8 Things to Know Before Running in the Dark
Written By: SportsShoes
Whether you’re short on daylight training hours or you signed up for an ultra or Ragnar Relay, there are any number of reasons you might find yourself running the trails at night. Doing this is not so much of a crazy idea as it sounds, as trail running across a night landscape can be a magical and tranquil experience, adding a whole new dimension to your running. Here’s what to know before you go.
1. It’s Dark Out There!
It sounds obvious, but we’re so accustomed to street lighting for night running, that we can forget that the trails at night are a dark, dark place. If you’re lucky, you might get a silvery moon lighting the way, but otherwise you’ll be encountering sheet blackness, and you won’t even be able to make out what’s right under your feet. For this reason, always wear a head torch to light up the route ahead – the more powerful the better. For running dark, unlit trails, you’ll need a lumen count of at least 300 to help guide you over uneven ground.
Browse our range of head torches here.
2. Know Your Route
Night time is not the time to try out a new route or that short cut across the fields you’ve been thinking about. Bear in mind that everything looks different in the dark, and it’s all too easy to get confused, lose your bearings and worse, get lost. Stick to routes you know back to front, including any hazards, uneven patches and any particularly challenging sections. That said, it’s not so easy if you’re running a race where you won’t have run the route before, so always make sure to properly study the route map – and always take it with you.
3. Slow Down
It goes without saying that running across uneven trails in the dark means taking extra care. The last thing anyone wants is an ankle twist or even a fall thanks to an unseen tree root or rock – and even less so at night. Night time trails are not going to be the scene of your new PB, so instead of pushing for this, slow down, breathe in the tranquillity and stillness of the trails and enjoy feeling at one with nature.
4. Boost Agility
It follows that even though you’ll be slowing down, running along twisting and turning trails at night heightens the senses and sharpens your reaction times, boosting agility and mental focus. Running uneven trails also activates a whole range of ancillary muscle groups for full body conditioning and a boost in performance.
5. Zone Out
While you’re ultra-focused on the here and now, you’ll also be zoning out from everyday external stress factors. This promotes a calm and tranquil state, gives us a break from every day pressures and an overall mental boost. Running peaceful trails at night, along with heightened senses, raised alertness and mental focus boosts this effect further – the trails at night are all yours, so take the time to enjoy them and de-stress.
6. Layer Up
The weather can be changeable out on the trails at the best of times, but the temperature at night can also drop dramatically. The benefit of this is a more comfortable run, and less chance of over-heating, but depending on the time of year it’s also wise to take along a waterproof jacket and even a baselayer at colder times of year.
7. Safety First
Safety comes before all else. It’s important to always let someone know where you’re running and when you’re due back. Always take along your mobile phone in case of emergency and make sure to wear high vis clothing. Even if you’re not going near a road, you’ll be surprised at how many cyclists, walkers and other runners you can encounter, so make sure they can see you.
8. Take a Friend
Trail running at night is without a doubt, magical. Speak to anyone who’s run a Ragnar Relay and they’ll likely tell you that their night time leg was their favourite. That said, anxieties about getting lost, being alone in the dark and general safety considerations can make night running an intimidating prospect. Taking along a friend can help allay some of those fears, and it’s also generally safer. That’s not to mention running the trails in the dark together is a lot of fun and a truly special experience – so grab your running buddy and give it a try!