How to Run Safely in the Dark

By Rick Morris

Ideal running conditions include having a sufficient amount of light to see trail hazards and avoid other safety issues. While running during daylight hours is always the preferred method, there are times when it just may not work out. Many early morning runners are faced with getting in their daily workout before the sun comes up. Late afternoon runners have the similar problems with the sunset. Daylight challenges become even more common during the short, winter days. Running in the dark presents a number of safety problems, but don’t worry, you can overcome them with just a little planning and preparation. Here are a few tips for how to run safely in the dark.

Be Seen

One of the most important ways to stay safe when running in the dark is to be sure you are visible to automobile traffic and other trail or road users. You don’t need to carry sparklers or a burning torch, just try to wear some bright, reflective clothing. There are also a number of safety lights you can purchase that wrap around your arm, wrist or ankle. Most these lights flash and let drivers know you are there. Even if you’re lit up like a Christmas tree, don’t always count on the drivers to see you. Run against traffic so you see the oncoming automobiles. It will give you a chance to take evasive action if necessary.

See It

Sure, you want to be seen, but you also want to be able to see. The dark can hide a lot of trail hazards, such as rocks, roots, pot holes, dips and drop offs. It would be a really nasty surprise to find yourself face down on the trail after a bad fall you didn’t see coming. Carrying a flashlight when running is rather inconvenient. Luckily there are  a number of handy headlamps available that will strap to your dome. These headlamps are light weight and do a great job of illuminating the road or trail in front of you. You can find them on line or at outdoor retail shops.

Be Smart

I like to zone out when I run, especially during a long run, but running at night isn’t a good time to lose your head. Stay smart and think ahead. If you must run at night, try to run with a group or at least a friend. There is safety in numbers. If running in an urban area, try to plan a route that is well lighted and familiar. Avoid running new routes or road that are dark and unlighted. If you’re doing a long run, try to run multiple short loops rather than a long out and back so you are never far from home. Always be aware of your surroundings. Look around and behind yourself often. This may seem overly cautious, but I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Stay in Touch

Don’t be a loner when you run at night. Let someone know where you are running and when you expect to be back. Carry a cell phone for emergencies and a loud whistle just in case you need some fast help. Also carry some sort of ID with you at all times.