One of the best things about running is that you can do it almost anywhere, any time of the day or night.
Nonetheless, most runners, including me, prefer logging in our miles during the day when the sun is out and shining.
But that’s not always the case.
In fact, daytime savings, busy schedules, family obligations, and so on, can get in the way of a regular running program during the daytime.
That’s why we sometimes are forced to make the shift to running in the darkest hours of the day, whether it’s the early morning or late in the evening.
And the thing is, if you find yourself hitting the road during these hours, you gonna have to take extra precautions to ensure a safe running experience. Staying safe while running in the dark requires a bit of planning.
But fret no more. I got you covered buddy. Today I decided to spill the beans on nighttime running.
Whether you end up planning to run outside when it’s all dark, here is what you need to do for a safe and enjoyable outdoor exercise experience.
1. Have situational awareness
By far, this is the cardinal rule of safety.
Situational awareness is the overarching principle of safe outdoor exercise—not just during the nighttime, but also during any hour and moment of the day.
If you abide by this rule, you’ll drastically reduce the risks of getting yourself in a dangerous situation; be it an attack, a car accident, or tripping over an obstacle.
Therefore, practice what I call the “360° Awareness Circle” skill.
And here is is what it’s all about…
First of all, be aware of your surroundings and what lies ahead. Steer clear of quiet alleys, dark parks, unpopulated areas, overgrown trails, deserted streets, and the sort.
Instead, stick with busier streets, staying on the left side of the road—preferably under streetlight— the entire time.
Next, keep your eyes straight ahead, check your sides, and turn to check what’s behind you every once in a while—especially if you feel anything out of place.
Plus, keep your eyes open for obstacles that can trip you up. Rocks, broken concrete, gumballs, drivers, and everything in between. And please, be extra attentive to any leery people on your running route.
Also, do not let your mind wonder or zone-out during a night run. Instead of scanning your mind—that’s thinking by the way—scan your surroundings.
In fact, as a runner, you are the most exposed to a potential attack when you are lost in your head and not paying complete attention to what’s happening around you.
In other words, lose your mind and come to your senses.
2. No Headphones Allowed
I love running with my music on. In fact, there is nothing better than a little Metallica to get me going hard and fast during a run.
But when it comes to staying safe during nighttime exercise, running with headphones is not the wise thing to do.
When you are running at night, you’ll usually have your vision drastically impaired. Thus, you’ll need your ears to guide you forward, telling you what’s in front of you and behind.
With that said, loud music restricts and limits your hearing and distracts you from your environment, cutting you completely from what’s happening around you.
In fact, according to a study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and The University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, traffic incidents involving pedestrians wearing headphone has tripled from 2004 to 2011.
The worst part is that a whopping 70 percent of these incidences resulted in the death of the pedestrian.
So, please, don’t block out noise by cranking loud music. It’s not the smart thing to do—no matter how tempting it is.
If you feel like you have to run with your headphones, then make sure have the volume low enough that you can hear what’s happening around you, whether it’s people, oncoming cars, trains or cyclists.
Also, use one ear bud (tuck the other bud safely into your shirt or jacket), and keep an ear anything that might be heading your way.
3. Be Traffic Smart
Traffic is another huge source of a headache for us runners—especially city dwellers. In fact, cars are the biggest source of danger during night time running.
Roughly 80,000 pedestrians get injured each year by cars in the U.S. and the risks of being struck increases 10-fold after dark, with the majority of accidents occurring in the evening hours, between 6 p.m. and midnight, according to the Center for Diseases Control.
The number of fatalities is also, huge. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 4800 pedestrians sustained fatal injuries in traffic crashes in the U.S. in 2015.
And as a runner, you are, basically, a pedestrian on steroids.
Here are the sensible steps you need to take:
First, never run in the same direction as traffic. Instead, run against it. By facing traffic, you’ll be getting a clear view of oncoming cars in case you need to perform any last-minute evasive maneuver.
Secondly, do not make the mistake of assuming that a driver can you. Instead, assume that every driver is busy texting, talking on the phone, listening to the radio or just lost in thoughts. In other words, run a like a defensive driver.
Furthermore, obey traffic signals the entire time. They are there for your safety. So, please, dot not ignore the what seems to be mundane rules.
Here are the main ones:
- Look both ways before crossing the streets, even if there is a stop sign nearby.
- Slow it down, or fully stop, at a curb to get a full picture of the road ahead.
- Make eye contact with a driver before crossing in front of them.
- Keep your eyes on reverse light and an ear for cars with running motors.
4. Run With a partner
I hate to sound like a cheap cliché, but there is strength in numbers.
Why a partner?
Well, it’s a no-brainer.
By running with a partner, you’ll have an extra set of ears and eyes to be on the lookout for anything strange and/or out of place. And this will drastically reduce the risk of someone accosting you.
Not only that, peering up with a buddy can also boost your motivation and consistency. This can definitely help you become a better runner.
So, don’t you want to be a safe and better runner? I bet you do.
As a result, consider enlisting a running buddy. Ask your running friends, join online runners’ forums. Or just join a local running club. They must have night time running plans.
5. Leave Word
If you had to go solo, then at least, leave word about the route you’re running and roughly how long you’ll be gone.
So, please let your family members, friends, roommates, or a neighbor know where you are going, as well as what time they should hear back from you.
Once you are back home, be sure to touch base and let them know that you are safe and sound.
6. Have Your ID on
Carry your personal identifications with you, such as a driver’s license, or an ID card. Put it in your pocket or handbag, use an ID bracelet, or wear an ID tag on your running shoes.
Also, write your name, address, a list of emergency contacts, blood type, and any other medical information on the inside of your running shoes.
In other words, don’t be a John, or Jane, Doe.
Who knows! Maybe you’ll end up never needing it. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.
7. Run in Well-lit and Populated Areas
Funny picture. Don’t trust runners. They always find the dead bodies.
Venturing down a dark path in the park during the nighttime is a recipe for disaster.
This is especially the case if you are trail running junkie. In fact, trails are not recommended for night running. Poor visibility, ankle sprains, uneven surfaces, wild animals; you know the risks.
Also, by hitting the trails during the dark hours, you’re setting yourself up as the perfect prey, making it easy for some someone to attack you.
Thus, if you do the bulk of your training on trails or remote routes, then you gotta rethink your running route.
As a rule of thumb, stick to well-lit and busier venues, preferably areas that are lit by streetlamps. This is the safest bet.
For some of you this option might sound boring, but I’d rather be a bored runner, than end up in the emergency room, or worse, the morgue.
So, please, don’t be another statistic.
8. Get the right Gear for the Job
The equipment you go for during the night time is also essential. That’s why you need to consider investing in a few items to ensure safety.
Here a few of the essentials:
The Right Clothing
As a rule of thumb, you should always top for clothes designed for the night-conscious runner. These almost always have a sort of reflective bit in them, typically plenty of neon, light-reflecting properties.
Well, the more reflective your clothing is, the more visible you are going to be on the road. Thus, the safer you’ll be.
Reflectors Around your Joints
For more visibility, be sure to strap on a few reflectors around your joints, mainly your shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles.
Doing so will not only make you instantly stand out from a still object like a tree or a mailbox, but also tell the driver which direction you are going.
In case you cannot afford them, then use reflective tape or straps instead.
A good headlamp can cut through the darkness just like a hot knife through butter, helping you pick the safest route, while putting an end to visibility issues—the main source of trouble during night time running.
Clear glasses and a billed cap
These two items are critical for protecting your eyes at night.
The clear glasses will serve as a sort of shield for your eyes from cobwebs, thin branches, bugs, leaves and other obstacles.
While, on the other hand, the bill of a cap will protect your eyes from tree branches and other unseen obstacles that might obstruct your path.
9. Vary your Routes
Picture. Notes of a serial killer stalker.
This tip might make you feel like a CIA secret agent conducting a clandestine operation in a hostile country.
Yet, this is something you should consider doing—especially if you live in a not-so-safe area, or tend to follow a rigid running routine.
And here it is:
Alter your running routine by running a few different routes and at different times throughout the week to keep it random. If that can’t be done, then feel free to run your typical running route backward.
Why is that?
Well, sticking to a rigid running routine creates a sort of predictable pattern for creepers and stalkers to track you.
Conversely, the less predictable you are, the less likely you are making for someone to track you and learn your habits.
Of course, random attacks do happen, but for the most part, stalkers usually pick their victims by observing a given area and looking for patterns. And if you end up on their radar, they will be able to predict where and when you’re going to be solo during a night run. As you can tell, this is bad. Really bad.
To err on the safe side, consider keeping pepper spray or a Taser gun on you (depending on your state’s laws, of course).
10. Bring a Cell Phone
A mobile phone, when used right, is another measure you can take to ensure safety during nighttime workouts.
As a result, keep your phone with you at night. Bring your cell with you even if you prefer staying off the grid while running, (it’s your solo time, after all, so I won’t blame you).
So be sure to have your phone on you. If you don’t have a pocket or bag to safely (and comfortably) carry your phone, then opt for an armband.
If you are in a pinch or got yourself embroiled in an unfortunate situation, use it. Call the police. Call your friends. Call everyone.
11. Use Apps
If you’re going to take your phone with you, then be sure to put modern technology to your advantage by using special tracking apps and safety apps.
Some of the best security apps include bSafe. This one sends an alert message with your exact location to a list of emergency friends (or Guardians) who can respond promptly.
RunSafe is also another great option. This has the same functionality as most fitness apps, with GPS-enabled tracking and all.
Not only that, but it also has, just like bSafe, a sort of panic button that triggers a siren and strobe light, records videos, alert the authorities and tells them your exact GPS location.
These can come in handy in cases of extreme emergency.
12. Follow your Instinct
In the end, gut feelings are what might save the day.
Hence, if the hairs on the back of your neck stand up for no apparent reason, or if a given situation is giving you the heebies jeebies, then trust that feeling, change directions, and run to a safer location.
If something tells you a situation is not right, it usually because it isn’t. Those gut feelings have protected us for millions of years, and they are there for a reason.
And do not think twice about alerting the authorities. In fact, call the police in case you notice anything suspicious, whether it’ s person, a car, a situation, you name it. You might end up saving someone else by doing so.
In other words, if you see something, say something.
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I know that I do sound paranoid, but don’t get me wrong here. The above running safety guidelines aren’t meant to scare you.
Not at all.
These are the no-brainer, must, things you should be doing anyway whenever you’re outside.
After all, in my opinion, nothing is more important than your safety.