Running at Night: 4 Tips for Avoiding the Vampires
No matter how much we may wish for constant sunshine year round, the truth is that the sun goes down every night and we are sometimes left lacing up our shoes after the moon has already shown its face.
While the physical requirements of your body don’t inherently differ when running at night as opposed to the daytime, it’s a whole different beast from a safety standpoint. As any vampire knows, everything changes when the sun goes down. Noises are harder to hear, objects and people are harder to see, and it’s easier to become distracted. As such, it’s important you are as prepared as possible to counteract the power of the night when running.
Running at Night Tip #1: Have the Right Gear
Don’t underestimate the need to buy reflective vests, blinking arm bands, and neon shirts. As you likely know from your experiences driving in the dark, it’s easy to be taken off guard by runners on the side of the road that seem to appear from nowhere. Take an extra two minutes before you start your run to ensure you are equipped with gear that will increase your visibility. It’s better to be a blinking lighthouse than a dark figure that a passing car notices two seconds too late. Feel free to check out my recommendations for the best gear for running at night, as well as my specific recommendations for the best headlamps to light your runs.
I know that a lot of people suggest ditching your headphones and music when running at night. While this might be the safest approach, it’s also not feasible for someone who relies on auditory motivation as heavily as I do. To address this problem, I make sure I run with headphones, as opposed to earbuds, when running at night. As headphones sit on top of my ears, and not in them, I’m better able to hear what’s happening around me.
Running at Night Tip #2: Join a Running Group
There’s a reason why prey animals travel in herds. Now, I’m not saying we need to act like a herd of helpless and neurotic zebras whenever we run at night, but there is power in numbers. When running at night, you are more vulnerable than you would be in broad daylight. Running in a group can decrease this vulnerability and give you more options if something were to happen. Should you misstep and fall into a ditch, it’s nice to have a friend there to pull you out.
Find a pre-established running group, or form one of your own. Don’t worry about finding twenty or thirty people, as running with even one or two other people can go a long way in increasing your safety. In addition to having someone with you should you fall into a ditch, running with others can make you aware of your surroundings in a way you wouldn’t be when running by yourself. Instead of dashing across the street when there’s a break in traffic, you’ll have to wait for a gap big enough to allow your entire group to cross. Instead of running in the narrow bike lane, you’ll need to find a designated running trail that can accommodate the size of your group. Instead of getting caught up in your daily tasks and pushing your run later and later into the darkening evening, having a running group will force you to stick to a pre-determined time. A running group has many benefits and can go a long way in making running at night safer.
Running at Night Tip #3: Practice "If/Then" Scenarios
Understanding what you would do should something go wrong is important for any runner, but especially for those running at night. Even if you think the worst case scenario would never happen to you, take time to consider your options. It may be fair to asume that 99% of the time your runs will likely be drama free and uneventful. But, what about that 1%? It only takes a few minutes to ensure that you’re prepared should something unfortunate happen.
Here are some examples to get you started:
-If I go on a run, no matter the time of day, then I’ll let someone know where I’m going and when I expect to be back
-If my cellphone dies, then I’ll keep change in my pocket for a payphone (and hope for a time machine to take me back to a time when they existed).
-If I have a major medical emergency, then I’ll be sure to always wear an ID wristband
-If I have a minor medical emergency, then I’ll be sure to have my spouse on speed dial
Feel free to come up with your own “If/Then” scenarios based on your own circumstances. While they may not seem important now, you will be relieved to have a game plan should something go wrong.
Running at Night Tip #3: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
We all know there are legitimate dangers to running at night and that we need to take precautions to ensure our health and safety when training. At the same time, be sure that you’re being realistic with your fear and neither overestimating or underestimating your potential chance of hazard. Every activity comes with its fair share of risks, and running at night is no different.
As you would with any other activity you engage in, understand what you need to do to best prepare yourself to be safe. Do you need to pick up some reflective vests? Is it about time you form a running group? Have you put systems in place in case there’s an emergency? There’s no reason to be afraid of the dark if you’ve taken time to prepare yourself. In fact, running at night can be a great opportunity to end the day with your favorite sport. Don’t let the darkness hold you back. Grab a flashlight, and a friend, and keep running.