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This morning, I laced up my shoes in the glow of the porch light, flipped on my flashlights and hit the pavement for a quick 3 mile run before work.  If you are a runner in the northern latitudes, you spend a good portion of your year running in the dark. Are you prepared for the months ahead?

Where are you going?

Safety is at the forefront of every runner’s mind.  Too often we hear about one of our fellow runners becoming a victim of crime or an accident.  Choosing a safe running location is even more important when it is dark, as there tend to be fewer people out to help if an emergency arises.

Surface 

Make sure your planned route is free of ruts, cracks, potholes, debris, or road or trail closures.

Crime

There are a plethora of resources available to assess the safety of your neighborhood or running route.  Chat with your neighbors or local runners.  Utilize online tools like CrimeReports or FamilyWatchdog.  If all else fails, contact your local law enforcement agency.

Weather 

Avoid icy, snowy, wet surfaces unless you have the appropriate footwear.  During rainstorms, check your weather app for local lightning strikes. If there is a strike within 10 miles, stay inside!

Who knows?

Make sure someone knows where you are  and when you should be back.  You can also use an app like Road IDbSafe, or Kitestring to inform the authorities or emergency contacts if you are in an unsafe situation or fail to check in on time.

Can they see you?

Visibility is a huge concern for you, other pedestrians, cyclists, and, of course, motorists.

Clothing 

Now is not the time to break out your black clothing.  Wear those obnoxiously bright leggings, t-shirt, or jacket so you catch the attention of those around you.  Better yet, choose clothing that has reflective properties, or add reflective armbands or a vest.

Lights

A colored or flashing light can also draw the attention of nearby motorists.  You can find armbands, clip on options, etc. I personally don’t love the feeling of armbands, so find what works well for you!

Timing

At an intersection, give motorists extra time to spot you. When in doubt, wait until they pull through the intersection or until the light changes.

Verbal Warning

If you are coming up behind another walker, runner, etc., they may not see you coming.  Give them a verbal warning 8-10 seconds before you pass them and let them know what side you’re passing on.

Can you see where you’re going?

To avoid a rolled ankle, twisted knee, or, worst case scenario, a fall, you need to be able to see the terrain in front of you.

Lit areas

One option is to run in very well lit areas, like a local track, park, or parking lot.  Make sure it is lit enough so you can see any cracks, holes, curbs, or debris on the path in front of you.

Lights 

If you choose to tackle dim streets or paths, you’ll need your own light source

Headlamps

Headlamps are a great option for runners who don’t like to carry anything as they are running.  There are single loop or multi-strap (more secure) options available. You can also find clip on options for the brim of your favorite hat.

Flashlights 

One of the simplest options, you could always hold a flashlight as you run.  Choose one that is lightweight and has a high beam.

Phone Flashlight

 

The perfect option for the multi-tasker who needs their phone for music, navigation, etc.  Most cell phones have a decent flashlight on them. I would recommend adding a popsocket or loop to your phone/case to minimize the risk of dropping your phone.

Knuckle Lights

Knuckle lights are small flashlights that rest on the front edge of your knuckles. They have loops that go around your loosely closed hands to secure them.  They are very easy to put on, secure, and have high beam, low beam, and flasher options. This is what I choose to use after experimenting with the above options.

Final Tips

Group Runs

Grab a buddy or join a running group.  You’re more visible, less likely to be a target of crime, and have someone to help if something goes wrong.  You also get to socialize and have a sense of accountability

Earbuds out

You can’t hear someone coming up behind you or if someone is calling for help if your earbuds are in.  Play music over your phone’s speakers and own that 90s boyband playlist!

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please email Dr. Molly King at molly@inspiredathletx.com.  

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