The arrival of winter, especially once the clocks go back on the last Sunday in October, can be bad news for runners. The rigorous training regime you established during the summer becomes a distant memory as the cold, wet weather dampens your enthusiasm as well as your feet. Running in the dark is a necessity if you work from dawn till dusk or you’re training for a night-time race such as a New Year’s Eve event. Whether you’re heading out early or late, follow these easy strategies to stay safe and be seen this winter.
Wearing bright fluorescent colours is a great idea during the day but at night white apparel with reflective panels shows up better in motorists’ headlights. Winter kit often features reflective areas, and many running shoes come with reflective panels on the heels, but you can also customise any kit that you already have with adhesive strips and shapes. Order online at websites such as www.cyberglow.co.uk
Reflective strips attract the most attention when you attach them to the parts of your body that have the greatest range of movement, such as feet, lower legs and arms.
Always face the on-coming traffic when you’re running on a road with no pavement. The only exception to this rule should be when you’re approaching a blind corner, when you should cross to the opposite side of the road then cross back again as soon as it’s safe. This applies at any time of day but especially at night when drivers may not expect to see a pedestrian.
Wearing a head torch will ensure drivers see you long before they reach you, as well as helping you to pick out the safest route if the ground is uneven.
Tackling the same running route day in, day out will challenge your motivation but it could also have negative implications when you’re running at night. You’re more vulnerable to assailants if your movements are predictable so aim to vary your route every time you venture out, even if that just means running it in reverse.
Stay alert by making a mental note of street names that you pass.
When you run in the dark your sense of balance shifts due to a loss of peripheral vision, so it’s important to train your body to adjust to running at night rather than expecting it to cope automatically. Instead of choosing a route based on scenery, try to find a well-lit run with an even surface.
If you’re new to racing in the dark, sign up for a practice race before the main event so you can rehearse competing at night.
Your senses become more finely tuned when you run in the dark, which means you’ll find it easier to assess how you feel. Runner Dean Taylor saw his times improve when he started running hill sessions at night. It’s a simple but effective strategy, as he explains: "I can’t see the top of the hill, so I don’t worry about how much further I have to go."
Leave your music at home for a change and use your night-time run to give your full attention to both your surroundings and how your body feels.
Running with friends at night in winter fulfils two important goals: it gets you out of the door when you might prefer to stay on the sofa, and it ensures you’re safer than if you were pounding the pavements alone.
Schedule one evening run a week with a friend or group of friends. Keep the run short and close to home to start with, then when you’re more confident head further afield. If no friends are available, most running clubs also organise at least one evening run a week that you can join in with.
No matter how careful you are when you run at night, be prepared for unforeseen events. Always tell someone where you’re planning to run and roughly when you’ll return, and consider taking a personal alarm and mobile phone.
Stick to well-lit, busy routes and don’t stop to stretch or tie a shoe lace unless you absolutely have to – crouching down makes you more vulnerable.