I used to hate running in the dark, but ever since I graduated college, my scheduled force me to choose between running at night or not running at all. When I first moved to Rochester in the winter about five years ago, I had a 45 minute daily commute, meaning all my running was done in the dark. I barely even saw my house in daylight for the first two months I lived there. City traffic, limited streetlights, and uneven sidewalks made for some dicey conditions, forcing me to start acquiring some gear to keep me safe. Going from being someone who doesn’t even run with a phone to now needing a reflective vest and flashlight took a lot of trial and error, but I eventually found my favorites.
I started basic, with a reflective vest. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; it just has to work. At this point I was fresh out of grad school, so inexpensive was my friend. I like my vest from Amphipod because it has a pouch to hold my phone and keys. The pouch even has a window in it so I could use the flashlight app on my phone while running. Alternatively, brands such as Nathan Sports also carry a variety of reflective gear such as bracelets, clips, and heel spurs for your shoes, and now they even have masks!
(Pro Tip: If you’re running in a mask, check out the mask cages on Amazon. They keep the mask away from your mouth while you’re exercising, so you don’t breathe it in. These have been a lifesaver when I teach spin classes.)
Over time I started to enjoy nightly runs. I am fortunate to live in a safe neighborhood, and I find my dark runs very relaxing. For some reason, I always feel like I’m running faster, too! After seeing other runners with LED vests, I splurged on the Tracer360 from Nox Gear. These vests are a bit pricier, coming in at around $70, but they are worth it. In addition to a reflective strip that goes around your body, two LED cords make up the rest of the vest. The cords come with several color settings, including flashing colors that will make you more noticeable to cars. The great thing about Nox Gear is that they also make light vests for dogs!
Now that spring is here, I don’t have to worry about running in the dark as much, except for when I head out for morning runs with my teacher friends. On a recent 5:30am run with one of these friends, we ran into trouble when there was an unexpected power outage. We were accustomed to having streetlights to illuminate the ground in front of us, and we were unprepared for the dark. Both of us typically have minimal gear on us for our runs. Now at least one of us typically has some sort of flashlight.
Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of headlamps because I find them awkward, but two winters ago I found a winter hat on Amazon with a built-in flashlight that has been a great alternative. The Night Scout Rechargeable LED Beanie has been a great alternative for me during those cold winter nights, and it’s only $15. I’d still prefer to run without a light, but my stride at times resembles a shuffle, and I got tired of falling in the dark.
As an alternative to headlamps, companies such as Nathan Sports create handheld flashlights that use Velcro straps to stay attached. The straps allow you to keep the light securely in your hand without actively having to hold on to it.
A third option is a running belt with a flashlight attachment. Check out the UltrAspire lumen series for a variety of hands free flashlight options.
In a pinch, don’t forget that most smartphones have a flashlight that you can use to light the way!