TOMORROW marks the beginning of one of my favorite seasons… autumn! Along with all the fun of running on crunchy leaf-covered trails, feeling the crisp fall air against your skin while running, and indulging in some delicious (and hopefully healthy!) pumpkin treats… also comes a startling change: shorter days. Shorter days means less daylight to get your run in, and, admittedly, that’s not always going to happen. So as it gets darker and darker earlier and earlier, here are my top tips and running gear to help keep you safe— even after dark!
1. Ditch the tunes
First and foremost, NO HEADPHONES after dark! I cannot say this enough. The RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) actually recommends that all runners ditch the headphones (day and night) due to safety issues, but after dark… this immediately becomes much, much more important to do. Headphones leave you vulnerable to your surroundings simply because you aren’t aware of them: you can’t hear cars approaching, you can’t listen for people nearby, you can’t be on alert for rustling animals. Add to that running at night when not only can you not hear, but you can’t see well either… this just screams disaster. Don’t do it!
2. Invest in a reflective belt
One of the keys to running safely at night is increasing visibility. Neon colors, LED lights, and reflective gear are the best ways to accomplish this. Investing in a reflective running belt is an easy way to increase your visibility at night. Long story short, if you’re wearing a reflective belt, oncoming motorists can see you, and you’re less likely to get hit by an oncoming car. Not only that, but reflective belts have come a long ways in terms of fashion. Nowadays, running belts are lightweight, sleek and slim, fashionable, and able to carry some much-needed gear— from gels to identification to keys. Win-win!
Check it out —> SPIbelt Reflective Fitness Belt
3. Use a smart combo for your head
Running in the dark carries all sorts of dangers, but one of the dangers most often overlooked… is ourselves! When we run at night, we are much more prone to falls. It’s only logical; when you can’t see upcoming twigs, rocks, ditches, etc. you’re much more likely to trip over them! An easy fix? Wear a hat with an LED light clip. The LED light clip will conveniently light the path ahead of you so that you can see anything in your path to prevent any tumbles. For a double safety score, opt for a hat with reflective detailing to further increase runner’s safety.
Check it out —> Headsweats Dry Visibility Running Hat
Check it out —> Cyclops LED Hat Clip Light
Safety gear comes in all forms— belts, vests, hats, jackets, and more. But, while running, arguably the most visible parts of your body are your arms and legs. You need to be visible from all angles, both front and back, and not all safety gear accomplishes this. Armbands (which can also be worn as legbands) are a great option to ensure 100% visibility. These particular armbands are particularly safe as they include several flashing LED light modes to alert others to your presence.
Check it out —> WalGap Flashing LED Armband
5. Spread the information
Let others know whenever you’re running after dark, as well as your intended running route. If you can’t, be sure to leave this information written down in your car instead. It can come extremely in handy, especially for trail runners who have gotten lost or become injured after dark! This way, authorities will know where to look for you. Always carry your cell phone on you if possible, as well as an identification card that lists your name, emergency contact, blood type, and any important medical information on it. Some recommend carrying this on the inside sole of one of your running shoe, but a pocket or a running belt will do just fine as well.
6. Protect yourself
It’s a sad world when you stop to think about it. Just here in Pittsburgh recently, we had a Deputy U.S. Marshal who was attacked while running on the Allegheny Trail. All throughout the news, stories of runners and bikers being attacked run rampant. It’s important to protect yourself. But how? Two reasonable options for runners: mini stun guns and mini pepper sprays. Both are capable of halting potential attackers. This stun gun is super small— a mere 3.75 x 1.50 x 0.75 inches, making it easy to slip into any pocket or onto a running belt. The pepper spray is super small as well— it fits into the palm of the hand, boasting a handy runner’s strap. At under only $15 and $10 respectfully, why wouldn’t you invest in your safety?
Check it out —> Vipertek Micro Stun Gun with Flashlight
Check it out —> Sabre Red Pepper Spray with Running Hand Strap
7. Practice road safety
The RRCA recommends running against traffic so that you can see oncoming traffic. Others, however, disagree, stating its better to run with traffic because, in the unfortunate case of a car accident, the point of impact with the legs is likely to be far less traumatic because the knee joints will naturally bend forward. I’ve heard both sides of the argument, and I leave it up to you to decide what’s safest for you. Beyond that, always follow the rules of the road. Obey all traffic signals, look both ways before crossing the street, signal with hand motions to let others know your intended direction, and never assume that a motorist is going to yield to you (even if they should!)
8. Gear up
When all is said and done, reflective gear isn’t always fashionable. But, hey, if it’s going to save your life… what the heck does it matter anyway? I find running vests to be the best option for nighttime visibility. In comparison to running gear that has reflective details, reflective vests are a much more attractive option. Why? Simply put, because if you run regularly, then you’ll need several sets of reflective running gear. That, or you’ll be either a) doing laundry all week or b) running in stinky clothes. With a running vest, you can simply wear it over your usual running gear. No need to double your running wardrobe for daytime and nighttime running with one simple purchase!
Check it out —> Nathan Reflective Vest
Check it out —> Nathan Tri-Color Reflective Vest
9. Gettin’ tecchy with it
In the age of technology, there’s an app for everything… even safety! I’ve listed just a handful of running safety apps that all runners should consider. Kitestring, which works without a smartphone, sends you regular messages during your run. If you’re unable to respond, one of your pre-selected emergency contacts will be alerted. Road ID uses GPS to track your movement while running. After a certain amount of inactivity goes by, particularly useful in situations when you’re unable to use your phone, your pre-selected emergency contacts will be alerted. Oh— and they can use the app to check up on you during your run as well! bSafe turns your phone into an emergency alert button. Activate it, and you can utilize sirens, alert authorities, record video, and inform your contacts of your GPS location. Likewise, ReactMobile alerts 911 of your GPS coordinates with a touch of a button. Plus, your loved ones can track your movement during your run as well. The best part? All of these apps are FREE!