Running in the dark

Running in the Dark

The arrival of winter, especially once the clocks go back on the last Sunday in October, can be bad news for runners. The rigorous training regime you established during the summer becomes a distant memory as the cold, wet weather dampens your enthusiasm as well as your feet. Running in the dark is a necessity if you work from dawn till dusk or you’re training for a night-time race.

Along this theme, one of my friends asked me today:

‘I’m not keen on running outdoors by myself in the dark.  How do you stay safe running in the winter?’

My answer: ‘You just run fast…and look mean.’ 😉

Only kidding.  Here are my top 10 tips for running in Winter:

1. Run on well lit main streets, and in neighbourhoods you know. 

Always face the on-coming traffic when you’re running on a road with no pavement. The only exception to this rule should be when you’re approaching a blind corner, when you should cross to the opposite side of the road then cross back again as soon as it’s safe. This applies at any time of day but especially at night when drivers may not expect to see a pedestrian.
Try this Wearing a head torch will ensure drivers see you long before they reach you, as well as helping you to pick out the safest route if the ground is uneven.

2. Wear bright clothing, reflective snap ons and you could carry a torch / wear a head torch.
Wearing bright fluorescent colours is a great idea during the day but at night white apparel with reflective panels shows up better in motorists’ headlights. Winter kit often features reflective areas, and many running shoes come with reflective panels on the heels, but you can also customise any kit that you already have with adhesive strips and shapes.
Try this Reflective strips attract the most attention when you attach them to the parts of your body that have the greatest range of movement, such as feet, lower legs and arms.

moira jones3. Try to avoid running in parks.

Parks can be shady places at night, so try to avoid running in them…. Perhaps a bit silly, but I only need to think of poor Moira Jones (who wasn’t even in Queens Park)… walking late at night to put me off going into any of Glasgow Parks at night.
Try this Stick to the main well lit streets, or find a well lit track if you want to do track work. 

Is-it-Safe-to-Run-at-Night__10.04.20114. If you listen to music just have one ear in so you can hear what’s going on around you.  Or better still, leave the music at home and concentrate on running / the route.
If you have your music blaring you’re unlikely to hear someone coming up behind you, or the car that didn’t see you crossing the road.  I like running with music, but it’s important to be more aware of your surroundings when you’re running in the dark.  So turn it down, wear it in one ear, or ditch it all together. Your senses become more finely tuned when you run in the dark, which means you’ll find it easier to assess how you feel. If you go out and run hill sessions at night, it can be a simple way to make hill easier.  If it’s dark you won’t see the top so you won’t worry about how much further you have to go!
Try this Leave your music at home for a change and use your night-time run to give your full attention to both your surroundings and how your body feels.

5. Run with others.

Running with friends at night in winter fulfils two important goals: it gets you out of the door when you might prefer to stay on the sofa, and it ensures you’re safer than if you were pounding the pavements alone.
Try this Schedule one evening run a week with a friend or group of friends. Keep the run short and close to home to start with, then when you’re more confident head further afield. If no friends are available, most running clubs also organise at least one evening run a week that you can join in with.

6. Run in the morning before any crazies are up. (not the running crazies, the proper serial killer crazies 😉 )
One of my favourite times to run is in the morning before work, especially in Autumn / Winter. There’s something rewarding about being up when no one else is up and getting back as the sun rises.  The only people you tend to come across are dog walkers, commuters and other runners. 
Try this Set your alarm for an hour before you would normally get up.  Set your clothes out the night before… crawl into them and get out the door for a 30 – 60 minute run before work.

7. Know your route and tell someone it before you go out. 

No matter how careful you are when you run at night, be prepared for unforeseen events. Always tell someone where you’re planning to run and roughly when you’ll return, and consider taking a personal alarm and mobile phone.
Try this Stick to well-lit, busy routes and don’t stop to stretch or tie a shoe lace unless you absolutely have to – crouching down makes you more vulnerable.  Try leaving your route up on when you go out so your loved ones know where you’re running.

8. Vary your running routes, don’t always run the same route.

Tackling the same running route day in, day out will challenge your motivation but it could also have negative implications when you’re running at night. You’re more vulnerable to assailants if your movements are predictable so aim to vary your route every time you venture out, even if that just means running it in reverse.
Try this Stay alert by making a mental note of street names that you pass. Or challenge yourself to run one new route a week like I’m trying (stick to roads you know!) 🙂 

9. Run at lunchtime? (I’ve never done this, but know some who do).

If you really don’t like running at night, run at lunchtime.  You can easily fit in a 20-45 minute run in an hour lunch break and manage to eat a sandwich too.  Most work places have showers nowadays so you should be able to freshen up and be perked up before your afternoon of work starts.
Try this Take your running gear (and a towel) to work.  Arrange to go out with other people who run at your work.  You could make a habit of it and get some chat on your lunchtime as you do it.

10. Run indoors / swim / do circuits in the gym instead of running.

If you really don’t want to run in the dark, run on the treadmill, or do a bit of cross training instead.  Running is quite cardio intensive so try if you can to replicate the intensity and length of time you spend cross training as . A bit of cross training never did anyone any harm (?!)… so get on in there and try it!
Try this Spinfit, Circuits, Gym Class, Swimming, Cycling, Cross Trainer, Rowing

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3 Responses to Running in the dark

  1. Carole says:

    Great advice. I’m new to running. Winter is upon us and these tips will definitely help me out!

  2. Pingback: “Runner’s Block” | Hi! Runner

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