Now, fair runners, let us welcome pleasant midsummer night runs while being properly illuminated with bright reflective clothing and running gear to keep us safe. Summer evening and night runs are common for many of us, allowing us to avoid the heat and humidity of the day. But night running can be more hazardous due to the lack of visibility or territorial edges where streetlights may not reach, creating “blind spots” of darkness in some places. What safety precautions can and should be taken to keep us safe when running at night (including predawn hours before sunrise)? We certainly cannot rely upon Shakespearean sprites to help us (as in Midsummer Nights’ Dream that inspired this post), can we?
I have three (or more) safety tips that could be helpful in keeping us safe running at night.
First, it is essential that we wear bright reflective clothing after dark. And the clothing doesn’t have to be completely bright. Many running shoes, clothes, gear, jackets, and vests come with reflective strips added. Some cover the entire sleeve. Others may lack this reflective capacity. One simple step to take is to add Brilliant Reflective safety strips to our shoes, clothes, gear, jackets, and/or vests. Some of the strips are stick-on, some are iron-on. And the reflectivity makes us much more visible as long as we apply it well so it adheres properly. If you look at the picture above, you can see I added Brilliant strips to my OrangeMud vest and singlet. The photo is from a recent night run. As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, I am a Brilliant Reflective ambassador and so if you have questions about the safety strips or how they work, please contact me. You can find the safety strips here: BrilliantReflective.com
Secondly, we should always carry a headlamp if running after dark/before sunrise or in inclement weather (e.g. fog, rain, etc.). There are so many uneven cracks in the pavement/sidewalk/streets that we need to try to take adequate precautions. Why? Sometimes streetlights burn out. Or in fog, we can’t see streetlights as well. And cars/drivers cannot see us running/walking/exercising. It’s essential to make sure your headlamp is properly charged too. Many of us have had a headlamp burn out where the battery died or it just wasn’t charged up enough. Not a good feeling. Just charge the headlamp whenever it is low (get a rechargeable one like Petzl) and you’ll be fine. I had a bad collision with the pavement caused by not wearing a headlamp. Let’s learn from our mistakes.
Third, always carry a phone in case of emergency and make sure it is charged.
Fourth, always carry water for every run. Carry enough water at night that you don’t have to stop and refill it unless you have to do so. It’s just safer to have it with you already to prevent unnecessary stops.
Fifth, be careful of where you are running. If streetlights are burned out or a neighborhood/area appears unsafe, change direction and alter your route towards safety.
Finally, perform periodic safety audits to make sure that your gear, shoes, clothes, and reflective strips are all reflecting. Sometimes we need to replace reflective gear/clothes or reflective strips might fall off after a rainy run or many washes. Just create a flat runner and take a flash photo of your gear and clothes in the dark. See what reflects and what doesn’t. Sometimes this reveals reflective capacity where we don’t think we have it. Or the opposite problem: a lack of reflectivity.
If you do run at night, it’s safer to run with a friend/family member and/or your dog. If you have to run laps around the block to be safe, that’s better than taking safety risks in areas that you are unfamiliar with at night. It’s safer to only cover ground at night that you have already covered during the day? Why? Muscle memory. Our legs and our minds remember what certain areas feel like and where the large/small hazards are that could trip us up in the dark. Try to memorize where those areas are.
I have a night race coming up on Saturday, the GSK Orange Run 5k. So I’ll make sure my shoes, clothes, and gear are reflective and ready. Remember the sun frequently sets near the end of many evening/night races. So take that into account when you figure out what to wear/bring with you for a run/race.
Wishing you safe happy midsummer night running! Give me your safe footsteps if we be friends!