At this time of year, Running in the dark can be a darker affair, however it is nothing to be scared of – it’s a joy, to be embraced and loved and planned around. Safety is of course important – but so is the endorphin rush from blasting at top speed (in your head if not reality) through the night. Many people proclaim they could never run in the dark and would never dream of trying, or desperately seeking a running buddy so they won’t have to venture out solo.
One piece of reassurance – if you find night running feels harder, then you might actually be right. When you run, your awareness of the environment helps you gauge your pace. At night, you see only objects relatively close to you – and this makes the scenery speed by quicker than normal. This effect can trick you into thinking you’re maintaining a faster pace than you actually are.
Even though you may be going slower, the sensation is addictive. The ground beneath your feet disappears instantly, as if the world has become your own personal treadmill, a dark ribbon of road propelling you forwards. Quite often you feel invincible – right up to the moment when a car pulls out of a driveway and you are forced into a thigh-juddering halt.
To fully enjoy any run, you need to be dressed correctly. As the temperatures dip, leggings, base layers and a good running jacket become an essential part of your kit. A hat and gloves are also worth investing in – hands that are warm when you begin can, in contrast to your rapidly heating body, get colder and colder as the blood is diverted to parts that need it more urgently.
Whatever the season, much of the satisfaction of running comes afterwards: those runs that were absolutely the last thing you wanted to do, but you did them anyway. This goes doubly, triply, for night-time runs, where you fought the battle against the tempting sofa and glass of wine, and won.
Then there’s the early morning run. These early runs have a completely different feel to night-time adventures. The streets are quieter, more serene..
Moments like this – where the mental battle that is running (“my legs say stop, my head says no”) takes place in solitude – a solitude that’s all the rarer in our busy, mostly urban lives – are what night running is all about.
When the evenings start drawing in, don’t stay in. Go out and meet them.
Visibility - There is almost no item of running apparel that isn’t available in reflective form, from shoelaces to flashing LEDs. A running headlamp is ideal for dimly lit terrain, and can make you feel like you’re fallen into a computer game – though please note your supply of lives is extremely finite.
Safety - If you worry about personal safety rather than potholes, then join a running club – many have weeknight sessions. Search for a local one on the British Athletics site, and remember – most clubs are for people who love running, not just those who are good at it, so don’t worry about your speed.
Vigilance - Run against traffic, so you can see vehicles coming towards you, rather than letting them come up behind. Consider ditching your music – you need senses on full alert. It’s also probably not the time to suddenly go off-piste and try a brand new route – plan ahead.