Running in the dark has a lot in common with going to a rave: You get to dress up in flashy neons, sweat it out (from mileage instead of fist-pumping), and come home ready for a good night’s rest. Logging your miles when the moon’s high in the sky gives you the opportunity to beat the heat and run on less-crowded streets, but to be and feel safe from mile one to the finish, running coaches say you need to go out with a few safety measures in mind—including what to, ahem, sport for your favorite nocturnal sport.
“It’s important to ask yourself questions about your running route and gear as well as your support network,” says Aaptiv running coach Raj Hathiramani. “For example: ‘Is my running route well-lit? What clothing and gear am I wearing so I can be seen? If I’m running with headphones, will I be able to hear what’s happening around me?’ And finally, ‘Does someone know where I will be running and when I expect to be back?'” Below, Coach Raj and other pavement-pounding enthusiasts outline the steps to have a fun run in the dark.
Running in the dark and safety: before, during, and after your miles.
Before the run
Share your location: First thing’s first, share your location with a person you live with (a roommate, partner, or family member) or someone else who you trust, along with a time you expect to be back from your run. If you use Strava, you can use a feature called Beacon to let your guardian running angels track your mileage, too. Just make sure someone’s watching out for you. You should also always carry identification on you in the event of an emergency.
Choose a well-lit, fairly populated route: “You should always have your exact route and workout in mind,” says Charge Running coach Casey Green. “Know where you’re going, what the light and visibility along the route is, and approximately how long you should be out there running.” If the trail your apartment quiets down at nighttime, for example, you might not want to make that your stomping grounds for this particular workout. Instead, choose a busy park or route within your neighborhood.
Gear up properly: Of course, the fact that you need to be seen in order to be safe is the bottom line, and athleticwear companies have stepped up to create gear that puts a safety spotlight on you when the sun doesn’t shine. The type of gear should say “reflective” on the tag, and brands like Nike, Illuminite, and Noli have options that often come in those ultra-visible “rave” colors we spoke about earlier.
This month, Brooks Running is even launching its own Run Visible collection to celebrate night runners with clothes that—get this—allow you to be seen by a driver from 600 feet away. The brand did a survey to find out that many suburban runners were tackling miles at night in low-light conditions, where the average speed limit for cars was 30 to 35 miles per hour. “We know that people react differently when they recognize someone the road as a human versus a sign. So the focus there switched from making sure we replaced reflective elements at high motion zones on the body,” says Mike Orton, product manager at Brooks. These spots include your joints like your hips, knees, and shoulders.
Give yourself a safety talk: “Remind yourself that it’s okay to cut the run short if you ever get uncomfortable in the night environment. Safety over training every time,” says Green. Finishing your distance isn’t worth feeling your nerves eat away at your for the last few miles.
During the run
Skip the tuneage: Part of the joy of running can be slapping on your go-to playlist and jamming out as the miles roll by, but at night, your ears are a huge asset to your safety. “You can still play your music out loud but keep it at a low enough volume to keep your awareness high,” says Green.
Scan your surroundings: Throughout the run, keep your eyes in motion and track your surroundings. If part of your route ends up not being well-lit, take an alternative street (that you’re already familiar with) or consider turning around.
Watch the clock: “Be aware of your time. Don’t get lost in the run and end up much further out than planned,” says Green. Leave the spontaneity to your day runs, folks.
After the run
Let your friend/partner/family member know you made it back safe: Make the call or send a text saying that you made it! Then, celebrate: You just rocked a safe night run.
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