Friday, September 13, 2019

Night Running: Who's Afraid of the Dark?

sun setting over road, sunset
Daylight savings time might not end until November, but the days are definitely getting shorter. This means more opportunities for night running. Yes!

When I first started running, I never considered running at night. To me, night running could only mean one thing: escape from imminent danger, or death! Obviously.

But fast forward to 2017. My friends and I entered Ragnar's Reach the Beach—a 200-mile relay race in New Hampshire from the White Mountains to Hampton Beach. Running at night was inevitable. And I'll admit. I WAS AFRAID! I must have been in denial that we had to run at night because I didn't properly prepare. Sure, I brought the mandatory gear required for the race. But I didn't try my borrowed headlamp until race night, discovering all too late that it didn't fit well, and the lamp was spotty. And, my vest's small reflective strip barely made me visible. Yikes! Fortunately, we were in in a controlled environment with occasional patrol vehicles and a few spectators cheering us on. My support van was not too far away, and my best friend ran by my side.
night running, ragnar, reach the beach
You can barely see us! Night running
at Ragnar Reach the Beach

The steady thump-thump-thumping of our shoes against pavement lulled my fear to sleep. Mostly. A small amount of nagging anxiety remained, so I used it to fuel my excitement. I was doing something new! Something I never imagined doing before! I was running on a tree-lined street with no streetlights in the middle of the night! And I wasn't doing it to escape imminent danger! I was doing it for fun! MIND BLOWN!

That first plunge into literal darkness sparked a newfound joy. Here's what I learned about night running:

  • The air is cool and crisp
  • I experience quietude as the world settles down from its day
  • I focus on being present because I'm more alert about my surroundings
  • My muscles feel more limber (vs. feeling stiff from sleep during early morning runs)
  • I sleep so much better when I run at night
  • It spices up the monotony of everyday routines 

These days, I find myself running at night often because I'm always training for some distance race. But here's the thing: I don't even think twice about it anymore, especially because I now own the proper night running gear. I have a new-and-improved bright headlamp so I can see where I'm stepping and a flashing red light that clips onto my clothes. Best of all, my reflective IllumiNITE running clothes illuminate me like a spotlight so drivers and other people on the road can see me running a mile away (okay, maybe "a mile away" is hyperbolic; but maybe not; I've not tested the actual distance, haha). I'm also especially conscious of following safety rules while running at night. Need a refresher? Check out my post CAUTION: RUNNERS ON ROAD for a list of running safety tips.
IllumiNITE, reflective apparel, running
How I look BEFORE light hits me!
IllumiNITE, reflective apparel, running, women's featherlite reflective packable jacket in graphite, women's reflective shortie in black
An IllumiNITED runner
SHINES BRIGHT like a spotlight
(rocking Featherlite Jacket in Graphite
and Reflective Shortie in Black)
IllumiNITE, reflective apparel, running
Run Brightly!
So while I'm sad that the days are getting shorter (and colder), I'm definitely excited for more night running. The running groups I belong to have frequent night runs during the week. And let's face it: It's more fun to run in the dark with friends—especially in the woods.

So I challenge you to give it a try. Find a running group in your area and go for a weeknight run! Many running stores, like Marathon Sports, host run clubs that include weeknight runs. Or you could invite a friend—or two, or five!—to an evening neighborhood jog. Or IllumiNITE your dog and ramp up your pace when you take doggie out at night. Whatever you decide, I bet you'll find your newfound joy in night running.

Need an extra push out the door? It's Friday the 13th, and there's a full moon out tonight. What are you waiting for?

Get out there and howl like you're not afraid of the dark!

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