Running during the day is always the safer choice but sometimes it’s just not possible. As the days get shorter and the leaves start to fall many runners, myself included, take to the streets before sunrise at or after sunset to get in their miles.
If you find yourself running in the dark there are a few ways you can definitely make your runs safer for you, other runners, motorists and everyone else we share the road with.
Run Against Traffic
Unlike my mother, and probably yours too, I haven’t yet grown eyes on the back of my head. So I can’t see and react to something that’s coming up from behind. Running against traffic you have the advantage of knowing what’s coming up and you can react if you need to. I prefer to run on the road but I also recommend staying off of roads with little or no shoulder and blind curves. If you can’t see them they can’t see you either.
Choose a Well Lit Route
When possible, choose a route that is well-lit. Cars will be able to see you better and you’ll be able to see your terrain and footpath better to avoid potential hazards.
DITCH YOUR MUSIC
I know this is incredibly hard advice to follow for some of you. When you’re running at night you need to run with all of your senses. You might not be able to see a car coming around a corner but chances are you’ll be able to hear it if you’re not blasting those tunes.
Use Lights and Reflectivity
When I first started running with my training group at Fleet Feet Sports in Louisville the store owner used to tell us “If you don’t GLOW you don’t GO!” Meaning if you weren’t wearing at least three pieces of reflectivity or lights he did not want you out running in the dark.
When it comes to lights there all literally dozens of choices out there from clip on lights and headlamps, led shoe spurs, slap-band style bracelets, and even more high-tech fiber optic cable vests. With so many choices it can be a little overwhelming when choosing what will work for you. So here are a few of my favorite light types and products.
Clip On Lights
Nathan LED Strobe Lights – http://amzn.to/2e7eECr
These little lightweight clip on lights pack quite a lot of light into a very compact package. The lights come in three different colors – red/orange, green, and purple, and can be found in most running specialty stores, online, or even in your local big box stores. I know both Wal-Mart and Meijer carries them here. The lights have two modes: a solid “on” light and a second flashing setting. I always wear two if these are my only lights, the first on the back side of my hat or headband and the second on the front of my reflective vest. (See pictures below.) The batteries on these are replaceable and I’ve found that once a year does the trick to keep your lights bright and effective.
LED Shoe Spurs
4id PowerSpurz Lightweight Shoe Spur – http://amzn.to/2e4VICZ
This style of light is worn on the back of your shoe at the heel. Like the Nathan Strobes these spurs generally have two light settings – “on” and flashing. I’ve seen these in a variety of colors including green, red, yellow, and orange and retail from $9.99 to $14.99. I have the 4id PowerSpurz and received it in my first box from The Runner Box. It’s definitely lightweight and I forgot it was on my shoe until the end of the run but as a safety measure I’m not sure that I would wear it alone, even in a pair. Most drivers aren’t looking at foot level and though it still counts as a point of light I would definitely pair it with another light.
Band Bracelet Style Lights
These slap band style LED bracelets have become more common and popular in the last couple of years. I have two that I received in my RunnerCrate but I don’t find myself using them often because I already wear my Garmin, my roadID, and often times my Apple Watch when I am running. It should be noted that they also make this style of band for the upper arm and ankle as well. I have seen these available in yellow, red, orange, green, and pink. Again, like the Nathan Strobe and Shoe Spurs these usually have the same two settings for “on” or flashing.
Light Up Vests
NOX Gear Tracer 360 Illuminated and Reflective Vest – http://amzn.to/2dJ264x
This is one of the more “high-tech” vests that I mentioned above. This is one of the most innovative and high viz safety vests I’ve come across and every time I wear it at least one person asks what it is and where it came from. The all-season/rain-proof design is ultra-comfortable, incredibly durable and adjustable to be worn over a t-shirt or running jacket. The vest uses two powerful, efficient CREE LEDs. The five dynamic illumination modes are software-controlled and combine flash, strobe and blink modulation across a variety of colors dramatically increasing visibility and safety. The whole thing weighs less than 7oz! I would DEFINITELY recommend this vest for anyone looking for something different and very effective.
Reflective Vests/ Belts
Nathan Streak Reflective Vest – http://amzn.to/2epBwjv
If you do nothing else – invest in a good reflective vest. There are many styles of vests from a belt style with clips to more traditional over the head vests with Velcro and prices from as low as $6.99 to $40 for a really nice one. My go to vest for the past few years has been the Nathan Streak Vest listed above. It’s lightweight, machine washable, and reflective enough to get the job done and done well and at $17 – $19 it’s reasonably priced.
BCG™ Women’s Run BioViz Capri Pant – http://bit.ly/2daUpSb
IllumiNite Reflective Vigor Singlet – http://bit.ly/2d5VCiu
There are also a ton of choices for high visibility clothing that is comfortable, great for running, and functional as well. If you really don’t want to wear a vest or extra layer, you could choose a high-viz singlet or tights. From block reflectivity to all over coverage like the BCG tights, you can find the perfect level of reflectivity for you.
Here’s a video I shot to illustrate the difference between running with no lights or reflectivity to running with only reflectivity, to running with both!
Be AWARE, Always!
The best advice I can give you about night running is to be aware of your surroundings. Be alert. Expect the unexpected. In an age where distracted driving is more deadly than drunk driving our safety as runners is in our hands. You cannot expect others to watch out for you – you must be watching out for yourself.
Remember, “If you don’t GLOW, you don’t GO!”