10 women on running in the dark (and how they stay safe)

Running the dark is going to be inevitable if you run in the winter – so here are 10 women talking about how they do it.

If you were successful in the London Marathon ballot, are planning to do another spring race or simply love running, then you’re probably going to have to run in the dark at some point (unless you exclusively work from home and have an unlimited amount of time during the day to get the miles in).As we live in a part of the world that spends half the year battling against rapidly-failing sunlight, darkness is something we’ve got to become accustomed to. And while it might be tempting to get cosy and warm after a commute in the dark, some of us can’t wait to get out on our favourite running routes.

But there are safety concerns you’ve got to keep in mind if you are planning on lacing up when it’s dark. For one thing, it’s harder to see anything – so it’s important to really concentrate on not stacking it over a broken paving stone or getting lost. 

For many of us, running in the dark is a necessity – so it’s important that we come up with tools for feeling confident while out and about.

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And then, of course, there’s the personal safety issue that plagues many of us and puts off a lot of women from exercising solo outside – whatever the season and level of light. Violence against women is at a higher rate than ever – and it’d be remiss of us not to acknowledge that – but in the running communities that I’m part of, a lot of women have grown tired of the scare mongering around jogging at night. It’s not our responsibility to be less of a target for nefarious strangers… but it is our responsibility to remain visible to cars and other pedestrians, and to try our best not to end up lost in the middle of a wood, frantically sending out What Three Words to anyone willing to come and find us.

With that in mind, here are 10 avid runners on how they say happy, injury-free and confident on their nighttime adventures.

Tips for enjoying your evening/early morning runs (and for making them safer)

Plan your routes in advance

“I love running and tend to do most of it in the winter when the days are shorter. My top tip is to choose the route in advance. More than once, I’ve found myself in a dark patch of park with lots of trees and no street lights.” Henny

Choose headphones that aren’t sound-cutting

“Go for bone headphones (which rest on your cheekbones so you can hear everything around you) rather than in-ear. I tend to run my regular routes but I’m in a city, so it’s relatively busy in the quiet areas.” Helen

Find a local club to run with

“I’m in my local running club, so a big group of us of similar pace (usually 10 or so) go out together. There are other groups from our club out on the same night too, with lots of friendly faces.” Nicola

Try a different time of day (if you can)

“I switch up my training schedule to go at lunchtime when it’s light rather than at the end of the day, as I would in the summer. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but I like it because I get my dose of sunlight (grey cloud) then, too.” Alice

Use a head or body torch

“Use a body torch. I love running at night or just pre-dawn, but the narrow lanes in my country setting make it a challenge.” Rayna

And if you don’t feel safe, train indoors

“Very boring but I use the treadmill at the gym. There are so many hazards that come with running in the dark… but running indoors really can be dull.” Rachael

Wear reflective gear

“Wear leggings with reflective/hi-vis detailing, bright tops where possible and optional head torch for less well-lit areas.” Danielle

Avoid technically tricky paths

“I’m well and truly *over* changing my route or putting in precautions from fear of being attacked. I am, however, scared of being hit by a car (wear reflective gear), falling in the canal or over tree roots (avoid those paths) and of getting lost (take a phone).” Morwenna

Get going ASAP

“I try to turf myself out of bed first thing – dark mornings feel safer than evenings. Or I go out straight after work, when there are more dog-walkers about.” Maria

Use tech

“Use the Strava safety text function. It sends a message to a number of your choice with a link to track your run live.” Rebecca

Try exploring your local area

“I go down to the Thames in London as it’s really well-lit.” Laura 

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As for me, I love running early in the morning when it feels like the neighbourhood is still asleep or just on the point of waking. Everything’s quiet, there’s no pressure and if you time your return just as the sun starts to come up, it can be quite an emotional experience. I stick to well-lit pavements to avoid tripping up and tend to listen to podcasts or the news – I can hear quite a lot of background noise. 

Fundamentally, women shouldn’t have to worry about their safety while out and about and it isn’t our responsibility to avoid advances from other people. But other people aren’t the only hazards to think about – you’re way more likely to miss your step or get lost in the dark. And a sprained ankle is something you can actively avoid.

Images: Getty

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