How To Run In The Dark

Photo: Amy Jensen

With Aussie temperatures regularly hitting the high 30s this summer, you'd have to be barmy to run while the sun is up. Unfortunately, once the air has cooled down enough to run you're basically in pitch-black darkness. So how do you run outdoors safely?

Wear a Headlamp

First priority, you have to see where you’re going. Unless you can count on streetlights or a full moon, you’ll probably need a flashlight.

Instead of carrying one in your hand, most serious nighttime runners rely on a headlamp, which straps around your forehead, looks dorky as all get-out, and effortlessly lights your way. Runner’s World has reviews of some of the higher-end models, including one that’s meant to be worn around your waist. Here's a rechargeable LED model from Amazon for $16.50.

Make sure to think through what you’ll do if your batteries die suddenly or if you drop the headlamp and break it. On a neighbourhood run, this may be a mild inconvenience, but in the bush, you better have a backup flashlight.

Stock Up on Reflective Clothes

If you run anywhere near traffic, it’s not enough to see; you must also be seen. Even in car-free parks, I appreciate being able to see oncoming pedestrians. It’s super spooky to cross paths with someone you didn’t even know was there.

The worst thing to wear is all black or dark clothes, because you blend in with the night. White or light coloured clothes are only a slight step up. If you’ll be anywhere near traffic, you really need reflective stuff.

If you don’t have high-visibility clothes, throw on a safety vests. There are some made for running that aren’t too annoying to wear, like Amphipod’s vests and suspender-like “xinglets.” Or throw on an LED vest with light-up cords that cover your torso.

Check Conditions the Night Before

The worst combination is dark and icy, and you can’t always know what awaits you on the road. While this won't be a problem now, in a few months regions of Australia are going to get extremely cold overnight, so keeping this in mind for the future is important.

One time I stepped out of my car at a local park and discovered the entire parking lot was coated in black ice. Another time, the roads seemed dry at first, but I kept having to dodge puddles as I ran, getting only a few seconds’ warning about each thanks to my headlamp.

So check conditions the night before.

Through it all, don’t forget about ordinary safety precautions: Run on the side of the road that faces traffic, find safe paths and footpaths, tell someone where you’re going, and all the other things you should be doing anyway.

Alternatively, just switch to the treadmill.


Comments

    A head lamp is essential not just to see where you're going but also be seen by other people/vehicles.

    So, if running anywhere near roads, also wear a rear light too. Many bike lights have a belt clip so can be worn on the back of shorts/pants. Even better, use it's flash function (i.e. rather than constantly on) as drivers will instinctively assume it's a cyclist and (should) give a wide berth.

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