About 4 or 5 years ago, I went out for a typical 30 minute run one November evening. As a self confessed running nerd, I'm usually pretty safety conscious when training at night. On this occasion however I'd had a long day and without much thought I headed out with whatever clothes were lying around (none of which were high visibility) and with headphones blaring in my ears. This may not sound very significant but in reality it was pretty stupid.
Anyway, 10 minutes in I was running along a quiet street enjoying some 90's garage classics (as I said, it'd been a long day), when out of nowhere a car left it's driveway and hit me side on. I wasn't concentrating whatsoever and I didn't see or hear anything until it was too late. Luckily it was only cuts and bruises, but it could've been a lot worse. Since that day I've done my best to not be such a wally again (at least not whilst running).
Below are 8 tips to ensure you stay safe whilst running in dark, wintry conditions. Some may seem very obvious but they're well worth mentioning as there really is nothing more important than our safety. Be careful out there folks and happy running!
Be seen - Avoid wearing dark clothing and opt for some brighter, bolder gear that's ideally high visibility. You could also customise your kit by adding accessories such as reflective arm, wrist or ankle bands. For running in particularly dark areas, a head torch could be a good option and there are many available online at reasonable prices nowadays. For a link to the head torch I'd recommend click here.
Run against the traffic - This is important all year round but is absolutely essential in the darker months. Run so that you can see oncoming vehicles and react quicker to dangers.
Plan your route - If it's dark outside, it's crucial to plan your course so that you're running on well lit, flat surfaces. You don't want to spend your entire run staring at the ground looking out for pot holes and uneven surfaces that could trip you up.
Cover up - Even if it's not sub-zero outside, colder temperatures can make your muscles tighten up, increasing the risk of injury. Therefore, wear warm, comfortable clothing and ensure you have as little skin exposed to the elements as possible.
Carry your phone - Always have your phone on you in case there's an emergency. Also, make sure someone knows your run route and estimated return time. If you're not home in time, they'll know where to look for you.
Tread carefully - Obviously the winter brings with it rain, snow and worst of all, ice. When you're out there, make sure your feet are landing underneath your body. This can be achieved by shortening your stride and increasing your cadence. This will help you to keep your balance and avoid any nasty falls. For more on how to increase your cadence, please take a look at this past article on our website.
Find a friend - If you don't already run with someone else, now could be the time to try. A running buddy or group brings safety in numbers as there are more people to spot possible dangers, and help is at hand if an injury occurs.
Lose the tunes - Music can be a great motivator, but it also makes you less aware of your surroundings. You're less likely to hear cars, bikes and pedestrians that are close by. So to keep safe, turn off the tunes, particularly when it's dark outside. If you really can't face running without music, I'd recommend you turn the volume down and take an earphone out on one side (preferably the one on the side of any dangers).
By Marc Brown