Many runners have been waiting for this day for months; when the humidity finally lifted, you can breathe again, and the mornings feel cool and refreshing.
We have been using these cool mornings as our carrot all summer, motivation to keep going, trust that it will feel amazing when it arrives.
And it does.
After a hot summer, you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t enjoy a let up in temperature. Unfortunately though, there is something that comes with those cooler mornings; darkness.
As the temperature begins to drop, so do the hours of daylight, meaning that many runners have to get their runs done in the dark.
There are many questions that come along with this, and I am going to attempt to give you the best tips for running in the dark in the morning, how to be safe running in the dark, running at night or early morning gear, and lots more.
So let’s begin.
Is it safe to run in the dark?
Well, a lot of that depends on where you live, but yes, it can be.
Every town or city will have areas that are not safe for runners in the dark, but you probably already know where those are, you can avoid those areas, but what about the rest of it?
We hear about attacks all the time, in seemingly safe places to run, and the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should be vigilant, pay attention to your surroundings, that means saying goodbye to the music or podcasts (I know, I know, no fun), and being aware of your surroundings.
If you can take a self defense class that is a huge help. Todd Williams of Run Safer offers workshops all over the US, and one of those classes would go a long way.
You will have to research and look up places to run at night near you, as I can’t give suggestions on that, but choosing well lit, populated areas is probably the safest thing to do…even if that means multiple loops of the same area. It may be boring, but if it keeps you safe…
The more you are paying attention, the safer you will be. The easiest targets are those who are distracted, so get yourself ready to go before you head out the door, and spend your run looking around at your surroundings.
Not just potential attackers, but also cars accidentally hitting you.
People in cars are not expecting to see people out running in the early hours, and they may be in a rush. Try to anticipate the moves they will make, and put yourself in as safe of a position as possible. Stay as close to the curb as you can if you have to run on the road, and if you are on the sidewalk, take extra caution for breaks in the road.
A lot of this involves getting yourself some running safety products that will make you feel more confident about your dark runs, but also make you less likely to trip, fall, and injure yourself…the ultimate runner fear!
Running in the dark gear
As much as we like to think running is free other than the shoes, there is a lot more we need to purchase to sustain our running lives, and if you are going to be running in the dark, there are a few things that will keep you safe. There are a lot of options out there, and I cannot speak for other products, all I can do is tell you that these are the things I use and like, and I did some research before I purchased them.
I have talked about Run Angel many times, and I cannot recommend it enough. I am so thankful for David and Ellen Caren coming up with this product. The peace of mind it gives me is worth so much.
So what is it?
Well, it looks like a second watch you wear on your other wrist, but all it has on there are two buttons; one BIG button, and one smaller one to switch it on and off. You push the on/off button once, and it makes a bleep along with showing a green light. You are now ready to go.
If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, you can push the big button (and yes, it is easy to push, but not so easy you will accidentally knock it), and it will set off an alarm to the intensity of a rock concert. That is going to send anyone intimidating you running for the hills, and alert anyone even remotely close to you that something is wrong.
Whats even better, you can add three “Angels” who are sent an alert with your exact location if you push the button.
If you are running in the dark, this is something small that gives you a lot of confidence about staying safe.
Find Run Angel here, and use code running4real for 10% off.
I never really thought I would be one of those runners who needed running in the dark lights, but there are a lot of areas that are not lit very well, and having a headlight not only allows you to actually see where you are going, but it is yet another warning to potential attackers that you are prepared…plus you can look at cars or people with your light if they are acting suspicious, so they feel “caught” and will drive away.
Sure, you can stay under street lights, and if your area is well lit enough, then you might not need this, but I have always lived in places that are mostly good, but will have stretches where it is hard to see. Rather than falling over and rolling my ankle, I would rather have a headlight on.
I have this Black Diamond Headlamp. Although one thing I will note is that if I just wear it right on my head it rubs and leaves a blister. I put mine on top of a running hat/cap, and it stops it chafing.
If you want something else to give you security and trust that you are ready if someone were to try to harm you, GoGuarded is recommended by Todd Williams of Run Safer as one of the products to use. It has a single sharp point that you wear on one of your fingers, with a rubber cover that stops it from harming you, but would easily move if you needed it to.
You have heard of people running with a key in their hands for this reason, but this product has been well designed to work better and allow you precious seconds to get away.
Find GoGuarded here.
Another safety product you could carry to ward off predators. One of my friends even gave me the idea of yelling, “I have mace” if you feel uncomfortable on your run…even if no one is there, but you get that heebie jeebie feeling that someone is watching you, this will be enough to put them off.
I have never had to use mace, but I will say it gives you a lot more of peace of mind by carrying it with you.
Reflective running vest
Another product I never thought I would use, but I have worn it most days it is either dark, foggy or raining to allow cars and people to see me if conditions are not ideal.
Their headlights will light up the vest, making you very visible to them, especially if it is dark.
I have this Amphipod Xinglet vest as it is not a vest as such, but fits nicely over other clothes. I have worn it with just a sports bra and shorts, but also on top of other layers for over 2hrs.
Most of the running brands also have versions of their most popular shoes with lots of reflective material on them, just gives another element of safety to your running.
Tips for running in the dark morning
If you work a 9-5 job or have kids who need you to be there for them when they wake up, chances are, a lot of early runs are in your future, and for those runs, your running before sunrise safety needs to be a priority.
You may have to run from home a lot to make sure you can get your training in and get everything else you need to get done before the rest of your world wakes up and needs you. That means you are in charge of finding the best areas to run in the dark for you.
I would suggest going to the more populated areas, as there are going to be more street lights, and more people around to make predators stay away. It is also easier for you to stay safe within your own running, less things to fall over. You will know the area better to know where the steep curbs, breaks in the grass, and even raised cement slabs are.
Once when I was flying back to the US from visiting family in England, I had to do my run at 4am. In England, the street lights are shut off between 12 and 6, so it was very dark. I ran a loop I knew “like the back of my hand”, so I had the best chance of staying upright and knowing what was ahead. At the time I did not have a light or any kind of reflective vest (stupid I know), but somehow I survived.
Another thing to keep in mind is that people who are out at this hour think they are the only ones who are around. They can drive faster and a little more aggressively, which they will. A runner is the last thing they would expect to see. Be careful when they will be turning towards the direction you are coming (turning right on a red). Even if you have the right of way as a pedestrian, they might be looking the other direction purely for cars, and if they do not see any, will keep on going (probably not even stopping at the stop sign or light).
You also want to be aware of people reversing out of their driveways. In the mornings, especially in winter, cars will be either covered in condensation or ice, and many people are running late to work, meaning that they cannot completely see out of their back window or side windows (or sometimes barely at all). They might swing backwards very quickly and not even notice you are there or coming.
For that reason, I try to give cars that are running a very wide berth to be sure if they do reverse suddenly, I have time to react.
If a car parked up ahead or a person is making me feel uncomfortable during those morning runs, I will make sure to look at them as I run past, look right into their car or into their face (with your headlamp), to make sure they know you are taking a mental note of their appearance or car.
I have had multiple occasions where cars have made me feel uneasy, so I will look right into the front seat, so I get a good look at them…or at least they think I am. I also take a mental note of their license plate as well. Once again it comes down to awareness and attention.
Watch for trees and branches that may be low hanging. I usually wear a hat anyway, but in the darkness, branches will take off my hat before they get my eyes.
Finally, if it is cold out, and there is any chance for ice, darkness will hide a lot of the black ice that you may be able to see in daytime. Take short, quick steps, especially around corners, and be alert for anything underfoot that may cause you to slip. If you are far away from home and notice there is ice on the sidewalk, my suggestion would be to run on the grass instead. It may be extra effort, but it will allow you to maintain your footing better.
Running at night safety
I have not really run at night in a long time, but growing up, most of my running was done at night. In fact, my running started when my dad used to walk across little loops in our neighborhood, and I would run around the outside in somewhat of intervals.
Running at night is not a bad idea if you are someone who tends to struggle getting up in the morning, or even if it is just physically not possible with your schedule.
Many of the considerations are the same as the running in the morning situation.
You still need to run in well lit areas, and wear all of the running safety gear I mentioned earlier to stay safe, but there are a few minor changes.
If you are running during rush hour, people could still be coming out of their houses in a rush; to get the kids to a practice or to go out to dinner with friends, so still give a lot of room if you see a car with the engine running, but in addition, now people may be coming home from work in a rush, and will not expect a runner. We tend to go on autopilot when we get close to our homes, so watch for cars slowing suddenly to turn into their driveway or their garage door opening.
You still may see people who make you feel uneasy, but at night there tends to be more people around, which gives you that added element of safety.
Do be careful though for patches of ice that may have melted and spread throughout the day, but not dried yet, and are frozen over. They can be very easy to fall on, so again, watch for patches, and run on the grass if it feels safer.
Running in the dark things to avoid
Take your phone with you, keep it in a pocket or a koala clip (use code running4real for 10% off) to be able to use if need be, but do not rely on it if something is happening. An attacker will not give you the time to call for help, and it is unlikely that you will be able to use it for much otherwise.
Try not to do the same loop at the same time every single time. I know earlier I said the same loop is better if it is well lit, but if you are running from your house, it might be a better idea to drive to your location to start away from the home, or change the time you are running a little. Be sure to let someone know where you are going, and that is another reason I love the Run Angel (code running4real for 10% off) because the app will let my loved ones know where I am if I need to.
Most important, do not listen to music or podcasts during those morning runs. Yes, I know, boring, but this makes you look very vulnerable as you are distracted and will not hear someone coming. You also are then not able to listen out for little subtle noises, like a car turning on or someone getting into their car to pay attention.
Your senses will be alive during those dark runs, it makes the animal instinct in us come to life, and you may find that you run much faster than you usually would with the adrenaline rush. I however, notice that I often FEEL like I am flying, when I am in fact going slower than I usually would. Either way, it is fine, you are still getting your run done when many would make excuses not to. Be proud of that and most of all, be aware.
If you can meet and run with a friend, that is always going to be safest, you can help keep one another safe, while also giving one another company without music or podcasts.
Finally, and most important of all. If you have the opportunity to take a self defense class in your area, DO IT. This will be an absolute game changer, and you will be in a much better place. if you intend on running in the dark often, I strongly recommend you take a course of self defense.