I run in the morning so I am used to spending the majority of my runs in the dark, but with the arrival of fall and the upcoming winter months it’s difficult for most runners to avoid running in the dark. When I first started running I was fairly clueless when it came to safety in the dark, but I began gathering up some gear to keep me seen & safe. Here are 5 items I think every runner should have when running in the dark.
1. Reflective Vest
It seems like some runners believe that a light-colored or neon-colored top reflects light, but it actually doesn’t. Sometimes I wonder if runners feel silly wearing a reflective vest and I will be honest that my husband does poke fun at me sometimes, but I would much rather look goofy and be seen than get hit by a car! This particular vest is an Amphipod brand vest. This vest is very popular and I like it because the front has a nice zip pocket for gels or keys. The straps are adjustable so it fits well and doesn’t move around. Mine has become pretty worn out so I’ll need to be replacing it soon.
2. LED Strobe Light
I’m a huge fan of the Nathan Sports StrobeLight LED clip. These clip right onto my vest and I wear one on the front and one on the back. They come in multiple colors, but I prefer the normal red strobe since it’s something motorist are used to seeing. My big tip for buying these is to always test them before purchasing. They do not turn off on their own and often times the ones at the store are dead. It may be worth it to order them online.
3. Road ID
Whether it’s dark or daylight, I hope every runner is wearing a Road ID. They are an inexpensive way to make sure you are always running with some form of identification and emergency contact. On mine I have my full name, two emergency contact numbers, my birth year, and a little mantra. While the other items on this list are meant to make sure a runner is seen and safe, it’s always a good idea to be easily identified incase the unexpected happens. I also wear mine whenever I travel and when we go to large events such as concerts or festivals.
4. Head Lamp
This seems the most obvious, but some people just don’t like running with a headlamp! If you’re a lucky enough runner to have a well-lit neighborhood then it may not seem necessary, but it’s great to have some extra light. Mine is a Black Diamond headlamp, but there are plenty of options available. When worn by a runner, this can actually appear to be a bike light or single headlight to oncoming traffic/pedestrians. That’s why pairing it with a reflective vest and blinking light is so important. Some runners prefer to wear this on a hat so that it’s not sitting on their forehead, but I found that it can block the light in the road in my direct footpath. Instead, I’ve found that a headband, sweatband, or ear warmer (in the colder months) adds a nice barrier between the headlamp and the forehead.
5. Waist Pack
Waist pack or arm band, find a way to carry a cell phone. Since I don’t use my phone for music or GPS I don’t need an arm band so I invested in a waist pack. I love my Mirage Pak Adjustable Belt from Nathan Sports. It doesn’t bounce and it’s so light that sometimes I forget that I’m wearing it. It’s brushed soft on the inside to protect the phone, but I always put my phone inside a small plastic bag for extra protection. It is not waterproof so unless you have one of the updated fancy phones, you’ll need to protect your phone from sweat and other liquids. In full disclosure I do not take my phone on every single run, but there are times when I feel it’s really important to have it with me. A pace coach from my group tells the story about a time she came up on a cyclist that had fallen off of her bike and was unconscious. Had she not been running with her phone, she would not have had a way to help her. So if not for your own safety, it’s great to carry it incase you come up on the unexpected.
Finally, if you’re running in the road always be sure to run against traffic so you can see oncoming vehicles and are sure they see you. If you choose to run on the sidewalk, these safety items are still recommended since you will still need to cross driveways and intersections. Remember, many motorist are distracted when driving in the daylight and the dark adds another obstacle. I think it’s important to do everything I can to make sure I’m safe & seen.