The evenings got dark quick. Was it not Easter a few weeks ago? Without commuting, I’ve missed the nights drawing in and it suddenly just seems dark. It also feels like I’ve not left the house for 7 months, except to go running!
The odd weather has me pulling the door open dressed in long-sleeved tops with gloves, only to take them off and head out in short sleeves. Even though it’s not cold (yet), it has got dark and this brings inherent danger. COVID and (social) distancing alter this too. There are still plenty of cars and there are more pedestrians and bikes. On the contrary, some areas are less busy and therefore more isolated. No running clubs means no safety in numbers.
Some of the safety points below are not easy to think about and as a male; I take them for granted. However, most risks are lessened with a little thought and minimal cost.
Tell someone where you are going
I’m terrible at this. I head out and my wife has no idea where I’m going and how long I’m going to be. Letting someone know this is an easy thing to do, but also easily overlooked. Tell a spouse, partner or housemate, you live with or text a friend with the details and let them know when you’re back.
Pick a sensible route
Running along the local bus route is not the most inspiring thing, but it probably has good pavements and is well lit. If you’re running in the dark, stay to well-lit areas. If you live in a rural area and there are no pavements, then you may have to jiggle your day around to get out in the daytime.
Avoid narrow paths and alleyways where you can be cornered, lunged at or which provide cover for people to hide. Run along routes where there are multiple exits. Hence my first point about mains roads with pavements on both sides and passing traffic.
Wear High Vis
I know black kit is practical and it matches your running shoes, but you’re practically invisible to drivers on the road.
You may feel like you want to hide, not standout and just get your run done, but this is not the smart thing to do. Remember when it was uncool to wear bike helmets and also ski and snowboard helmets. Now you’re the outlier if you don’t wear a helmet. Think the same way with high vis.
I wrote a post about the Provis cycling coats you can find here. The Provis reflect-ability really makes you stand out. I can see drivers react to me and slow down as they try to figure out what’s coming towards them.
Provis also does running wear, and, which I think is fantastic, high vis for dogs. There are tops and leggings, but the Reflect 360 jackets are the real standout performer. Check out the picture and videos posted showing the reflective contrast.
Another point about this is that due to social distancing when you meet another runner coming the opposite way or a pedestrian, you give them space and can end up in the road and in the path of car, buses and lorries. With good high vis, drivers can see you from plenty of distance so, if you are in the road, they have time to react.
Take your phone and use its features
In case of emergencies and staying in touch with the person who knows you are out running in the dark, take a well-charged phone with you.
Use the features within your phone and apps. Apple iPhones have a Find My feature (previously called Find my Friends) where you can permit specific people to see where you are. You can flick this capability off when not out running. Strava also has a similar feature where “Athletes with a Strava subscription can use Strava Beacon on the iOS app to share their real-time location with their family and friends”.
Beware in any apps you’re using on your phone that run the battery down quickly or if your phone is susceptible to generally losing charge quickly.
Give the headphones a miss
I love running with music. I have a Pavlovian response when I hear the start of my favourite podcast or radio show intuitively telling me it’s time to run. For safety reasons whilst running in the dark, it is just not worth the risk of wearing headphones. Keep your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings. Again, see the first point.
Take a few bits with you
If you not feeling it or get injured, carry a bank card (that double as a travel card) with you, so you can get home. You can also use Apple Pay on your (Apple) phone. Remember you need a face mask on public transport, so take a mask with you, just in case.
Run with your household
A very positive outcome of the lockdown is that my wife has started running. We can now run together and she can feel more comfortable heading out in the evening knowing that I’m right next to her.
If you already have a runner in your household. Lucky you. If you have a child, partner or housemate that has shown even the slightest inclination of going running, get your persuasion skills sharpened up!
Pounding the streets in the cold, dark and potentially wet is exhilarating but can be tough. If there’s the opportunity to run in the morning or lunchtime, then grab it when you can. Keep the evening outings to shorter or for quicker runs and have the longer and more scenic routes at the weekend.
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