WIN YOUR WINTER RUNNING
Part 2: Tips for Running Safely at Night with Julie Morrill
“It’s too cold.” “It’s too dark.” “I’m too tired.”
There are plenty of excuses we can make to get ourselves out of exercising, especially during the winter months. But this year, we’re going to #MakeRoomFor our winter workouts.
In our three-part winter running series, we’ve compiled ways to train and condition, safely run at night, and stick to that New Year’s resolution you vowed to #MakeRoomFor.
Whether you're starting your training for the year's races early, looking ways to incorporate after-hours running, or want advice on setting realistic goals, this series has the tips and tricks to get you going and keep you going. Are you ready to Win Your Winter Running?
01 - 16 - 2021
Tips for Running Safely at Night
We’ve all heard it at one time or another, for a range of reasons: Don’t run at night.
But for many of us with jobs, kids, and commitments (um, isn’t that everyone?), running in the evenings or early in the morning are our only options. And in the dead of winter, daylight is limited. So, if we must run at 5 AM or 5 PM, what are we to do?
Let There Be Light
Be smart, be seen
A good headlamp is a must so that you can navigate curbs, trails, ice, and other obstacles. Liz Anjos, a distance runner who set the fastest known time (FKT) northbound for women on the Appalachian Trail (AT) this past summer, spent a lot of time running in the dark. In her attempt to make an overall FKT running the AT, she often started running at 4 in the morning and didn’t finish until late at night. She has good advice for running in the dark:
Use a headlamp,
Carry an extra light source, and
Always have extra batteries.
“I always carry both a headlamp and a flashlight. That was a tip given to me by Jennifer Pharr Davis, the women’s AT record holder. Now I never run in the dark without my flashlight!”
Prior to carrying a second light source, Liz experienced a few scary situations. “I’ve fallen while running and had my headlamp fly off my head,” she said. “I’ve had two close calls with losing my light source, and it’s probably the only time I’ve felt truly scared on a run (even more so than bear encounters).”
In addition to a headlamp and flashlight, try and locate well-lit places to run in the dark. Roads with streetlamps and neighborhoods with houses that keep their lights on are good places to start.
The right gear for the right run
What you wear is important for running in the dark. Cars are always a risk when running at night. Therefore, it is important to make yourself highly visible with reflective clothing, lights, and even shoes. NHTSA also recommends these tips when running with traffic:
Run on sidewalks whenever they are available. If one isn’t available, run facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
Whenever possible, cross streets at crosswalks or intersections, where drivers expect pedestrians, and look for cars in all directions, including those turning.
Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you are seen.
If you live in a snowy location, Nordic skate skiing is another favorite. Skate skiing works on glute strength and balance and can be substituted for speed or quality work as it isn’t easy to stay aerobic, unless you’re a seasoned skier.
Being Safe is Being Smart
General safety awareness is key
Find Friends (6-Feet Apart!)
Ideally, find others to join you for appropriately distanced runs in the dark. Multiple runners are more visible to drivers. However, if you can’t run with others, run in places where other people are present.
If you run alone, it’s always a good idea to let someone know where you plan to run.
Develop a check-in protocol with a close friend or relative. Let your friend know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Another option is to use an app, like the Run Buddy app or Strava Beacon, to track your run for you and alert your friends if you get into trouble.
Set up an emergency plan if your friend or relative doesn’t hear from you at the expected time or can’t track you on your phone.
Darkness can make awareness more difficult because we can’t see as well. Therefore, we must rely on our other senses to help us remain alert. Don’t limit your ability to hear by wearing headphones. Save the headphones for the treadmill.
Run in familiar territory when running in the dark. Save the exploration runs for the daytime.
It can be difficult to think about bad things happening to us. However, it is better to think about them now and decide how you should react than to respond to danger unprepared. What would you do if you felt less than safe on a solo run? We teach multiple methods in our classes to ensure you’re prepared to run confidently at any time — day or night.
If you would like to learn more about running safety and self-defense, please join Roar Training and the Run Collective for Runner Safety Awareness Week from January 18-24, 2021. Click here to learn more and sign up for online workshops and presentations.
About the Author
Julie Morrill is the owner of Roar Training, a safety and self-defense consulting company. Julie lives in Virginia but travels the world to assist clients in emergency preparedness and personal safety. Her teaching is based in Krav Maga, an Israeli form of hand-to-hand combat and self-defense. She applies her worldwide travels and professional experience to her teaching of self-defense and trains her students in real-world scenarios.
 Book and Costello et al. 2013. Psychopath & Victim Selection: The Use of Gait as Cue to Vulnerability.