Running in the dark is an important skill that you need to master all year round, however coming into winter when the days are shorter makes it even more important
If you have just started running you may feel apprehensive about running in the dark and this can stop you from going out. Although you need to make some adjustments it shouldn’t hinder your gains or your progression you just need to know what to do and what not to do which is why I have written this post. My first winter season terrified me because in the UK it starts getting dark around 5 – 5:30pm and it doesn’t get light until 7am (ish) which means all of the prime running time after or before work is gone! I have been running in the dark for a long time now and although I won’t be getting any personal bests, I can still incorporate it into my training program without a hitch!
For beginners entering your first running winter, you may need some extra Winter Running Tips because it’s not only going to be dark but it is also going to be cold and have a lot of challenges when it comes to weather and terrain so you should definitely check out this other post.
Take a running partner – If you don’t feel safe going out in the dark on your, take a friend with you so that you can watch out for each other and have some company! Also it will give you something to do other than listen to music (see below) as well as making you more likely to be seen.
Choose well lit routes – I nearly didn’t put this on there because it goes without saying but making sure you run in an area that has its own lighting is not only safer but makes running easier as it is one less thing to focus on!
Join a Running club – They may have access to floodlit tracks during the winter and you will probably gain running partners. Also, clubs will know the best routes for running in your area and at the very least will keep you from stumbling around.
Make yourself seen! – Whether it be torches, reflective gear or headlamps make sure you can be seen, don’t be another statistic, do all you can to make sure you are safe in the dark. For ideas on some of the ways you can be seen check out the Winter Running Kit Essentials OR take a look at one of my favorites, the Volvo Life Paint
Loops- Nighttime is the worse time to get stuck away from home. It is better to do shorter loops of a familiar route than do a “there and back again” type run. If you have a track or a park nearby you can try doing laps of that until you are used to it.
Find a track – In many instances the local running track will be floodlit at certain times of the year so see if you or some friends can make use of it together. In some instances, you may have to pay a small fee to have them turn the lights on but the more of you there are the cheaper it will be!!
*TIP: If you decide to go far away from your house then take emergency money and identification, just in case!*
Try out new routes – Not only could you get lost and find it a lot harder to get back, you don’t know how the road surface might change (could there be pot holes?, does the curb run out? is there less street lighting?) and this could lead to getting injured and stranded where you are unfamiliar. Save new routes for the daytime.
Get hung up on your speed –You are a lot more cautious and naturally run slower because your vision is impaired and so it takes you longer to adjust to your surroundings. If you are running slower than you imagined don’t worry. Instead, aim to do easy or recovery runs at nighttime so you don’t have to worry about doing personal bests.
Have a routine – It is beneficial to have variety in a training program, so doing different routes at different times is a great way to do this. Also I hate to say it, but doing the same route at the same time has it’s safety risks, so it is best to mix it up to avoid anyone who might have “taken an interest”
listen to music – Consider running without music in the dark because you need to be aware of what is going on around you and the things that you can’t see. Not everyone wears reflective clothing and many animals or dogs do not have reflective jackets on either and you never know who’s attention you might be missing with your headphones in. I hate going music-less but I wrote a post about the Pro’s and Con’s of running with music which should be able to help you out here but running in the dark is a lot different so you need to bare this in mind, worst case scenario keep one headphone in at half the volume, see? compromise!
Substitute long distances – Try to avoid long distances at night (unless you are specifically training for them) because you don’t always run at your natural gait, you could be stop starting due to hazards or uncertainties and over longer distances you can start developing deficiencies which leave you more prone to muscle strain or injury.