Tips for Running in the Dark

Running in the dark is probably my least favorite type of running. I do love running in the snow, in the rain, and in the sun, but running when it’s dark, early morning or after the sun sets in the evening, presents lots of unseen obstacles (HAH! See what I did there?).

With winter right around the corner, and with the time change this weekend, I’d like to use today’s Thursday Things to share some tips and tricks for Fall and Winter running, aka running in the dark. The 4 tips below are common sense, but all are tried and true and will help keep you safe while running in the dark.

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1. BE SEEN! When it’s dark, it’s dark. Don’t dress in dark clothing. A good share of my running clothes are black, but when it’s dark out, I try to light myself up like a Christmas tree. Light colored shirts, reflective clothes, blinky lights, anything at all that you can do to be seen is a good thing. Running in the dark is not the time to be a fashionable runner all matchy matchy, it’s a time to make sure you are seen! It doesn’t matter if your clothes match, as long as they are bright and visible. I also have quite the selection of clip on or Velcro blinky lights. I clip lights on my shoes, on the back of my visor, on my shirt… blinking lights tend to catch more attention than steady lights, so keep that in mind as well. Many of my lights have blink or steady options, and I almost always pick the blinky setting. It’s definitely worth the money to get some lights to attach to your body.

Reflective clothing is also one of the best ways to make sure you are seen. Running clothes on the market these days often have reflective material built right in. If you don’t have clothing that already has reflective material, definitely wear light or white colors. If it’s black outside, and you’re wearing black, you won’t be seen! If you’re wearing white, you have a much better chance to be seen by drivers or other runners. If you do a lot of running in the dark, maybe look into buying a reflective vest or reflective tape to tape on your torso.

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2. BE ABLE TO SEE! Being seen by drivers means nothing at all if trip over something and break your leg. If you’re running in the dark, you have to be able to see. Use a headlamp, handheld lights, or run in lit areas to help yourself stay safe. There are so many products on the market to help you see and be seen. I have a headlamp (the Black Diamond headlamp) that is lightweight, easy to use, and rechargeable. It has a few different settings to allow me to see where I am going when it’s dark. The last thing I want to do is trip and fall, or slip on the ice. Without a light, I would be lit up for others to see me, but I wouldn’t be able to see where I’m running, which is just not smart. If you don’t have lights to light yourself up or to be able to see where you are going, be sure to wear your light colored clothing and stick to well-lit areas. If you don’t have a light, it’s not the time to run on the trails; stick to roads with streetlights.

3. DON’T BE STUPID! Follow the proper rules of the road. Run on sidewalks if it’s dark out. If you must run in the street, please PLEASE run against traffic. If a car is driving up in your direction and they don’t see you, you will have a much better chance of not getting hit if you can see the vehicle coming at you and jump off the road if necessary. If you are running with traffic, you will never see that vehicle, and if they don’t see you either, you could get hit or run over. I generally prefer to run in the street, but if it’s a busy road, or if it’s dark out, I will run on the sidewalk, away from cars.

Don’t ever get comfortable and think the drivers will always see you. Always be prepared to take your own life in your own hands and jump out of the way of cars if necessary. I sometimes pick up a couple rocks and hold them if I’m running alone in the dark. I would not hesitate to throw a rock at a windshield if necessary, to keep from being run over. Never assume the driver will see you; be prepared! Running in the dark is also not the time to run an unfamiliar route. Stick to what you know, because you know it! No surprises leads to a safer run.

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4. SAFETY FIRST! If you run alone, and it’s dark, and you are well lit and able to see, but it’s still dark, take your safety into consideration. Maybe don’t listen to music and be shut off from the world. Be alert and listen to what’s around you. If you feel you need to, carry pepper spray, or a personal safety alarm. Tell a friend where you are going, and when you should be back, or even better, take a friend with you or run with a group! If you don’t normally carry your phone while you run, maybe take it on runs where you are alone and in the dark, and think about using an app (like the Road ID app) that allows friends or loved ones to track you, and notifies them if you stop moving for a length of time.

Keeping yourself safe is something that should be in the forefront of your mind, no matter when you are running, but it is extra important when it’s dark out. You never really know what could be lurking around the corner. A pothole? Someone who wants to abduct or hurt you? A stray animal? Be alert, and be aware that things in the darkness can likely see you way before you can see them, especially if you are not paying attention like you should.

Please be safe, friends! What other tips do you have to share for running in the dark?

10 thoughts on “Tips for Running in the Dark

  1. Well, okay. I’ve never striven to be a fashionable, matchy-matchy runner, so I’m safe there.

    About the only quibble I have with your post is your recommendation to run on the sidewalks at night. I realize what you’re saying about cars and such, and it’s valid, but my experience has been that the street is nearly always much better lit by the streetlights than sidewalks are, especially if there are curb trees. And, streets are nearly always more smoothly paved than sidewalks, which can have cracks, and mud, and sprinklers, and heaves, especially if there are curb trees.

    My Saturday morning run (out the door at 5:00 a.m.) is my favorite, and I do most of it in the street. I think the best stretch is going north on Lamar from I-435 down to the trail at the bottom of the hill. Right down the middle of the road. (With a headlamp and reflective gear as well as an attentive eye.)

  2. Great advice! I never liked running in the dark either, even with reflective gear and a headlamp. Usually now, I stick with the treadmill in the winter… Thanks for posting! 🙂

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