For some, running in the dark is a weekly or even daily occurrence, but for others, the very thought of heading out for a run under moonlight can be seriously off-putting.
From early morning runs to help kickstart your routine to evening strides to stretch out the legs and give the mind a rest after a tough day of working or studying - running in the dark poses increased risks to your safety, but with the correct steps in place, you can reap the rewards from staying consistent with your running and building healthy, long-lasting habits.
We've put together the ultimate tips for staying safe and feeling confident when running in the dark, whether you're on your first couch to 5k or 100th ultra-marathon – these ten tips will help keep you safe when running in the dark.
10 Tips For Running In The Dark
Plan your route ahead of time
Prepare your running kit in advance
Turn your headphones down (or off!)
Run against the flow of traffic
Wear a head torch
Run with others
Charge your phone and take it with you
Use a tracking or location sharing feature
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Plan Your Route Ahead Of Time
Planning your route ahead of time can help you avoid fast, dangerous roads and poorly lit areas - keeping you safe and focused on enjoying your run.
Using apps such as Strava or MapMyRun can also help you plan routes based on popularity and find new routes altogether. Running similar routes to other runners can make sure you don't feel alone out there, while also allowing you to accurately plan the length of your route to save adding on unexpected detours whilst chasing your target distance.
Having your route determined ahead of time also allows you to share with family or friends, giving them a rough time when you're heading out and how long it should take before you're back home from your run.
Prepare Your Running Kit In Advance
Staying safe when running at night or in the dark requires much more thought than a midday run when the sun is at its peak. If you're running in the dark, you're most likely heading out early in the morning or later on after work, which means you're more likely to have time constraints that can lead to the oversight of considerations and accessories to ensure you're safe whilst out on your run.
Laying out your kit the night before, ready for the morning or when you return from work, is a great way to ensure you don't miss any essential items when heading out on your run. Realising you're missing your reflective vest 2km into your run isn't any good, and you'll most likely continue your run with significantly less visibility.
Dark nights often bring cooler temperatures, so to save hanging around in the dark trying to loosen up and prepare for your run - opt to do it before you leave the comfort of your own home.
Begin with jogging on the spot and lateral movements, followed by a thorough dynamic warm-up before heading out for your run in the dark. This way, you can hit the road running (literally), building up to your tempo/pace much quicker.
Turn Your Headphones Down (or off!)
Blasting your favourite beats through your headphones has its advantages, but when it comes to road running (especially in the dark) - being aware of your surroundings is crucial, and a live concert in your ears might have to wait until you're back on the treadmill.
Ideally, it would be best if you lost the headphones altogether to maximise safety and be fully aware of your surroundings. If your headphones are a must, turn them down to a level you can hear traffic and noises around you.
Ensure noise cancelling is off, and if your headphones have transparency mode, use it - this is a fantastic feature to help keep you safe and fully aware of your surroundings whilst still enjoying your favourite music or podcasts.
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Run Against The Flow Of Traffic
Running against the flow of traffic ensures that the biggest threat to your safety is in front of you rather than behind you.
This goes for whether you are running on the road or pavement:
If you're on the road, you can assess the risk ahead to help avoid traffic and stay safe.
If you're on the pavement, it reduces your risk should you have to step out into the road when avoiding fellow pavement users or obstructions (still, always look both ways).
It's an obvious one, but running in low-light or darkness means we've got to make an extra effort for others to see you with enough time to react, whether that be runners, cyclists or motorists.
Wearing clothing with reflective detailing is essential, followed by any reflective accessories such as arms straps, hats, gloves and trainers.
Lastly, having small LED running lights can make all the difference when it comes to others seeing you further in advance.
Don't forget to check that your reflective accessories and lights are visible from 360 degrees – there's no point having the front of you lit up like a Christmas tree if people from behind can't see you!
Wear A Head Torch
Running in the dark makes navigating your route challenging enough; add in the extra challenge of uneven pavements, roads or trails, and your chance of injury starts to increase significantly.
Wearing a head torch increases your visibility to others, but it also lights your route, allowing you to plan your strides a few more steps in advance - avoiding potential hazards, from raised kerbs to potholes, tree routes and more.
Head torches aren't the ugly, cumbersome devices of the past - you can pick up light, comfortable and rechargeable head torches that keep your hands free and make running in the dark much safer.
Run With Friends or Clubs
Best mates, school friends or run clubs – there are plenty of options to choose from when running with others. A group of well-lit runners stands out a mile off and helps other road users slow down and plan ahead to keep you safe.
Running with others will also help you feel safer when running under darkness, and let's face it, running as a group has that super special team feeling that you just don't get when hitting the tarmac alone.
Charge Your Phone And Take It With You
A phone with no battery is useless, so make sure you have enough charge to last your run (and then some). Having a device on you that allows you to contact friends and family gives you peace of mind that should you need help, it's just a call away.
Your phone is also your navigation tool, and should you get lost whilst out running, your phone can help you get back on track – because, let's face it, you probably won't be carrying a paper map of your local area in your pocket.
Use A Tracking or Location Sharing Feature
Some apps, such as Strava (and even WhatsApp), have a beacon/tracking feature that allows you to share your live location whilst on the move – a great feature that all runners should use to their advantage.
For added safety, it's also worth sharing your login details with a close family member or friend for 'Find My' on Apple or 'Google Find My Phone' on Android, allowing those with your details to check, and track your phone's location at any time.
If giving out your deets or sharing your live location isn't your thing, there's another fantastic app called 'WhatThreeWords' that allows you to share your exact location with precision quickly!
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Whether you implement all or just some of our ten tips for running the dark, remember the fundamentals: stay visible, stay together and carry a mobile device, and don't forget to enjoy your run!
Are you a regular runner under darkness? Share your favourite tips with fellow runners in the comments section below!