Even if you have all the best intentions in the world and are sticking like glue to your marathon training plan, it can be a struggle to get out of bed when it’s winter.
For one thing, to quote a line from a festive song, the weather outside is frightful. Not only is it cold but with what feels like Arctic wind chills and thrashing floods of rain, it’s little wonder that any of us want to step outside the front door. Ok, ok, it’s true that with the right equipment you can get over being thrown a weather curveball. The real killer at this time of year is the night skies. Yup, you guessed it; the fact that you’re having to run in the dark.
As we all know, there’s a fear (perhaps from childhood) of strangers in the night. And it affects runners both pre- and post-work. During the summer, when everyone is out and about, running outside is a no-brainer. The sunshine and warm weather invites you to head to your local park for a quick jog. But when it’s cold, dark and a little bit grizzly, training outside is not so appealing.
You could, of course, resort to the treadmill in your local gym and when it snows this is the most sensible option. However, if you want to seriously put your body through its paces in prep for those spring marathons, you need to get your body ready for those roads.
While the shorter days and longer nights cannot be changed by human power (the position of the earth on its axis dictates over this type of stuff and perhaps not even Superman, if he ever existed, could manoeuvre the globe into the right position so the UK would receive equal measures of day and night, phew!), we can take a few of the following safety measures to make us feel more confident when running in the dark.
1. Run in packs
Join a club, gather up some running friends and hit the roads together. It’s all about safety in numbers. And who knows? You may meet some fabulous new people who share your enthusiasm for running and can also offer you tips on facing that Spring marathon. There are plenty of clubs, which cater for all types of runners. From clubs (Serpentine, Highgate Harriers, Mornington Chasers etc…) to running groups associated with sportswear brands (Nike, Lululemon, Sweaty Betty), you’re sure to find one suitable for you. They normally supply high-viz vests and a front and backend runner who will guide you throughout the run so you can concentrate on building up your mileage slowly but surely.
2. Know your route
Not everyone can commit to training at a specific time and a specific day of the week. One of the reasons they took up running was because it allowed flexibility and something they could fit in as and when. Or they use it as a form of transport: running to work, from work to home or both. The idea of joining a club/group simply isn’t feasible. Well, to tackle the darkness problem, make sure you know your route and stick to roads that are well-lit and populated. It is common sense really. And remember to trust your instincts, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t go there.
3. Tell a friend where you’re going
Another piece of common sense but tell someone close (housemate, partner, friend etc…perhaps not your parents as they will only fret, believe me) where you’re going and roughly how long you’ll be gone. I’m in the taking a mobile phone with you camp, just in case you’re longer than you expected so they don’t worry. If you #runcommute, text, call, email, whatsapp, Skype, Facebook, pigeon message (ok, maybe not that one), your chosen person to let them know you’re there. Of course, not everyone has this sort of arrangement and by no means do you have to do this but it’s good to communicate your intentions just in case.
4. Wear the right gear
Think like a safety-conscious cyclist and choose high-viz gear that can be seen from the road. Thankfully, there are a bunch of brands now offering high-viz gear for all budgets. From Nike’s supa-dupa Allover Flash jacket (at a very ouch-worthy £320) to Karrimor’s range of cheap and cheerful running gilet (barginous at £10.99), you can dress up to be seen. Sweaty Betty also sell a pair of Reflective Arm Blinkers, £14, which are pretty powerful and can be seen from a distance. Yes, you’ll look a bit like a Christmas tree but why not embrace the holiday spirit?
5. Take a head torch
You may not feel entirely comfortable channeling the caver look but wearing a head torch also lets you be seen and can help in terms of dodging puddles, cracks in the road or on foggy days, when visibility is low. Again, you don’t have to spend loads on this but it’s worth considering that the more expensive running head torches are more likely to last longer in terms of battery-life. They also come in use if you are thinking of taking up trail running.
6. Run against the traffic
If you’re running on the road, run facing traffic (in the opposite direction to the traffic) so that on-coming vehicles can see you. It’s not rocket science and running on the road isn’t perhaps the best but when faced with no other choice, make sure you put your safety first.
7. Carry ID
Be it a bank card, driving licence or photocopy of your passport, carry some sort of identification on you when you’re running in the dark. It’s for the same reason that you fill out the back of a race number at a competitive race; you never know what will happen. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t let this put you off running in the dark. By taking a few safety precautions and just being aware of what is around you, you’ll be fine.
Have fun, take care and Merry Christmas everyone.
Have I missed anything off this list? Feel free to share your tips with me.