A blog by runners. For runners.

Shedding light on running in the dark

Picture pre-5 a.m. run in Boston. More on our Instagram.

A recent pre-5 a.m. run in Boston. More run pics on our Instagram.

I hate to say it, but the clocks turn back Sunday, November 3. True, that’s a couple months away yet, but you and I know before this date, the days will continue to shorten. As a result, prime times for running — early morning and evenings — will get darker and darker until they turn mostly to black.

If you work a 9 to 5 and don’t have a gym membership, running before sunup or after sunset may not be a matter of personal preference either. It’s just a reality. Even the slightest change in routine, however, can help keep you safe and smiling while on the run.

Here are some things to consider:

  • If you can, run during lunch breaks. Obviously this option isn’t available to everyone, like teachers, for example, but even if it requires a bit of bargaining, it might be worth the effort on several fronts. Running during lunch means daylight which, in turn, means less opportunity for issues like falling and more good quality workouts. If it’s something you think you can swing, also think about approaching your supervisor about an extended lunch (I once negotiated an hour and a half a couple days a week) that you’ll make up either on the front or back end of the work day.
  • Invest in safety gear. If you know you’ll be logging a majority of your miles in the dark, consider buying a reflective vest and a pair of lightly/brightly colored running clothing. Other safety measures include head lamps, brimmed hats (to avoid being hit in the face by branches), flashlights, reflective wrist bands, and more.
  • Dial your pace down a notch. At least until you’re comfortable running with the lights out, it is important to feel our your surroundings as if they are totally new to you. Even I have taken a few (massive) spills on familiar routes and have the scars to prove it. Basically, until you’ve run a path in the dark, you don’t know the obstacles, like zero streetlamps, for example, until you take the time to discover them. Slowly.
  • Along these same lines, seek out different routes accordingly. Now might be the time (before it’s dire) to check out that well-lit track at the local university you’ve heard about. Or maybe a nearby park has good safety lighting. Favorite trails in the light can prove nightmares in the dark, so finding better alternatives is in your favor.
  • Research your options. This time of year (before the cold weather hits), I’ve been seeing a lot of deals on gym memberships. One that came into our mailbox this week was just $99 for an entire year at a no-frills fitness center near our home. If it’s financially doable, having a treadmill and other exercise machines — in a fully lit environment — can be an excellent change from day after day of low-visibility jogging.
  • Meet up with a buddy. I don’t know about you, but I tend to zone out completely while running alone. It’s one reason I love logging miles. In the dark, this habit can be a recipe for disaster, though. Meeting up to run with a friend can keep you more alert and also serve as a safety backup if something bad does happen.

Are you banished to the darkness in the cooler months? How do you stay safe and sane?

Written by Ashley Marcin // Photo from our Instagram.

Related Special Series: Staying safe on the run