Pacers Clarendon Assistant Manager and Safety Maven, Tess Stryk, weighs in this week on how to stay safe running in the dark. Common sense is a must but lights and reflective materials go a long way too.
Things that light up in the winter:
- Christmas trees
To quote our Clarendon fun run leader, when it comes to low light running, “bright clothing is good, reflective clothing is better, and lights are best.” November is here and so is National Running Safety Month. As the daylight hours shorten, you become less visible on your runs and are at a greater risk for a visibility-related accident.
Safety is your primary goal through these dark times and it’s really becomes a question of how proactive you are about lighting your way. Bright clothing and reflective strips are passive ways of letting those around you that you’re there. The very concept of reflection requires someone else to shine a light on you, unfortunately sometimes not until it’s too late, and are a passive way of being more visible. Having your own lights allow you to be more proactive in creating a safer environment for low-light running. So to help you improve the safety of your winter runs, let’s break down some options for increased visibility on the go.
Ranging from heel spurs to armbands to clips, these little guys go a long way in creating a safer night out. They’re less bulky and require little effort while getting dressed but still elevate your visibility game. Ideally, if you’re clipping on a light, you should have both a front and rear attachments to give you 360 degrees of illumination. Bikes should be your model in this case, two lights are considered necessary for safe riding, which also happens to be the standard for safe running. Armbands split the difference and are visible on whichever half of the body you’ve strapped it to, just remember that that the other side is dark so run with your lit arm towards the road!
Vests are the creme dela creme of visibility apparel: neon, reflective, and lit. They’re your best chance of being seen. These typically come with or without lights built in, but have the capability to clip on more. Plus, adjustable sizing should accommodate most runners and their layers of vests, jackets, and base layers through the winter season. What sets running vests apart from a construction or safety martial models are their general shape, which is cut in a style that allows maximum movement and visibility on the run and minimal weight. There’s a reason why road competitions like Ragnar races require vests, they truly are the gold standard.
Hand helds and head lamps:
Let’s admit it, we’ve all had a pretty fantastic trip over a stray tree root, bump in the pavement, or our own feet. This can get even more precarious in the dark. Utilizing a headlamp or handheld light will help illuminate your path while you scan for hazards. If you’re someone who runs with a handheld water bottle in the summer, a handheld light should feel like a seamless transition. However if you’re someone who hates the idea of having anything in your hands, a headlamp is the easy hands-free option for you. These have the added benefit of acting as a headlight so you see your path and oncoming traffic can see you. With a range of output, measured in lumens, you can choose how bright you need your lamp to be based on if you just want to be seen or light up the night.
Black may be chic, but neon yellow is just as trendy for winter. High-visibility colors and reflective strips sweeten the deal on your low-light wardrobe. A statement outer layer is the centerpiece of any runner’s closet, it’s best to make sure that it’s safe enough for the busy streets of Northern Virginia and D.C. Also consider that the headlights of most cars are angled slightly downward, meaning a diver is more likely to see your legs first. Most running shoes have reflective bits for this very purpose, but it never hurts to go overboard in the visibility department.
Running Safety Rules of Thumb:
Even if you’re wearing every light in your possession and carry a flashing sign that says “PEDESTRIAN,” never presume that vehicles can see you. It’s better to have an awkward pause at an intersection and lose a few seconds on your mile time than end up with having to make an awkward phone call to your loved ones about your poor choice of hobby. Run against traffic to give yourself the best chance of seeing what’s coming your way. This doesn’t mean run in the road, but stick to the side of the sidewalk where you can see oncoming traffic.
Let someone know what you’re up to. Many GPS watches and running apps for your phone have a breadcrumb feature that will automatically alert your emergency contact when you’re going for a run and where you are. If you don’t have these features, let your roommates, friends, or a loved one know when you’re going out and update them when you’re back so they know when to (or when not to) panic. Or better yet, run with a buddy or join one of our social runs.
Speaking of emergency contacts, you should have one! A phone number on a RoadID or contact stored in plain sight on your phone need to be available in the event that you can’t speak or advocate for yourself. No one wants to talk about the worst possible scenario, but having a plan for it will give you and your loved ones peace of mind.
Don’t pump up the jams. If you can’t hear your own breathing, you can’t hear a car horn or bike bell easily. Monitoring your surroundings by sound is key, you will often hear cars approaching before you actually see them, especially on side streets.
Think Low risk! A late night, low-light run is not the time to check out that cool trial your friends were talking about. Instead, stick to well lit or well known routes that you feel comfortable on. There will be plenty of daylight in the future to explore new paths.
It seems like a no-brainer, but know when sunset is. You don’t want to be caught out three miles into a lovely park run only to have to run back in the dark! A little foresight and prior planning will keep you well lit and prepared.
Don’t be afraid to raise your voice. If you are uncomfortable with how close a car, cyclist or other pedestrian got to you, let them know. This also goes for you, a friendly “on your left” is common courtesy while passing.
See and be seen! We want to keep helping you with your running, so do us a favor a be safe out there! If you have any questions, or need help tailoring your low light needs to your run, stop on by for a chat.