7 ways to run safely in the dark

How to ensure you stay safe while out running after dark.

Although wintertime, or evening running has its perks including sparkly lights and invigorating temperatures, with the fading light comes a new set of concerns for runners. As dusk arrives at 5pm it effectively halves our key running times, leaving many regular routes in total darkness. So how can we ensure our runs remain safe without impacting on our fitness routine?

1. Light up

The first rule of safe winter running is high-visibility reflective gear. Being seen after dark is imperative not only so that other runners and pedestrians can spot you dashing past, but also vital for oncoming traffic. From remote country roads to busy city intersections, in the absence of reflective kit, runners are effectively invisible to other road users and just like cyclists you need to be seen to be safe. High-vis clothing will also deter potential predators.

Most running brands release kit during the winter months featuring reflective touches to aid your night runs. But if you’re reluctant to invest in a whole new outfit, there are a few simple tricks you can do to light up your evening runs. From LED lights to attach to your clothing, Nathan Sports have come up with a few clever ways to light up the night. Alternatively most running shops stock reflective jackets and bibs to wear over your normal running gear.

2. Run in familiar areas

It may sound obvious, but when you’re out running it’s all too easy to get lost in your thoughts and veer from your usual path. As tempting as it may be to track a new route, if you’re running solo after dark, stick to main roads and well-lit areas.

Having said that, if you run several times a week, it is also easy to slip into a routine and this comes with its own set of dangers. If you run exactly the same route every day, an individual who might be seeking a victim will quickly be able to deduce when and where you’re going to be alone. Stick to routes you know, but mix them up to avoid repetition.

For personal safety, if you’re alone it’s also best to steer clear of parks. ‘Think about changing your route during the dark months so you don’t leave yourself at risk running through quiet or dark places,’ says ex professional British Boxer and Sporting Performance Coach Cathy Brown. ‘Predators are cowards and hide in dark places.’

3. Stay alert

If you are alone, resist the urge to run with headphones, as it’s vital that you remain alert at all times after dark. When your vision is impaired, you need your ears all the more. If you’re on a busy street or a cycle path, if you can’t hear cyclists or other runners coming up behind you the results could be disastrous.

‘Don’t listen to music,’ says Cathy. ‘I know it keeps you motivated and in stride but you can’t hear anyone who may be behind you, so it takes away one of your primary alert senses.’

If you rely heavily on music to keep you motivated, consider hitting the treadmill where you can pump up the volume and run to your hearts content without fear.

4. Run with friends

Join a running club, find a running buddy or run with colleagues at lunchtime to avoid going out alone. Not only is it much safer to run in numbers, but you’ll find your run all the more enjoyable if you have someone to share it with. Running clubs are also a great motivation to push yourself further and improve your fitness, and arranging to meet friends works as a great incentive to get out the door on dark winter nights.

5. Tell a friend

It’s frustrating that in this day and age it’s still risky to be out after dark alone, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution. If you really must run alone, tell someone where you’re going, what route you’re taking and the approximate time it will take you. ‘If you live alone, choose someone to call when you get back from your run and tell them to expect your call,’ says Cathy. ‘It’s better to be over cautious and safe than sorry.’

6. Make some noise

If you do come across someone that makes you feel uncomfortable, make lots of noise. ‘Scream loud and shout with confidence,’ says Cathy Brown. ‘Predators don’t want to attack anyone who is going to bring attention and cause them problems, as they don’t want to get caught; remember they are cowards.’

7. Call the police

If you spot anything suspicious or someone makes you feel uncomfortable, call your local police station as soon as possible and warn other runners in the area. Even if you’re not in imminent danger, your actions could save someone else from potential harm.

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