By Matt Schultheis
In my recent entry I addressed the concerns training in the winter and how we should adapt to running in the cold. Another concern is the lack of daylight that we have when attempting to fit in all our weekly training runs during winter months. Staying healthy in the cold is certainly important, but equally so is staying safe in the dark.
Be intimately familiar with each of your daily routes. Some will be much safer depending on the time of the day you are running. I always try to drive a new route in my car at least once so I am more familiar with it. When you do this, you can make notes on various features of the route. How well lit is the route? How large is the shoulder, or is there a sidewalk present? Finally, determining how busy the route may be at the time of the day you will be running. Different routes are going to be safer at various times, and I always try to consider this and plan ahead when setting my weekly running schedule to avoid any undue risk.
Visibility to motorists may be the most important issue that all runners have to deal with if running in the early morning or later in the evening . I take an approach that involves multiple safety measures. There is nothing that can replace a good head lamp. Many would spend probably more then they need buying one at a specialty running store, but I have often found some of the most cost-effective and sturdy in the camping section of a local department store. Reflective vests are also a wise investment. Even if I know the sun will be rising by the latter half of my run, I always wear my yellow reflective vest with fluorescent stripes. It may make you look like a highway construction worker but you’ll be a safe highway construction worker. A final aspect to remember are the colors you find yourself dressing in during these low light times of the day. Remember that bright colors make you more visible to oncoming drivers, and are most essential if you are going to run at these riskier times of the day.
Most of us have to balance our training with a number of other personal and professional responsibilities. Running in the dark and mitigating the potential danger involved are each runner’s responsibility. I like to think of running as a privilege and we need to respect everyone with whom we share the roads. Running during the early morning hours can be one of the most peaceful times of the day. For the sake of my loving wife, I will always take necessary safety precautions if that is going to continue to be my preferred time of day to run.
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