If you’ve ever run in the dark, whether it be super early in the morning or late at night, I’m sure you have realized you are taking your life in your own hands. It’s hard enough to be seen while pounding the pavement when it’s light out, with modern technology distracting so many drivers on the road. When you’ve got darkness against you, you better be sure that drivers know you are there. Even then, you may find yourself running for cover from time to time. Take it from me, the roads are crazy out there!
So here are my nine tips for running in the dark that I hope will help you have a safer experience. Many of these apply to daytime running as well.
1. Be aware of your surroundings. It’s important to know your route. Take note of where the stop signs, intersections, and traffic lights are located. This way, as you approach any of these landmarks you will know to take extra caution as you cross the roadway. Don’t ever rely on the stop sign or a red light to actually stop a vehicle coming your way. Never assume the driver approaching sees you. Always stop and wait until it’s safe to continue.
2. Know the roads. When you head out for a run in the dark, ideally you want to know the roads you’ll be running. This way, you are aware of sharp turns, corners, and any potential blind spots where drivers may have a tougher time seeing you. Take extra caution at those points in your run. If you’re running in a race with a night run, for example, Reach the Beach, you probably won’t know the route ahead of time so try to keep other runners in sight and follow any specific directions provided by the race coordinators.
3. Run against traffic. If you’re running against traffic, you can see what is coming at you. Otherwise, traffic is coming up behind you and your clueless. The exception might be if you know of a super sharp turn where it’s safer to be on the opposite side of the road. I can honestly say that 99.9% of the time, I only run against traffic. When I don’t, I feel on edge every time I hear a car approaching from behind.
4. Don’t wear headphones OR just put in one ear bud. This comes back to tip # 1, being aware of your surroundings. If you prefer to run with music, just put in one ear bud so you have one ear free to hear what’s happening around you.
5. Get a Road ID bracelet (or something similar). I actually got my Road ID bracelet free through a local hospital that ran a promotion. You may find a similar promotion from time to time so keep your eye out or do a search in your local area. With a Road ID bracelet, your contact information and emergency contact information are readily available if anything were to happen to you. I don’t care if you make your own form of this, but it’s important for safety reasons.
6. Wear a headlamp. Again, I don’t care what brand or type of headlamp you use, but it’s important for two reasons. Number one, it helps you to see where the heck you are going if there are no street lights on your route or it is poorly lit. Number two, it makes you look even more like a beacon of light to approaching traffic. Tip: If your headlamp bothers your forehead by rubbing against it, throw on a hat, visor, or thicker headband and put the strap over that instead.
7. Make sure you wear some kind of flashing light. This one is all about added visibility to drivers. Again, making sure you look like a beacon of light in the darkness. I started this habit when I first ran Reach the Beach because it was a requirement for the dark runs. Since then, I have always worn my Nathan LED light while running in the dark. It may seem like a small addition to your attire, but believe me it goes a long way in making you that much more visible.
8. Wear a reflective vest or some form of it. I purchased the Amphipod Xinglet this past winter after my running buddy got one. I had always worn a reflective vest, but found it annoying when I ran because it didn’t fit to my body. It would move around while I ran and I was always pulling at it. Also, when I could see my neighbor in the darkness, I knew I had to get one of these things. They are AMAZING! The Xinglet is extremely comfortable and it fits snug to the body. It doesn’t move when you run and it doesn’t cover you like a vest does, so breathability is not an issue. Tip: Clip your flashing light right onto the Amphipod to ensure you don’t lose it.
9. Wear reflective gear. I am on reflective gear overdrive when I run in the dark. Head to toe reflection! You can never be too visible or too safe when you’re a road warrior. Check your sneakers for reflective material. All of my Asics Gel-Kayanos have reflective material on them. I remember one early morning my friend saying to me that she could see my sneakers glowing as I approached her for our run. That’s what I like to hear! Try to wear pants and a top that have reflective patches on them. Why not wear a reflective headband while you’re at it! Let your light shine! Here are some pictures of my regular gear.
What are your tips for running in the dark? Please share them to help keep us all safer on the roads!