Recreation

Tips for running - or walking - in the dark

Be safe outside by following these 'rules of the road'

The Gazette
The Gazette

If getting outside is your goal — your quest — during these winter months, there are several things you should understand.

Unless you can get out over your lunch break (or during the day), it’s very likely going to be dark when you venture out for that run (or jog or walk). And, of course, it’s going to be cold.

All of this is OK — as long as you take proper precautions and follow a few simple rules of the road, so to speak.

I went through several websites offering tips for jogging (or running or walking) in the dark.

Here is the best from the likes of Runner’s World, verywellfit.com. active.com and mapmyrun.com — with a few personal insights. Yes, I’m that guy who is walking (or jogging or running) by your house in the early morning when you come out to pick up your newspaper (that is what you are doing, right?).

1. Be visible. There are a lot of ways to be seen.

You should always wear some kind of reflective gear — there are a variety of hats, caps, gloves, jackets and vests. Some of these items even come with lights.

If you don’t have access reflective or lighted gear, at the very least wear something bright. Don’t dress in all black at 5 a.m. and expect that car to see you.

“There are all sorts of illumination gear, including running headlamps, handheld lights and reflective gear to help drivers see you out on the road,” Lisa Reichmann and Julie Sapper, certified coaches and co-founders of Run Farther and Faster, told mapmyrun.com. “Even with reflective gear, though, assume cars don’t see you and make eye contact before crossing at intersections.”

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One of my favorite things about winter running is it slows me down. Age does that, too, but extra layers and dark streets/trails/sidewalks also works.

“As with any type of running you need to run to suit the conditions you are running in,” Louelle Blanchard, founder and coach of Evolution Runners, told mapmyrun.com. “Even with a headlamp you still won’t have the same visibility as you would during the day, so you will need to adapt the way you run.”

Another way to be seen is ...

2. Always run against traffic. Let’s repeat that — ALWAYS run against traffic.

This one frustrates me as a driver when I come up on a person walking, running or jogging and they don’t even know I’m there.

“Think about it,” notes the tips at active.com. “It is far easier to jump out of the way of an oncoming car if you can see the car coming at you.”

3. Know your route. Many tips insist on varying your route to avoid a possible attack. That’s sound advice, but not always an option in rural areas (or even in some urban spots). And most runners/walkers/joggers are creatures of habit.

I run basically the same route during my week, but vary the direction and throw in a few twists and turns. It’s much easier to take different routes during my walks, however.

Also, when running or jogging, it’s good to know the obstacles on your route — the pot holes, the tilted sidewalks or the debris left from August’s derecho.

“Never ignore your instincts — ever,” Lori Adams, who was once attacked while running, wrote in a 2015 Runner’s World article. “If you feel something isn’t right forget your normal route and take off for a busier area.”

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4. Don’t go alone. Again, this can be a tough one. Not many people like getting up early for exercise — especially in the cold and dark.

“There is strength and safety in numbers,” writes verywellfit.com. “If possible, try not to run alone ... If you must run alone (day or night), let someone know the route you’ll be running and approximately how long you will be gone.”

You can also run or walk with a dog. I always take two my dogs with me for my morning walks and, at times, have even run with them. When they are able — and willing.

5. Ditch the music. I quit running or walking with headphones years ago. I enjoy the sounds of being outside, for one thing, and I also like hearing what may be approaching, especially if I’m on a trail.

“Cutting off your sense of hearing leaves you at a disadvantage,” verywellfit.com notes. “You can’t hear oncoming cars, cyclists approaching to pass you, dogs or any other potential threat.

“If you absolutely have to run with music or some other distraction, keep the volume very low or run with one earbud out so you can still hear what’s happening around you.”

6. Carry identification. Some tips suggest carrying your phone, too, just in case.

This is a tough one for me. I don’t like carrying things in my hands when jogging and, generally, my clothing has no pockets — or very small pockets. The new “smartwatches” can serve as a phone and track your course, mileage and pace.

“I strongly encourage runners to carry their phone on them when running at all times, but especially in the dark,” Blanchard told mapmyrun.com. “If something happens — like you have a fall or if you just feel unsafe for some reason — then you can call for help. It is also useful if you do get lost, as you can utilize the GPS maps on your phone and it can also come in handy as another light source if your headlamp happens to go flat.”

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Don’t let the cold or dark keep you from going outside — it’s a perfect pandemic exercise because you’ll often find yourself alone. But, in the words of Adams in that Runner’s World article:

“Every run is a gift. Count your blessings and be safe out there.”

Comments: (319) 398-8416; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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