10 26 2014.

what i’ve learned about running in the dark

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It’s most definitely, unarguably fall. It’s sunset at 5:30, cooler days and rainy weeks fall. While I love autumn (it’s my favorite season!), this is also the time that many of my fitness goals tend to drop off. With the shorter days, it’s much harder to get in a long run.

Thing is, there’s no reason to let the shorter days prevent me from running. Darkness isn’t really an issue – it can be overcome by running in areas lit by streetlights…or by making a small investment in a headlamp (which, if we’re being honest, will come in handy for more than just running – like hiking and camping).

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I was really psyched about my headlamp arriving in the mail on Thursday so I decided to take it out for a test drive. Now, we’ve got a nor’easter going on here. We’ve been getting rain constantly (save for a few hour-long breaks) since Tuesday. When I arrived home that night, we were experiencing one of those breaks. I donned my gear – as I’ll outline below – and head out.

What I Learned (Tips from a Beginner):

  • Things look very different at night. I decided to run a route that I was very familiar with because I didn’t want to get lost in the dark. There were times where I felt like I had been on a road for a long time and wondered if I had missed my turn off – only to come upon it minutes later. There were times where I no longer recognized my surroundings – yet I was still on a road that I had run down 20+ times before. In part, this was nerve-wracking, but that’s also what made it exciting. It was a whole new way to experience these familiar places.
  • Headlamps take practice. This was kind of an odd discovery. I’ve gone for countless walks holding a flashlight, but a headlamp is just different. It can mess with your depth perception (shine it on a puddle and the puddle disappears!) and make you feel like you’re wearing blinders. Anything outside of the sphere of light just falls away from your focus. It takes a good deal of practice to get used to paying attention to everything, even if it’s not illuminated.
  • You stop caring about your pace. Though my Garmin has a light button that will illuminate the screen, it’s not worth the effort to keep pulling your watch out of your sleeve and turn the light on to check. It was actually really refreshing to run without knowing my pace or distance. I couldn’t even hear my watch beep at every mile! I had no clue how far I went until I got inside and stripped myself of my wet clothing.
  • Speaking of wet clothing… it started to rain again about 15 minutes into my 40-minute run. I wasn’t wearing the most appropriate attire (though, I wasn’t necessarily underprepared) so I did get wet. Once you stop worrying about being wet…well, you’re no longer worried about being wet! I know I probably looked like a fool out there running around in the dark and rain, but I really enjoyed it!

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Pictured: Flipbelt in Carbon ($28.99), Trailblazer 4-LED Headlamp ($23.96), New Balance 550v3 ($39.99, TJMaxx), Boston Red Sox Baseball Cap ($18.21), Avalanche Shell Layer ($39.99, TJMaxx), Danskin Dri-More Leggings ($8.96), MPG long-sleeve wicking shirt (TJMaxx).

The Gear:

  • A reflective jacket or vest. My Avalanche jacket was $40 from TJMaxx. It’s both warm and breathable. Not the best in the rain due to the small holes in the body of the coat, but I’ve worn this on four runs so far and have been glad that I’ve had it!
  • Headlamp. I got mine from L.L.Bean for less than $25. I was worried that it wouldn’t hold up in the rain, so I talked to an L.L.Bean representative who informed me that the headlamp is water-resistant, not water-proof. So I wore…
  • A baseball cap. This was probably the best decision I made last night in terms of gear that I don’t normally wear. It poured on me but my face and my headlamp remained dry. It also didn’t budge! I figured wearing a hat would be an annoyance, but I easily forgot that I was wearing it.
  • Flashing safety lights. Repeat that after me. You can never be too visible. Your headlamp isn’t visible from behind. Cars, bikers and others on the road need to be able to see you, most especially when your back is turned and you can’t see them! Clip some flashing red lights (less than $4 from amazon) to the back of your jacket and you’re all that much safer.
  • Pepper spray. This isn’t necessary but it’s one of those things that I’d rather have and not use than to leave it behind and need it. Pepper spray is effective against both humans and animals. If you’re running alone, who knows what you may encounter. Runner’s mace is recommended over carrying a knife or other weapon as you’re less likely to cause more harm by wielding it. I often run alone: the mace just gives me a peace of mind.

I’m definitely a beginner when it comes to running in the dark. There are those who have been doing it for years and I’ve done it, well, twice. I’m actually excited to keep up with it, excited that the dark evenings aren’t going to deter me from staying active outdoors. I know that I’ll pick up some more tips as I gain more experience, and I’m likely to post them here!


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