Family life

Nighttime running safety

Busy days mean that our Run-at-home mom blogger often runs after the sun goes down. But in a cottage community without street lights, she's having to re-learn to run at night

By Jennifer Pinarski
Nighttime running safety

Nighttime running is a skill set. When I started running at night 8 years ago, it was all I cold do to not jump out of my skin anytime a car went by. I was afraid of my own shadow, depending on whether or not I was running towards or away from a street lamp and saw it out of the corner of my eye. The more miles I logged the more confident, but no less cautious, I became. And then I had our children which reset the clock on my paranoia and I had to start over again.

As an urban nighttime runner I had a different set of challenges - distracted drivers, unploughed streets and slippery sidewalks and crazy people that might be stalking me (the last one was more Mr. P's worry than mine). But at least I had street lights, public transit and taxis if I got stranded and needed a ride home and houses to go to in case I needed help. In our cottage community, where nearly 60% of our summer residents have gone back to the city for the winter, my evening 7K route is a dark and quiet place to be — even at 7 p.m. If Mr. P thought crazy stalkers were scary, it's nothing compared to the conditions I run in now:

  • There are no street lights
  • Most of the homes are set far back from the road which means very little ambient light.
  • People treat our hilly and windy road like a Formula 1 track
  • It's hunting season (and while there isn't supposed to be hunting after dark, we've still heard shots)
  • Teenagers on skateboards
  • No one seems to tie or fence their dogs after dusk
  • And for the dogs that are fenced, the invisible electric fencing isn't strong enough for them

This means that I've had to relearn how to run at night to make sure that I return home in one piece. I turned to my ultrarunning community friends for tips. Vanessa Runs, a Canadian now living in San Diego, shared this article about nighttime running safety on Facebook. It lead to a great discussion about which lights work best — and even where to put them on your body to improve visability. The head lamp I currently is a wee thing that is OK for urban nighttime running, but doesn't work well here (see my picture: that's all the light I get). By plastering my body with reflective tape, a floroescent T-shirt, layering a reflective vest and moving my headlamp to the middle of my chest (I feel a little like Ironman out there), I've improved my visibility. Next on my running gear shopping list is a lamp with a higher lumens and a reflective vest for our dog (who always comes along with me on my nightime runs). 

Do you run at night? How do you keep yourself safe on the road?

This article was originally published on Oct 31, 2011

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