In a perfect world, you would be able to plan your entire day around your run, and head out onto the road whenever the time was right.
However, this is not a perfect world, and you have to plan around work and various other commitments.
If you want to keep up with your running schedule even when the sun has gone down (or not yet come up), you will need a good plan of attack to keep yourself safe and comfortable while putting in the miles.
The seven tips below will answer the question of ‘how do I run at night’? If you are able to follow these tips and use some good old fashioned common sense, you should have no trouble completing successful night runs and enjoying your hobby all year ‘round.
Are There Benefits To Night Running?
We know that night running can be a little dangerous, but are there any advantages to running at night as opposed to running during the day?
I think there are several.
Where I'm from, the daytime heat and sunlight can be pretty oppressive. While it's still warm at night - it's nothing like during the daylight. So starting before the sun comes up protects you from the sun and keeps you cooler overall.
Doug at Rock Creek Running also rightly points out a more hidden benefit that being open to night running will free up your schedule. You can still do the things that are important to you and maintain a regular schedule that fits running in when it works best for you - regardless of whether the sun is up.
On a related note, running is a known stress reliever. So many times a night run can be an excellent way to wind down after a hard fought day at work.
The Wings for Life World Run also smartly points out that having a planned nighttime run can help curb your appetite for a heavy/unhealthy dinner. If you know you have a running coming up after you eat, you'll tend to keep it light so you have that extra spring in your step when you hit the road.
Finally, some races like ultra marathons involve finishing up in the dark - so why not get a little practice running in a more dimly lit setting?
Find the Light
It might seem obvious, but finding a lit route to complete your night runs is of great importance. Not only does running under the lights make for easier going, but it keeps you safer as well. Some options for lighted routes include a local track that is lit up in the evening or a main street that has a sidewalk for you to run and numerous street lights along the way.
Besides finding a lit area, you should also wear a light for safety.
This will let you see where you're going, plus give you another opportunity to be seen by cars that may be driving by. If you don't love running with a headlamp, I'd suggest checking out our very own Ultra Runner chest light that gives you an "Ironman-like" light beaming off of your chest...
If you're crazy brave enough to go trail running at night, having a bright light is absolutely essential. It's a whole new kind of darkness compared to running in a neighborhood where you have some supplementary light from nearby houses, traffic signals, etc.
In fact, Heather at Relentless Forward Commotion makes a great point about having some extra light with you so you don't risk getting lost in the woods:
Run With a Defensive Mindset
Perhaps you remember from your driver's education training (or from your parents) the common plea to be a "defensive driver."
Put simply, driving your car defensively means that you are always assuming the worst about the other drivers on the road - assume they are going to swerve into your lane, not stop when they should, etc. so you are prepared to react.
The same mindset goes for running at night. In fact, I love this quote by Angela at HappyFitMama:
If you're expecting the worst, you'll tend to react faster when things do go awry.
Dress to Stand Out
Dark clothes might be your preferred look during the daylight, but that is not going to work while running at night.
Consider investing in some reflective gear that will make sure you stand out in the headlights of oncoming cars. There is a great selection of comfortable running gear on the market today that will help others to see you even in very low light.
Related: Best Reflective Running Vest Guide
Let Someone Know
Unfortunately, sometimes you have to be worried about the possibility of other people who wish to do you harm when you run - and night time's limited visibility means that a potential attacker could feel emboldened because they can easily stay hidden.
I don't say that to scare you, but rather to remind you to be aware.
For this reason and just a general rule of thumb, I love the idea Sarah Crouch gives about making a habit of letting someone know when you're going out for a run. Here's her quote:
A night time run might be the only option you have based on your schedule, but that does not mean your body will gladly wait to get hungry until you are done.
If you are coming home from work and changing into running clothes, make sure to have a healthy snack before hitting the pavement.
Even consuming a protein bar in the car on the way from work could be a good way to store up the energy that will be used on the run.
Turn off the Tunes
You very likely love running with your music turned up to keep you entertained and your mind engaged, but that is not such a good idea at night.
Since you already can’t see very well, you don’t want to limit another one of your senses by putting your headphones on. Leave the music at home and you will be safer knowing that you can hear clearly what is going on around you.
If that is not practical for your individual circumstances running with one headphone in or running with the tunes at a lower volume than normal is a reasonable compromise.
How loud is too loud? I personally like the rule of thumb from Amy Hester on BreakingMuscle.com which says:
Be Okay with a Familiar Loop
Most runners try to not double back on their routes too much as a way of avoiding repetition and boredom.
However, it might not be possible to plan out a longer run at night without using the same stretch more than once. Find the safest area to run where there is light available and use it as many times as necessary to get in your miles.
Repetition is not ideal, but it is better than putting yourself in an unsafe situation.
Many runners wonder, ‘how do I run at night and stay safe’? The answer can be found in good planning and smart decisions. Use the simple tips above and you will be able to stick with your training schedule even if your only chance to run is late into the evening.
Stay safe on the road and enjoy your miles!