Runners are persistent. We love our sport and will do whatever it takes to squeeze in that daily run – even if it means getting up at dawn or running at night. Sometimes it feels nearly impossible to fit in our runs during the daylight, leaving us with the option to either run in the dark or skip it altogether.
Which is how we find ourselves running in the dark.
Running in the dark brings a sense of peace and tranquility that can’t be found during those usual daytime runs. And while running when things are quiet can certainly put our minds at ease, it’s important not to get too absorbed in the moment.
When we head out for a dark run, it’s important to make sure we are taking extra precautions to keep ourselves safe on the run. Feeling invisible might help us relax after a hectic day, but it also means that we need to be on high alert.
Safely running in the dark requires extra precautions.
Regardless of how familiar we are with the area or how safe we might feel, it’s important to be extra cautious when we head out for a run in the dark.
Between the dangers that come with not being seen by traffic, injuring ourselves by tripping on something we didn’t see, or getting physically attacked by another person or animal – the dark certainly brings its fair share of challenges.
However, that’s not to say that running in the dark is not an option. When daylight feels nearly non-existent in the winter, running in the dark is often a reality if we want to avoid the treadmill. On busy summer days, we often find that the only way to fit in a run is to wake up before the sun.
When running in the dark is your only option, you’ll want to take a few extra precautions to ensure you can do so safely.
Luckily, all it usually takes is a few creative adjustments to your routine, along with some reflective running gear to be seen and stay safe in the dark.
14 Tips for Safely Running in the Dark
Be aware of your surroundings
Running in the dark is vastly different than running during the daytime. Not only does it make it more difficult for you to see what’s around you, but it also makes it more difficult for others to see you.
Darkness requires us to be more alert and aware than ever before. We need to be aware of our own path, as well as the traffic and people that surround us. Staying safe in the dark often involves more than just simply taking a glance around every few minutes.
- Run without headphones. Zoning out to music or podcasts might be a great distraction during the day, but can present a variety of dangers at night. To stay safe in the dark, ditch the headphones and listen to the noises that surround you during your run.
- Choose a well-lit route. A simple way to reduce the dangers of running in the dark is to pick a path that is well-lit. Find a street with bright street lights, a local park with lots of lights, or a neighborhood that’s lit up with traffic and porch lights.
- Choose an area with other activities. Running in the dark is especially dangerous if you are running alone in a desolate area. Try to plan your night or early morning runs in areas where other activities are taking place. Look for a heavily used trail with other runners, a local track, or a park where you can find others doing the same.
- Run against traffic. It’s important to run on the left side of the road at all times, but especially when you’re running in the dark. You are in control of your own safety when stuck running on the road, and need to be able to see all approaching vehicles. If you’re stuck on the road – be sure you are running against traffic at all times.
Try to avoid running alone
Many runners love the solitude they experience during their runs. Running provides the perfect opportunity to collect your thoughts, remove yourself from the chaos of every day life, and take some time to yourself.
However, when running in the dark, there is always safety in numbers. You are much more vulnerable when you are outside alone – even on your most familiar path.
Fortunately, avoiding running alone doesn’t mean you need to congregate with a running group or join together with your entire family. All it takes is the presence of just one other being to drastically increase your safety in the dark.
- Run with a friend. There is safety in numbers, and one of the safest ways to go about running in the dark is to run with a friend. Find a partner to accompany you on your weekly night run or stay motivated for those early morning runs by finding an accountability partner.
- Run with a dog. When it’s difficult to find a running partner that lives nearby or you simply can’t give up your solitude, running with a dog is the next best option. Taking a dog along will give you the safety of having an extra alert when someone or something else is approaching.
- Tell someone where you’re going. When you head out to run in the dark, whether it’s first thing in the morning or just before bed, make sure someone knows where you are going. Let them know how long you expect your run to take, exactly what route you are taking, and when you are leaving.
The ultimate way to stay safe when running in the dark is to be prepared. Heading out in dark clothing with no method of defense might feel safe if you’re running your regular route, but could quickly lead to a disaster in the dark.
Taking a few extra minutes to prepare yourself for your run will pay off each and every time you return home safely. Luckily, it doesn’t take much to ensure you are prepared when heading out in the dark.
- Carry pepper spray. Pepper spray, or another form of self-defense, is a simple, yet effective way to ensure you are prepared for the worst. Pepper spray in particular is incredibly practical, as it is small to carry, easy to use and quick to take effect. Should you find yourself encountering the worst on one of your runs, pepper spray is a safe way to fend off any attacker.
- Bring your cell phone. Running in the dark can quickly lead to unexpected circumstances. Whether you are lost or wind up injured from tripping over something you didn’t see, a cell phone is necessary to get you home safely. Always take a cell phone with you when it’s dark outside.
- Wear a form of identification. In the worst-case scenario, you might not be able to identify yourself to medical personnel or a local walker who passes you on the path. Wearing identification is a simple way to ensure you are able to receive the care you need, even if you can’t communicate.
Dress to be seen
While some running gear may seem a bit bright or flashy to those who like to keep things simple, those things are key to your safety when running in the dark.
Luckily, the running industry has seen this need and catered to it extensively. There are tons of options for runners when looking for night gear – from reflective clothing to accessories with flashing lights.
While these options may be a bit pricey, investing in at least one outfit designed specifically for running in the dark will help keep you safe even when there’s no light around.
- Wear reflective gear. Reflective running gear is an excellent way to ensure you are seen and visible to traffic and those around you when it’s dark. The best part about it is that the options are limitless – test out a reflective running jacket or running tights with reflectors down the side. Select a few pieces of gear for each season to ensure you always stay seen.
- Bring along a light. Another way to make sure others can see you and that you can see them is to bring along a light. Try out a headlight, handheld light, or attach something to your clothes to light the way and keep yourself safe in the dark.
Avoid being predictable
It’s unfortunate that we have to anticipate an attack, but in this case, it is always best to play it safe. Avoid being predictable when it comes to your running habits in the dark. Try not to run the same route at the same time every night.
As depressing as it may sound, keeping things different will help minimize your chance of a pre-planned attack.
- Vary your route. Mix up your routes – regardless of how safe they might feel. Run different streets in your neighborhood or check out a well-visited and well-lit local park.
- Vary your timing. Try to avoid running at the exact same time every single day. Run after dinner one week and early in the morning the next.
Running in the dark certainly requires more preparation and quite a few more tweaks than running in daylight, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be avoided altogether.
Taking the time to adjust, plan and prepare for your dark runs will help ensure you stay safe every time. Keep up the consistency and enjoy the change of pace – but always be aware of your surroundings.