It’s getting to be colder in the mornings, and the days are getting shorter, too. Even if you’re a regular morning exerciser and don’t think twice about lacing up to fit in your morning run before your day starts, it’s always helpful to make an effort to be safe. We runners are lucky in that we can run basically anywhere, at any time that we’d like: outdoors, indoors, on a track, in a park, through some mountains, and the list goes on!
As long as we have somewhere we can run — and feel safe doing it — the world really is our playground.
However, unfortunately, the world can be a scary place. More often than not, you will probably not have any issues when you’re running outdoors, but if you plan to run for a long time, for many years, anyway, statistically speaking, you will likely feel uncomfortable or see something that scares you mid-run. Every so often, the news reports of runners being injured, attacked, assaulted, or even killed while doing what they love, and it is completely jarring and terrifying to all of us in the running community when bad things happen to “our people.” Again, the chances of something horrible happening to you mid-run are pretty low, but it’s really important to be cognizant of your surroundings and to do what you can to protect yourself while you’re out running in the early morning and dark hours.
One more disclaimer: unfortunately, even if do everything in your power to be safe on a run, it still may not be enough to protect you from someone who is determined to hurt you. It is the scary and unfortunate reality, so please do not trick yourself into thinking that if you heed my safety suggestions below that you’ll be invincible or unstoppable. I’ve based my suggestions below on what has worked for me for the past near-decade that I’ve been running, but do what seems best or right for you and your running environment.
Running is so important to so many of us, and it’s the last thing that we’d ever want to give up. If you’re planning to be regularly running in the dark early morning hours, please consider following some of my tips below to help safeguard yourself from danger.
Be visible. When you’re planning what you’ll be wearing for your morning run, definitely keep in mind that you want to make sure that motorists will be able to see you, particularly if you will be running on highly trafficked roads. You will likely be able to see cars long before they will be able to see you, but wearing reflective gear, such as clothing with reflective elements sewn in, a safety vest, a headlamp, and even knuckle lights can help illuminate you to passersby. Blinking lights can also help you stand out against the morning darkness, too.
Ninja running: avoid it. Closely related to my point above, when you’re planning your early-morning run outfit, avoid wearing black or all-dark colors that lack reflective components. If you’re wearing dark clothing without reflective elements, you’re basically blending in with your surroundings, and motorists will struggle being able to see you. Just don’t do it.
Share your planned route with a loved one. Before you leave for your run, tell a loved one where you’re planning to run (or the general vicinity), how long you think you’ll be gone, and about how many miles you’re planning to run. While this may be a tedious step for you, it can mean the world to your loved one who might start getting nervous or scared if you haven’t gotten home around the time you said you would. Similarly, don’t run in the dark somewhere that you haven’t yet run in the daytime (or somewhere that you wouldn’t run in the daytime). Finally, when you’re considering your route, keep in mind places that are heavily trafficked or populated so that if you do wind up needing assistance, you’ll be able to find someone/a business establishment rather quickly.
Bring a phone and an ID. There’s a sizable market for identification that runners can wear on the run (think bracelets, necklaces, and the like), which can be instrumental to you, should you find yourself in an emergency and unable to speak for yourself. In addition, you might want to consider bringing your phone with you so that you could make a call or could be reached while you’re out. It might be cumbersome to carry with you, but it might also bring you (or your loved one who is worrying about you) some peace of mind.
Mind the wildlife. If you’re planning to run somewhere in the early morning hours that is populated by a lot of wildlife, take caution! Do your research before you set out so that you have an idea of what you’ll see and how you should react if the animals get scared/approach you. Many animals are nocturnal, but some can be more aggressive during the dark hours, so it’ll behoove you to know what to expect and how to react. This step is especially important if you’re planning to run trails in the dark hours.
Nix the headphones. Even if you’re a diehard runner who must always listen to music on the run, I strongly urge you to ditch them if you’re planning to run in the dark early morning hours — and especially if you’re going to be running by yourself. You don’t want to do anything that could take away from your ability to reap the benefits of fully using all your available senses, and sticking ear buds in your ears and blasting off your favorite jams obviously minimizes your ability to hear your surroundings and thus, protect yourself and react in a timely fashion. If you can’t run without your music, then just don’t run in the dark.
Bring a buddy. Finally, if you’re planning to run in the dark morning hours, I highly suggest getting a buddy — a friend or a dog — to go along for the ride with you. It will likely make your run more enjoyable and fun, and you’ll probably feel at least a little safer, thanks to the idea of having some relative strength in numbers. Even if you’re going to be running with others, though, I’d still strongly encourage you to mind all my other suggestions above, too.
To be frank, it’s clearly not impossible to run in the dark, early morning hours, but doing so does require a fair bit of planning and some safety measures that you just don’t have — or you have less of — when you run later in the day or when the sun is out. While I can’t unfortunately promise you that you’ll never feel like your personal safety is threatened while you’re out running, I can at least tell you that my guidelines above have served me well in the past decade I’ve spent running outdoors, in the dark, so I feel confident that they will be of use to you. With some planning and some thoughtful choices, you’ll be on the roads/trails in the dark in no time.