Runners around the world are probably counting down the hours until daylight savings time. Why? Because while the rest of the world may love being able to sleep in late on the weekends without the rude intrusion of early morning sunlight, runners generally don’t love strolling up and down dark roads. But while we wait a few more months, here’s a few good ideas for surviving the twilight and pre-dawn runs.
Why run in the dark?
If you’re a new runner, you might be asking, why run in the dark in the first place? Well, there’s a few reasons. If you’ve got a set work or family schedule, you may not have the ability to make time to run in full daylight. Especially if you live in an area where the sun only shines for 7 minutes during winter (a minor exaggeration, but that’s what it can feel like). Some runners also find that running outside daylight hours is one of the best ways to avoid traffic, or concerning weather. Finally, someone whose training for an ultramarathon might need to acclimate to running overnight, and it’s something that can take some practice.
Tips for Staying Safe While Running in the Dark
So if you can’t avoid running in the dark (or need to incorporate it into your training), here’s a few tips to help you stay as safe as possible.
- Be seen – You don’t want drivers, other runners, or cyclists to miss you, because accidents are less likely to happen when you’re clearly seen. So invest in some reflective pieces of clothing, like leggings or hats that have strips designed to make you visible. And while reflective clothing is great, you’re extra hard to miss wearing one of these light vests and a headlamp. You might feel like a spectacle at first, but spectacles aren’t easily missed!
- Choose location wisely – Running in the dark is 100% not smart if you’re not in a familiar setting. So many cities go from cute and cozy to evening news stabbings over the course of a few blocks. It can be helpful to stick to area’s that have more lighting (especially on the side walks). I personally prefer to run on roads where I don’t expect a lot of car traffic, so I generally skip school zones during early morning drop-offs. If you’re planning to hit the trails or more isolated area’s, make sure you’ve done your research to know where safety call buttons are, and to have an idea of whether your location has any sort of surveillance.
- Have a buddy – You may not always be able to con someone into joining you for those twilight runs, but definitely don’t miss an opportunity if one presents itself! Having a running buddy certainly doesn’t guarantee your safety (so don’t lull yourself into a false sense of security), but there is something to be said for safety in numbers.
- Follow general safety recommendations – You know, the ones where you need to tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back, being aware of what’s going on around, and carrying something to protect yourself with. For more tips on staying safe, check out my post Staying Safe While Running Solo.
- Make sure you can hear – Because cars, dogs, and creeps all make some amount of sound. You have a much better shot at making a scene and protecting yourself if you can hear them coming. So either leave the ear buds at home, or use a pair of bone conducting headphones that allow you to hear what’s going on around you. Running in the dark means things are harder to see, don’t make them harder to hear too.
- Trust your gut – I’ve said 17 billion times, and I’ll say it again. Your gut is there for a reason, and it’s not just to make swimsuit season more interesting. If something feels “off” or uncomfortable, GTFO. Don’t question your gut. Because as many runs as I’ve done over the past decade plus, I have yet to experience a single one that is worth truly risking my safety. Do I only run during the day, or only with a friend? Nope. But I do 100% trust my instincts, and if my instincts tell me to leave, well that just means I get back to my bagel a little earlier.
Running in the dark doesn’t have to be terrifying (though I honestly don’t love it). Like most things in life, it has some inherent risk, but there are definitely actions that good runners can take to reduce it as much as possible. Afterall, runners want to listen to true crime podcasts on their runs, not star in episodes themselves. So use your brain, honor your gut, and run smart.