Night Running

Running at night can present quite a few challenges as well as advantages.  When the sun goes down, or before it comes up, our bodies are in a rather precarious position.  In darkness, our internal clocks automatically trigger melatonin cycles that help regulate our sleep/wake cycles, so one of the main challenges of running in the dark is how we regulate or circumvent that process.  Whether running for just a short 3 miler before or after work or doing an overnight race that requires hours of movement in the darkness, here are some tips to help navigate those tricky situations.

The first thing on your mind should be safety.  There are plenty of articles telling you to run in well lit areas, use a headlamp or flashlight, wear reflective clothing, take a cell phone or communication device, take a buddy, or tell someone where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone.  However, there are no articles that really tell you how to run in the dark.  It’s actually a little more involved than you might think.  Other than taking it a little bit slower than you might normally, night running can be just as fun as running in the big beautiful sun (Ode de Dr. Seuss).

One major ill advised device would be music or headphones.  Things most definitely go bump in the night so you want to be able to hear each and every bump you possibly can.  No matter if you think you are in a safe area or not, you should always be on a higher level of awareness of what is happening around you.  Trails can be a little more tranquil than say a road or a sidewalk, but even in that situation, it’s better to know your surroundings.

If you have even the slightest bit of trouble with seeing things as well at night, use glasses or contacts to help sharpen your vision.  Oncoming or passing traffic will also make it difficult to see the undulations in the running surface so even when in a well lit area, using a headlamp or flashlight will not only enhance your ability to see those imperfections, but allow you to be more visible to traffic.  

Night running is a great time to work on your form!  You’ll have to pick your feet up a little bit higher to help avoid tripping over objects that might seem to jump out of nowhere.  And you may feel like a baby giraffe when first working on your form, but this way, people won’t be able to see you as well… #winning!  Don’t worry about your time on night runs either as they will be slightly slower than normal just for the sheer fact that you’re having to pay more attention to each movement and can’t space out as much.  

For those aspiring ultra runners not used to running in the dark, night training is key.  Most of this period is mental toughness anyways, so getting up at 2-3am for a run or going out after putting the kids to bed until after midnight will prepare you for the challenges you might face at those hours.  I suggest that you only do this a couple times during your training cycle, usually closer to your chosen race, for the fact that lack of sleep has been proven to adversely affect our health. Make sure you have dedicated time to allow your body to recover from the missed sleep however.  Our bodies cannot fully “make up” the sleep missed, but you should at least give it a chance to reset it’s hormonal cycles that only sleep provides.

Running at night can be a little more tricky but also magical at the same time.  There’s honestly nothing like being out in the woods, in the darkness, all by yourself, away from the lights of the city or running alongside a tranquil road before the world wakes up, looking up to the heavens and wishing upon that super bright shooting star that was sent just for you to admire.  It’s so peaceful. And remember, not every run has to be at record speed. Running is mental health. It’s been scientifically proven, so enjoy it!


Popular Posts