Whether you are training for running races, triathlons, or running for exercise, you may find it most convenient to run early in the morning or at night. Although running on a treadmill at home or at the gym is a safer option, you may choose to run outside in the dark.
Why should you run outside instead of inside on a treadmill?
1. Running outside will better prepare you for the conditions you'll face in the race you're training for. Running on a road is much different than running on a treadmill. You'll face the same weather conditions that you may face during the race, such as wind, rain, cold, or humidity. The road surface and changes in terrain will also be similar to what you'll encounter on race day and you may find yourself running alongside others who will give you that extra boost of competitive energy.
2. The fresh air will give you health benefits that you won't experience inside a gym or at home. This is especially true during the pandemic. Many gyms require members to wear masks while working out. Most locations have no mask mandates for outside activity. And so, enjoy breathing the fresh air without fear of contracting a virus.
3. Running outside will seem easier as you run from one destination to another or in a loop. This is far easier than running miles or for time on a treadmill. There's something about running from one destination to another that makes time go quickly than any cardio exercise done in a gym.
4. You'll more easily be able to relax and feel the cognitive benefits of running as you enjoy the scenery of an outside run. This is often called the "runners high". Many people use their runs to do some serious creative or even spiritual thinking.
With the above benefits in mind, consider running outside in the dark. But, always keep safety in mind.
9 Tips for Running More Safely in the dark
1. Wear clothing that can be seen. Some people think that if they wear white, they can be seen by passing drivers. This is not necessarily true. Special reflective clothing is much easier to see in the dark. You might consider wearing a special reflective vest, reflective shoes, a reflective hat, and/or belt. The more the better. When I run, I might even have a flashing light or my phone illuminated so that cars can see me better. Reflective gear can be purchased at running stores and online.
2. Choose a safe route. Run in a location that is safe from dangerous cars, humans and animals. Take extra care when crossing the street and consider slowing down to a walk when in a cross-walk---especially at a busy intersection so that drivers can see you. Drivers may not expect someone to run through a cross-walk. Be careful when running across driveways. Otherwise, you may not see a car pulling out or driving into the driveway before it's too late.
3. Carry your charged cell phone with you. If an emergency should happen, this will allow you to call for help. Your smart phone also has other important functions that can help in a bind. It has GPS in case you get lost. Certain apps may allow you to pay in the event that you need to stop to buy water or if you have to take a taxi. The flashlight is another handy option. And, of course, the phone and text options provide a link to help in case of any problems.
4. Let someone know where you are running and when you are expected to return. Hopefully, you've selected a safe place to run. But, in the event of any problems, when you don't turn up on time after your run, there's someone who will be looking for you.
5. Run with a buddy, if possible. Having a friend with you offers some safety against unsavory characters and running with another person makes both of you more visible in the dark, especially if you are both wearing reflective clothing and accessories. The down side is that if you are talking, you might take your attention away from your surroundings.
6. Run on the left side of the road or facing traffic. This will allow you to react to problems as they will occur in front of you rather than behind you. Stay alert to traffic and be ready to move quickly out of the way.
7. Carry I.D. and money for a ride share service. Since you are carrying your charged phone, you may choose to put your I.D. in your phone case or take a picture of your I.D. It might make sense for you to take a picture of your vaccine card just in case. Download any apps that might be beneficial to you before your run, such as a GPS/map app., Uber or Lyft, and Venmo or other payment app.
8. Don't listen to music. Instead, focus on your surroundings. As mentioned above, if you are running with a friend, don't let conversation while running distract you from paying attention to traffic and other hazards.
9. Run in a well-lit area. This is particularly helpful to prevent trip and falls.
A number of years ago, my marathon club enjoyed a Halloween-themed training run. We wore costumes and ran through a graveyard. We didn't have flashlights or reflective clothing of any kind. What I recall most about that spooky evening is that as my friend and I were running down the hill, I tripped, which is not that unusual in road running. What was unusual is that I remember feeling like I was suspended in the air and I was actually wondering how I was going to land. If I believed in ghosts, I would say that a ghost that didn’t appreciate our run through the graveyard was responsible for this. I fortunately didn’t injure myself badly---just a scraped up hand. After I fell, I told my friend to be careful and actually said something like, “don’t sprain your ankle.” Immediately, after I said that, she stepped on something, twisting her ankle! The risk management application of this story? Watch out for ghosts on Halloween runs. And, be careful of hazards on the ground, use flashlights and wear reflective gear.