It’s that time of year again where it’s super dark in the morning and getting darker earlier and earlier in the evening. Hello sunset at 4:18 p.m.! I know a lot of people retreat indoors for their workouts once the daylight hours are shorter.
For years, I felt comfortable running in the dark by myself. But then last year I had a creeper incident that happened on one of my early morning runs. A man in a car followed me on my run, circling around parking lots to meet up with me or to cut me off at intersections. It didn’t take me long to realize something wasn’t right. I pulled out my phone, ready to snap a pic or to call for help and hightailed it to the police department which was nearby. This is all while the guy continued to follow me. I never thought that I’d have a scary situation like that in my small town. I was running my “safe route” in town after all. The whole situation messed with my confidence. Since then, I’ve never felt the same. In fact, I’ve only done a handful of solo runs in the dark since then.
Going for a run after the sun has gone down or before it comes up is sometimes the only time to squeeze in the miles. In the summer it’s the perfect time to beat the heat. Or if you’re a working parent or professional whose only free time for exercise is in the wee hours of the morning or after work. With November being National Running Safety Month, it’s the perfect time to brush up on your safety.
Use these tips to be the safest runner you can be when running in the dark.
Let someone know where you are going
Before you take off on your run, let someone know where you are going and what time you plan on returning. I try to leave a note for Ron telling him what route I’m planning to run and how long it should take me.
Wear reflective, bright clothing.
This could be reflective stripping on your shirt, shorts, shoes, etc. I’m always amazed when I see people wearing all black. I love my dark workout gear but I save it for the daylight hours.
Light up the night
Lighted vests and/or headlamps will not only help you see the road better (even if there are streetlights) but drivers will be able to spot you better. There’s a ton of different models available. I love my Black Diamond headlamp. It’s lightweight, is super bright and has a blinking red light on the back.
Carry identification, cell phone and a personal alarm
I always take my phone and RoadID with me. I also started carrying a Sabre Personal Alarm that I received at Rise.Run.Retreat. Funny story – Whenever I meet with new running friends for the first time, Ron likes to use Track My iPhone to make sure I don’t get kidnapped by some crazy stalker. At least that’s what he tells me. Maybe he’s just checking up on me to see if I’m really running. What else would I be doing at zero dark thirty?
You won’t believe how many people I see running with headphones in the dark. Even if you have one earpiece in, it’s still dangerous. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. I recently came upon a young girl running one morning who was wearing headphones. She didn’t even look around as I came up behind her. In fact, her music was so loud, I could hear it. Girl, what are you thinking?!?! Your best bet is to leave the music at home.
Power in numbers
If possible meet up with a friend. There’s safety in numbers. And if you think you run too early, you might be surprised to know how many others are in the same boat as you. I’ve posted in a couple of our local running club Facebook pages looking for a running buddy and have had great success in finding
crazy awesome runners who want to run at zero dark thirty.
Switch up your route
Change your running route and time you run every so often. It’s comfortable to you, but that also means that someone may learn your routine as well.
Look both ways before you cross the street
Don’t assume cars see you. Crosswalks, especially those regulated by stop signs are the worst for runners. Drivers will pull out in front of the stop sign looking for cars, but often look right beyond runners. Always make eye contact with the driver before you step off the curb.
Run in populated areas
Stick with well lit areas. If there are other runners around there is good chance the area is safe and appropriate for runners.
Run like a defensive driver
Assume every driver is talking on the phone while drinking steaming hot coffee and tuning the radio. This can be said about running at any time on the roads.
Have you ever been in a scary situation while running in the dark?
What are your safety tips?