Running is a fantastic sport for many different reasons, but one that I find especially compelling is that running is something we can do year-round, just about anywhere, and just about at any time of day. To be sure, there are different considerations we have to make to account for our environments, but by and large, runners are extremely lucky that they can do their sport pretty much anywhere and anytime.
When it comes to nighttime — or otherwise dark — running, runners obviously have some important choices they need to make. More than anything, if runners are going to be running in the dark, it will behoove them to make decisions that will help give them some semblance of safety.
Below, we’ll explore in greater detail nighttime running and how runners can be safe and get the gear they need. Please note that my advice shouldn’t supersede your own common sense and your personalized knowledge related to where you usually run; instead, my suggestions are meant to be general in nature and meant to provide a launching point, of sorts, to help you get your gears turning about the choices you can make related to your own dark running.
Nighttime running: how to be safe
Some people will choose to never run at night, regardless of where they live, simply because they don’t feel safe: and that’s fine. For others, if they ever want to run outside, they must run in the dark due to personal schedules that preclude them from running during the lit hours: and that’s ok, too. Running in the dark — or not running in the dark, as the case may be — doesn’t make one runner any more “badass” than another. Thinking otherwise is pretty silly, to be honest.
When it comes to nighttime running, runners’ primary concerns should be related to their safety. Even if runners live in a very safe community, free of any crime or suspicious persons, it’s always a good idea to try to make choices that will at least give you a peace of mind.
Below, we’ll talk about some choices that runners ought to consider when they run in the dark and how these choices relate to their safety.
Don’t dress like a ninja
It can be very stylish and bodily-flattering to run in all black, but when you’re running in the dark and wearing all black, you just look like a ninja: someone who’s really hard for other runners, cyclists, motorists, or even animals to see! If you’re going to be running in the dark at all, I strongly encourage you to invest in some neon or reflective clothing.
Plot your route ahead of time, and share it with someone
When you’re running in the dark, it can be wise to share your planned route with someone before you leave. Additionally, doing so can help a loved one know by when you should return home. Some apps offer live-tracking during runs (such as Strava’s beacon feature or a similar feature on Garmin), and sharing your location in those ways can also be helpful.
When you’re running in the dark — and really, at any time of day — it is also prudent to vary your route constantly. It’s probably unlikely that you’re going to be followed by someone suspicious, but changing up your route often will help lessen the likelihood that someone (who shouldn’t know) will know where you’re going.
Wear safety gear, like a headlamp or a vest
Particularly if you’re going to be running in urban or well-traversed areas during the dark hours, it’ll be worth your while to invest in some high-quality and powerful safety gear, like a good-quality headlamp and/or a reflective vest. You may think you look super silly (or like a coal miner, about to go to work), but safety first. Wearing a headlamp can help motorists spot you from far-away distances, and similarly, when their headlights hit your vest, the reflective tape will light up and make you stand out right away.
Obey traffic laws
For the most part, if you’re running outside on the roads, you should be running against traffic and riding with it. This can be especially important when you’re running in the dark because then cars won’t be able to “sneak up on you” since you’ll be running against them.
Run with a buddy (two-legged or four-legged)
Running is almost always more fun with another, and when it comes to running in the dark, this is especially true. Enlist the help and camaraderie of a friend, and go pound the pavement together in the dark. There’s something to be said for “safety in numbers,” and you both can look out for each other when you’re working hard together.
Consider running with your phone and/or other protective elements
Finally, if you’re going to be running in the dark, I strongly encourage you to consider bringing your phone with you. Having a phone isn’t going to necessarily prohibit something bad from happening — unfortunately — but having it there, as a resource to be used in case of an emergency — can make you feel better, mentally.
Some runners also swear by running with a can of pepper spray, some mace, a knife, or even a gun, too. This is entirely a matter of personal preference, and some places may actually prohibit runners from carrying those tools with them, on their person, so check your local laws first.
Nighttime running: a nice reprieve
One huge benefit of running during the dark is that it can be a nice reprieve from sunny, hot, and humid temperatures that are at their highest during the daytime. It can definitely be intimidating to run in the dark, especially when you’re just doing it for the first time, but if a treadmill isn’t an option, and your schedule precludes you from running during the daytime, you’ll make it work.
Just like most other activities, running in the dark is something that requires time and patience to get accustomed to doing. It may be scary and awkward at first, but the more you do it, the more it’ll become second nature to you.