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How to be safe running in the dark

As the days grow shorter, finding time to run in the daylight becomes more challenging. For those of us who are training for goal races, getting in a particular training session can be important from a physical and mental perspective. Others of us who are running to stay fit just need to get out for a run when we have time. And often that means early morning, pre-dawn runs or heading out after work.

The question is how to be safe?

Lights and relective gear/clothing

Whether it’s during the day or night, runners need to be seen. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of fitness section of bright and often flourescent running clothing. At a bare minimum, you’ll want to make sure you wear something like an orange or yellow shirt. If it has some relective decals or material, even better. To make yourself as visible and noticeable as possible, consider wearing a headlamp or other lights. All kinds of LED lights are available: flashing lights to wear on your arms or clip on your clothes or shoes, knuckle lights and lights built into hats. Really, with all of the options available, there’s no excuse for a runner not to be visible in the dark.

Run on the sidewalk

In the mornings, runners might not encounter that much traffic and might be tempted to run in the streets even if sidewalks are available. Put yourself in an early morning driver’s place, though: He or she probably doesn’t encounter runners in the wee hours, and certainly isn’t anticipating them in the lane of travel. Go for the extra safety and stay on the sidewalks.

Run against traffic

If you insist on staying off the sidewalks, or you’re running where there are no sidewalks – regardless if it’s dark or the middle of the day – follow this cardinal rule of running and run against traffic. That is, run on the left-hand side of the road. You will be more visible to motorists, and you will see vehicles cominng toward you. If you’re running the right-hand side, you can’t see vehicles approach you from behind. That’s a risk we don’t want to take.

Safety in numbers

We’ve talked about the benefits of group runs before. During runs in the dark, the safety of numbers is even more beneficial than the motivation to get out for a run. It would hard for a driver to miss 5 or 6 runners wearing reflective clothing, headlamps or other lights.

Take different routes

We humans are creatures of habit, and some of us end up running the same exact route each time. Unfortunately, some people with nefarious intentions might take advantage of the dark if you are predictable in where and when you run. So we suggest planning to run different routes and shaking up the routine and not making it easy for someone who might prey on a solo runner.