Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Running in Darkness

As the sun crossed the celestial equator and moved southward I experienced the autumnal equinox.  Shadows moved across the land and I found myself in darkness, suddenly.

I ran as before, morning or evening, in diminished light.  I wore my headlamp and reflective vest like a good runner - see and be seen is my motto.  Only now something was different.  As I proceeded on my usual path, something else was out there.  I heard the rapid shuffling of feet, the rasp of heavy breathing, and the smell of something sweaty.  Was it an animal like a dog, coyote, or bear?  Or was it some sort of horrible monster such as a bugbear, goblin, or zombie?

Or maybe it was the Great Pumpkin?
Clad from head to toe in dark colors, it brushed past me with a barely discernible grunt.  At that moment my curiosity as what kind of beast this was turned into indignation.  It was no bogeyman, it was another runner!
As runners we are not only responsible for our actions but are also charged with being hyper-aware of our surroundings.  Stumbling around in the dark isn't a good idea.  Think about some of the perils of running in the dark:  other runners, uneven sidewalks, animals, and especially vehicles.  Do you really think that person who's late for work, with a cell phone in one hand and a cup of joe in the other, driving with their knees, is really on the lookout for ninja runners?

Not very bright...get it?

So make yourself visible when you're out there pounding the pavement during the twilight hours.  Sure, most running shoes have some reflective material on them and some clothing has reflective tags, but that's not enough.

Being able to see what's around you is pretty much some variation of a flashlight.  Most serious night time runners own a headlamp, which run on AAA or rechargeable batteries.  Look for one that's lightweight, water resistant, and puts out at least 55 lumens.  Expect to pay at least $39 for a decent headlamp.  Some reputable brands include Petzl, Fenix, Black Diamond, and Princeton Tec.  Your local outfitting store or REI will have a good selection.

Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp

If you want to get really specialized, put on a waist light which, as the name implies, has a band that goes around your waist instead of your head.  Some runners prefer this because they don't like the feel of the headlamp strap; others prefer having illumination come from the center of their bodies rather than their tops - a matter of better depth perception.  GoMotion makes waist lamp kits.

Finally, you can do it old school and carry a flashlight in your hand.

Be Seen
Unlike the Monty Python sketch "How Not to be Seen", being seen while running is very important.  Just because you see the car doesn't mean the driver sees you.

There are two primary means of being seen while running, illuminative and reflective.  Reflectivity is usually sewn or glued onto shoes and clothing in piping along seams or across broad areas.  The 3M company provides much of the material that goes into reflective clothing.  Most brand name running companies offer reflective clothing.  Unfortunately that's not enough so I recommend donning a reflective safety vest, akin to the ones highway workers wear.  Companies such as Nathan and Amphipod offer a variety of styles.

Reflective vest

Illumination is more than wearing a headlamp.  For added safety I recommend an L.E.D. light.  Most can be set to shine steadily or blink intermittently.  This light can be clipped onto a hat, hydration belt, or article of clothing.

Nathan L.E.D. light

And so once properly outfitted you can head forth into the dark knowing that your chances of getting dinged by a vehicle or nabbed by the Hound of the Baskervilles have been greatly reduced.

Things that go bump in the night.

Chad R.
Davidson Area Running Team

1 comment:

  1. Kudos for the Monty Python link. The waist light sounds like something I might want to check out also.
    - Stan Austin


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.