Now that the clocks have gone back marking the end of daylight savings time, the earlier darker nights make it all too tempting to skip a late workout rather than venture outside. Especially when the autumn weather brings with it cold, wet and windy days. It is hardly inviting to any slightly reluctant runner. The choice between staying in and relaxing with a cosy cuppa and a purring cat or leaving your warm house behind and running out into the unknown darkness can be an easy one to make. However, if you can get yourself out there you may be surprised by what you discover. Running in the dark can not only be an exhilarating experience but it is an easy way to revive a routine workout. But there are some simple things you can do when running at nighttime to help you stay safe.
Safety first, then run
The biggest dangers to nighttime running are similar to those encountered during the day. The main difference is that at night the risks are much more heightened from the lack of visibility. Simply put, you need to light up, listen out, repeat the streets and stay connected. The following tips will help you make the most of the great outdoors.
1. A bright idea
At nighttime there is a greater danger of not being seen by cars and cyclists, even if you wear bright, reflective clothing. Your reduced vision also means that you are more likely to trip, fall and get lost. But you can reduce these risks significantly just by wearing a good running light. There are a multitude of styles to choose from including head torches, hand torches, arm bands and mini lights that can clip onto your jacket, backpack or trainers. For a good hands-free option, wearing a running chest light that illuminates the path ahead and has a light on the back to warn others can be an effective and comfortable solution. Don’t forget that if you run with your dog then they should also wear a light and be kept on a short rein. There’s nothing worse than getting pounced on by a shadowy shaped canine in the dark or tripping over the hidden tripwire of a long dog lead.
2. Hear here
In the dark you need to rely much more on your hearing to compensate for your lack of vision to be aware of approaching cars, people and animals. Therefore, it’s really important to leave your headphones at home even if you hate to run in silent boredom. Make sure any headwear you use to keep yourself toasty warm doesn’t also muffle your hearing. By staying alert and listening out you may also find that there is a lot more going on around you than you realised.
3. Another rerun
When you run at nighttime you will find that the same streets can look vastly different in the dark. Therefore, it’s a good idea to stick to running on a familiar route. Pick a safe well-lit course that you have run so often that you think you could practically do it blindfolded. That way you are more likely to stay en route and not get lost as your feet will instinctively lead you in the right direction.
4. Run appy
It’s always a good idea to run with a mate or canine companion if you can but if not, don’t be afraid to run solo. Let others know your plans and when to expect you back and use a running app to track your movements. Despite public perception, the chances of anything untoward happening to you while you are out on a run are thankfully very rare. But for peace of mind always carry your phone with you on nighttime runs in case of injury or emergencies of any kind.
Lastly, one of the best benefits of running at night is that it can help you unwind from a long stressful day. Running allows you to completely switch off from everything and everyone nagging you which means you may return home more tired but indubitably more relaxed. In addition, running at night has been shown to improve sleep as it helps make it easier to get to sleep and promotes deeper sleep which in turn, will ensure you wake up to another good day.
With that in mind, I recently participated in the Halloween themed Cattle Creepy 10K nighttime fun run and joined a mass of other socially distanced runners to light up the countryside. It was a fun way to explore some spooky trails at night safe in the knowledge that there was always a light ahead of me to aim for. However, I can now add one last tip to running at nighttime:
5. Know when to go
If you are running in the dark when nature calls and there are no porta-potties around always be aware of your surroundings. If you get your timing wrong any approaching well-lit runner may unwittingly put you in an unexpected spotlight of embarrassment.
Of course, after a nighttime run you will have worked up an appetite so here is a recipe for a great after sport snack: Carrot and sultana scones. They taste like carrot cake but are healthy so job done.