If you are currently living in the Northern Hemisphere, you might notice that it’s pretty freaking dark when you wake up and by the time you get out of work, it looks like it’s midnight. Or is that just me?
A week or so ago, Lisa posted a query to our Facebook page asking you – our readers – what topics we should address here on the blog. A few themes came up. How to deal with winter running was one, which I discussed here last week. Another popular topic was how to deal with the time change and running in the dark. Since winter and darkness pretty much go hand in hand, I decided how to run safely in the dark would be a great subject for my next post. I’m no stranger to running when the sun is still sleeping, so this is my experience and a few of the items that I use when I go out before the sun comes up or after it’s headed to bed.
Safety is always of utmost importance when you head out to run whether you are running during the day or at night. Choose routes which are well lit, have clear paths/sidewalks, and are in safe areas. Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Try to vary your routes if you can so you aren’t predictable. If you ever feel unsafe or like something is “off” get to a well lit and populated area as quickly as you can. There are a number of apps on the market that can also broadcast your location to people in your friend list or send out an alarm if you feel like you are in trouble. Just search your favorite app store.
There is usually safety in numbers. During the winter months, try to hook up with a running group at night or find a like-minded friend to head out with you. Do you have a 4-legged friend? Take Fido out with you. While your pooch may be the most mild mannered dog on the planet, he may make a threatening person think twice about approaching you.
Those little strips of reflective tape on your shoes and running capris? NOT ENOUGH. After you’ve selected a route, you need to make yourself as bright as possible. This doesn’t mean throw on that neon race shirt either. I’m talking turn yourself into a freaking Christmas tree. When I go out, I wear a reflective vest and a head lamp. You can find these products on Amazon or at your local Walmart for much less than you would pay at a running store. Just shop around. There are also some great running jackets on the market that become very reflective when hit with light. Keep in mind that while you may be able to see the cars they most likely cannot see you – especially around corners. Always use extra caution when approaching intersections and run AGAINST traffic if you must run on the road. Be prepared to bail if you need to.
There is absolutely no point in finding a safe route and making yourself visible if you aren’t going to be aware of your surroundings. This is not the time to try out the new playlist on your iPod. Take the earbuds out or if you absolutely must run with music, only use one earbud and tuck the other in your bra. Keep your head up and take note of those around you. When you pass someone, look them in the eye. If you look like a victim you may be perceived as an easy target; whereas an air of strength and confidence, even if you are scared out of your wits, can make you seem like someone not to be messed with.
When in doubt, you can always run on the treadmill. During the winter months, I usually take all my speedwork inside because a) it’s often too snowy and slippery to really work on speed, and b) I’m afraid I will trip over the sidewalk and wipe out. There is nothing wrong with running on the treadmill if you can’t safely run outside – day or night. Find yourself an inexpensive gym (we have ones in the area that are only around $20 a month and you can pay month-to-month) and take your workouts inside until it’s safe to head back into the wild.