Want to give night running a try but are afraid for your safety?
Then you have come to the right place.
Daytime savings, work meetings, family obligations, and so on can get in the way of a regular running program during the daytime.
Here is what you need to do for a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience when running at night.
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 the daytime.
Abide by this rule, and you’ll reduce the risk of getting yourself in dangerous situations.
First of all, be aware of your surroundings. Avoid quiet alleys, dark parks, overgrown trails, deserted streets, and the sort.
Instead, stick with busier streets, staying on the left side of the road—preferably under a 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.
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.
2. No Headphones Allowed
A lot of runners love to hit the pavement with their favorite tunes in the background—I’m no exception.
But running at night is a different beast. Often your vision will be drastically impaired, and you’ll need your ears to guide you forward.
Loud music restricts your hearing and distracts you from your environment, cutting you completely from what’s happening around you. This is really bad.
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.
If you feel like you have to run with your headphones, at the very least, have the volume low enough that you can hear your surroundings, whether it’s people, oncoming cars, trains, or cyclists.
You can also simply use one earbud (tuck the other bud safely into your shirt or jacket) and keep an ear for anything that might be heading your way.
3. Be Traffic Smart
Traffic is another huge source of headache for us runners—especially city dwellers. In fact, cars are the biggest source of danger during night time running.
About 80,000 pedestrians get hurt 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 between 6 p.m. and midnight, according to the Center for Diseases Control.
The number of fatalities is also alarming. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 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 like a defensive driver.
If you can, try to avoid rush hour time—the fewer vehicles you have to worry about, the better. Wear a cap or visor if you find headlights blinding.
Here are more traffic rules to follow:
- Look both ways before crossing the streets, even if there is a stop sign nearby.
- Slow it down, or full stop at a curb to get a full picture of the road ahead.
- Make eye contact with a driver before crossing the road.
- Keep your eyes on reverse lights 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.
By running with a buddy, you’ll have an extra set of ears and eyes for danger. This will drastically reduce the risk of someone accosting you.
Pairing up with a buddy can also boost your motivation and consistency. So, don’t you want to be a safe and better runner? I bet you do.
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
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 your driver’s license or some other form of ID. Put it in your pocket, use an ID bracelet, or clip-on a tag to your running shoes.
Also, jot down your name, address, blood type, a list of emergency contacts, and any pertinent information.
7. Get the Right Gear for the Job
Your running gear also matters when running in the dark. Here are the must-have items:
The Right Clothing
Choose clothes designed for the night-conscious runner.
You can find plenty of running-friendly clothing made of neon, light-reflection materials designed for nighttime workouts.
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, strap on a few reflectors around your joints, mainly your shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles.
Doing so not only makes you instantly stand out from a still object like a tree or a mailbox but also tells drivers 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. This can help you choose the safest course while improving visibility.
Some modern brands are lightweight enough to attach to your hat or visor without much hassle.
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, buds, 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.
8. Vary your Routes
Alter your running routine by running various routes and at various times throughout the week. If that’s not possible, then run your usual running route but backward.
Sticking to a rigid running routine creates a sort of predictable pattern for creepers and stalkers to track you.
But, the less predictable you are, the harder you’re making it 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 could predict where and when you’re going to be solo during a night run.
To err on the safe side, consider keeping pepper spray or a Taser gun on you (depending on your state’s laws, of course) to ward off any uninvited animals or individuals.
9. Have A Phone
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).
If you don’t have a pocket or bag to safely (and comfortably) carry your phone, then opt for an armband.
Don’t hesitate to call the police—and everyone else—if you’re in a pinch or got yourself embroiled in something bad.
10. Use Apps
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.
11. 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, and run to a safer location.
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 a person, a car, a situation, you name it.
In other words, if you see something, say something.