Running in the Dark: PSA

There are tons of posts you can find online about “runner safety” and “nighttime running.” So while I don’t want to simply add to what’s already been said by many time and time again, after the events that transpired during my run last night, I felt as though it was necessary. Even if just one new person reads this and realizes they need to up their safety game (runner or driver), I’ll be happy.

Last night’s run started out like they always do – I was bemoaning the fact that it was already so dark, but thankful it wasn’t also cold. I get home from work around 6 (give or take, depending on traffic), and do my best to change and get out the door as quickly as possible. I have to admit that when I first started running, I didn’t necessarily dress any different for running during  the day or night. My neighborhood does have street lights and sidewalks, but some parts are much darker than others. Since then I’ve wised up, and on every run that’s in the dark, I dress in lighter clothes, wear a reflective vest, a little reflective cuff that I put on my ankle, and I also bring along a pair of Knuckle Lights. Sometimes I use a headlamp instead of the Knuckle Lights, but I usually prefer the lights as they allow me to move them as needed (i.e. down a side street I’m crossing over, to make sure if there is a car coming, they see me).

I may look like a doof, but at least I'm a doof you can see in the dark!
I may look like a doof, but at least I’m a doof you can see in the dark!

So on Wednesday night I strapped on all my reflective gear and headed out with my running partner (who has the same reflective get-up as I do) for an easy 6 miles. The run was going really well – I was chatting all about Oiselle bird brunch, and not paying attention to the miles. About 3 miles into the run, as we were about to cross a side street (we were running parallel to a main road, on the sidewalk), all of a sudden we hear a screech, and then a honk. I pride myself in “looking both ways before I cross,” and there was no way I could have seen a car coming up from behind that wanted to turn off of the main street and onto the side street I was just about to cross. Naturally, I was furious that 1. the driver didn’t see us, and 2. she had the nerve to honk at us, as though it was our fault! After she honked, she rolled down her window and started shouting expletives at us. We both turned and yelled that we had the right of way (as pedestrians in a crosswalk!), to which she replied, “Whatever. I’ll kick your ass!” as she sped off down the street.

I had so many thoughts swimming in my head. How was I, as a pedestrian, supposed to know a car was flying up from behind me, and was going to try to rip around a corner before I began to cross it? And if she hadn’t seen us, what was she doing that distracted her? It took a few minutes for the gravity of the situation to sink in. I couldn’t believe that she had the nerve to yell at us – as though we had just decided to cross the road right in front of a car. I spent a few minutes of thinking about how we could have just been hit by a car, and since she was obviously a very angry person, she may have been following us or waiting for us around a corner to “kick our asses” when we ran back. Eventually I couldn’t help but laugh. I mean, this woman nearly ran over two pedestrians (her own fault), and when she was called out on it by said pedestrians, her comeback was that she was going to beat us up? I felt like I was back in middle school. Needless to say the second half of our run was much faster than the first thanks to all the adrenaline coursing through our veins.

Once I got home, I realized that there are so many runners, dog walkers, and walkers that I see out and about either early in the morning or late at night, that do not dress appropriately. I also see plenty of drivers that don’t seem to drive any differently around neighborhoods when it’s dark. So as a little PSA, here are my tips for runners and walkers AND drivers (you aren’t off the hook) out and about in the dark.

1. Wear light clothing. If possible, wear things that have reflective seams or logos. Every little bit helps!
2. Get a reflective vest. I have this one and really like it, but there are so many on the market, and you can find one for every budget. They even sell small reflective velcro pieces you can attach to your arms, legs, etc. It looks funny, but every little bit of illumination helps.
3. Use some type of light! As I mentioned, I have the Knuckle Lights and love them because I can direct them as I need, but if you don’t like the idea of carrying anything, a headlamp also works (I have a headlamp with a strap that gets big enough so I can wear it around my waist!).
4. Stay alert. This means it would be best for you to leave your music at home. You need to be able to hear if a car, person, etc., is coming up behind you, and if you’re too busy rocking out to Katy Perry, you may miss warning sounds that could help keep you injury free.
5. Carry your cell phone. I have to admit, I hate running with my phone – it’s just too bulky in my pocket, and I don’t like holding it. But after last night, I realized that in the event I had been hit or “beat up” and was alone, I would have needed help.

1. Be alert and drive safely. This is really the only tip I have for you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should suddenly go 5 under the speed limit, but you should try to be more aware. Oh, and STOP TEXTING AND DRIVING.

These tips aren’t just for when it’s pitch black outside. As soon as the sun is starting to set, you should really be wearing reflective gear and taking a light with you. The beauty of modern day technology is that the lights generally have an on and off switch, so you can take it with you and turn it on only when you need it. Yes, I realize you may not “look cool” and it may be a little uncomfortable, but I don’t mind looking silly and being uncomfortable for an hour if it means potentially preventing injury or saving my life! So please be careful out there – runners and drivers alike – I hear way too many stories about runners, cyclists, and walkers getting hit by cars, and as those out on foot and behind the wheels, we need to do whatever we can to prevent it from continuing.

What do you do to make sure you’re visible in the early morning or late at night?