How to Stay Visible and Safe When Running in the Dark
Let’s face it, finding time to run can be a challenge. Often there’s no other choice than to head out early in the morning or at night. It doesn’t help that a good daylight run in July becomes a difficult, low-light run in January at the same hour. Here are some tips to increase your visibility so you can keep running even at the darkest hours.
Don’t just be smart, be bright!
First and foremost, opt for running gear that’s hard to miss. Choose brightly colored attire in neon or fluorescent shades, as these colors are highly visible, even in dim light. Even if you don’t opt for reflective material or florescent colors, light-colored clothing is generally more visible than dark colors. When selecting your running attire, think about how easily you’ll stand out to others on the road. Wearing black leggings in cooler temperatures can be such a habit that it’s easy to forget how invisible they make you when running at night or in low-visibility conditions.
On top of the bright color, consider clothing with reflective elements, such as stripes or accents. These reflective features will catch the headlights of passing vehicles and make you more visible to drivers during dawn, dusk, or nighttime runs. Every little bit helps. Some windbreakers are entirely made of reflective material, making you stand out like a lighthouse in car headlights.
Reflective vests, arm bands, or ankle bands are inexpensive and can be worn over your regular running clothes. Add strips of sticky, reflective tape on items that you typically don’t throw in the wash like shoes, hats, windbreakers, shells, packs, and water bottles. When choosing wearable reflective gear, try to balance out ease of use, comfort, and functionality. If something is difficult to put on, adjust, or it chafes when you run, you are less likely to wear it when you should.
Also keep in mind that visibility isn’t just about being seen from the front. Ensure your clothing and accessories provide visibility from all angles, including the sides and rear.
Plan your layers for visibility
We can’t always predict how hot or cold we are going to feel while out on a run. You may start out feeling like it’s almost too cold to move only to find yourself stripping off your top layer after twenty minutes. When visibility is poor or in low-light situations, plan ahead. Make sure your base layer is as visible as your outer layer. If you do strip off your outer layer, tie it around your waist and let it flap to keep its reflective elements in play.
Reflective material only works when there is oncoming light to bounce back. Adding some lightweight LED lights to your running attire and keeping a small handheld light ready, not only make you stand out more, they help you spot obstacles, and can even be used for self defense. There’s a wide array of lighting options available to suit various preferences and needs. Let’s shine some light on the options.
Headlamps: A headlamp is a versatile lighting choice for runners who want to see the path ahead while making themselves visible to others. Headlamps provide a concentrated beam of light that follows your line of sight, making it easy to navigate dark trails or roads. They come in various brightness levels and beam patterns, allowing you to customize your lighting based on the terrain and conditions.
Handhelds: With a handheld flashlight, you can direct the beam of light where you need it most, whether it’s illuminating your path or signaling to drivers that you are nearby. Many models offer adjustable brightness settings to conserve battery life and adapt to different lighting needs. A tactical flashlight, although heavier than plastic models, can also offer a level of safety as these lights are designed to temporarily blind as well as be used as a defensive weapon if necessary.
Belt-mounted: Belt-mounted lights are a popular choice for runners seeking to augment their headlamps or use as an alternative. These lights attach securely to your waist or running belt, casting a forward-facing beam of light while keeping your hands free. Some models have lights on four sides which can be especially useful for urban running.
Rear-facing: While illuminating your way is essential, being visible from behind is equally crucial. The flashing, red light traditionally used by cyclists work well. These small, clip-on lights can be attached to your clothing or gear, flashing to signal your presence to motorists and other runners or cyclists approaching from behind. Red is the default, but they come in a variety of colors and flashing patterns.
Light vests: Although you may feel like a Christmas tree, you can opt for wearable light vests or belts equipped with rows of LED lights. They’re ideal for running in high-traffic areas or during nighttime races, providing 360-degree illumination and ensuring you really stand out from all angles.
Video for safety
Consider wearing a body camera that records your surroundings as you run. They’re not just for cops and cyclists. These compact devices can serve as a valuable tool for documenting your runs and capturing any unexpected incidents. In the rare event of an accident or altercation, having video footage can provide clarity and evidence. Make sure that the units you consider can record in low light and have the storage and battery capacity to record your entire outing. Although more expensive, also consider units with front and rear camera inputs for additional safety.
How you wear these cameras is important as well. They should have an unobstructed view of your surroundings but also consider making them as obvious as possible as a deterrent. Threats to runners also come on two legs. Someone may think twice about approaching you if they can see that their actions are being recorded.
In inclement weather, such as rain or fog, visibility can be as poor as night. Consider all potential weather gear when stocking up on high-visibility clothing and accessories so you aren’t compromising just because it’s too warm for your most visible clothing.
Planning for safety ahead of time allows you to focus on the joy of running with peace of mind. Stay safe and keep running!