when I’m running, even if I’m not planning on listening to music. Aside from taking important running selfies, you may need to contact someone. Phone signal in remote areas is much better than it used to be, and you never know when you made need to make a call.
Night Time Running Gear
While no one wants to be laden down with everything bar the kitchen sink when running in the dark, there are some items that are sensible to have on you. Again, especially when trail running, I take some money, maybe £5 or £10 and my phone. I also take an extra layer, whether it’s a long sleeve top or jacket. Temperatures drop at night, and if you sustain an injury and it takes you longer to get home, you’ll need to keep warm. Some people take a personal alarm or a pepper spray. The advice is to take what you need to feel safe while you run.
I like the peace and tranquility that comes with night time running. If you go, do make sure you have everything with you to keep you safe. Are you a fan of running in the dark, or is it something you avoid?