Running in the dark – Be safe, be seen

During the months leading up to a Fall (or Spring) marathon as the distances get longer the more you may end up running in the pre-dawn or post-sunset hours. This morning I got up at 4:45am today to squeeze a 7 mile run in before I had to leave for work and the sun didn’t come up until the last couple of miles of my run. This can be a challenge to get out there and put the miles in if you are not fully prepared.

This mornings sunrise calendar

This mornings sunrise time

When I did my first marathon back in the Fall of 2011 I had to figure a way of getting my mid-week runs in before work and on occassions some long runs on the weekend and be home in time for my wife to leave to teach Sunday school. This meant often getting up at 3:00am to knock out a 20 miler and be home in time to look after the boys. So with those challenges I had to make sure that I was adequately geared up so that I was out there safely and I would be coming back home as promised.

Now, I cannot speak for everyone or recommend the best night time gear out there but I have put a list of gear together that I use and you might find useful to research if you haven’t before. Some of this was trial and error but the following seems to be what works best for me.

My every run essentials

Firstly, whether there is sunlight or moonlight, I never leave for a run without wearing my Road ID Sport band. This goes with me on every run. You can read my review of Road ID products here. Additionally, I always take my iPhone with me in either my iFitness belt or in the pocket of my Nathan hydration belt. Everyone has their own favorite way of carrying their personal belongings. Sometimes, even on race days, I will stuff a credit card and a $10 bill away in case of emergencies. When I travel I also bring my driver’s licence with my credit card. But typically it’s just my Road ID, iPhone and house key as I train on familiar routes most of the time.

Road ID Sport

Road ID Sport

iFitness running belt (I use a double pocket on race days for gels)

iFitness running belt
(I use a double pocket on race days to carry my gels)

Nathan Hydration Belt

Nathan Hydration Belt

My pre-dawn essentials

My first purchase when I started running in the early morning was a reflective vest. Even at dawn and dusk it is a useful and lightweight piece of equipment which does not add bulk to you while you run. Since I discovered the Brooks Nightlife series of products I have been a fan of their running gear (I was already a Brooks shoes devotee). This is the vest I personally use but if you look around you will find similar products from other brands. Find something that has good reviews and seems like it will be lasting and finally fits your body well. I use the Brooks Reflective Running Vest. This works well for me.

Brooks vest

Brooks Nightlife Running Vest

I always run with a hat or a visor to either keep the sunlight or the perspiration out of my eyes. I like the Headsweats range of hats and they make a RoadID branded hat which has a lot of extra reflective material. I also use the Brooks Nightlife running hat which in addition to being reflective also has a built in flashing lamp at the rear (which I recently discovered by accident). Here it is.

Brooks running hat in 'Nightlife' reflective material

Brooks running hat in ‘Nightlife’ reflective material

As the sunrises get later I start to wear a headlamp. I use something specifally designed for running which is both lighweight and secure. In addition it provides a wide spread of light for about 20 feet ahead of me. It’s the Petzl Tikkina. It seems to be mid-range in price and they do have others which are more expensive and powerful. Again, I suggest you look at some online reviews and see what you like. I attach a flashing red Road ID Supernova lamp to the back of the strap. This is another reason I wear a hat when running so that it has something to rest on other than my sweaty head.

Petzl Tikkina

Petzl Tikkina headlamp

Road ID Supernova

Road ID Supernova

In the winter months I keep the same setup with the exception that I will swap out the Brooks running vest with my Brooks Essential Nightlife Running Vest if I need an additional layer. I also will wear the Brooks Infiniti Nightlife Beanie. If I am wearing running tights in the dead of winter I may occassionally add some reflective ankle bands too.

Brooks Essential Run Vest (Nightlife series)

Brooks Essential Run Vest (Nightlife series)

Brooks Infiniti Beanie (Nightlife)

Brooks Infiniti Beanie (Nightlife)

Road ID ankle bands

Road ID ankle bands

Rules of the Road

So now I’m all geared up there are some rules of the road that I make sure I stick with on every run.

  • Road ID and phone – always.
  • Tell someone the route you plan to run (just in case)…just don’t wake them up at 3:00am, it’s better to tell them the night before.
  • Map out your route in advance if you are travelling and are not sure of the area.
  • Run against the flow of traffic. This way you see a vehicle even if they do not see you. It may be necessary to cross the road on occassion, for example on roads with tight curves.
  • Stick to the shoulder of the road if there is one. I prefer to run on the blacktop where ever possible to avoid tripping on uneven pavement. Just make sure you have enough room if two cars need to pass at the same time from opposite directions.
  • If it looks like ice or if there is a black ice warning consider taking your run indoors to the gym. Even though you can see ahead of you it is what is under your feet which you cannot control.
  • NO MUSIC. Since I started running in the dark I have had to quit running with music. If cars still cannot see you you despite you being lit up like a Christmas tree you need to be aware of them!!! (I’ve stopped listening to music on all runs but treadmills. Running at night is incredibly calming).
  • Give yourself extra time. Yes, sometimes I do pace runs but mostly I take things just a bit slower. It’s dark, you want to make sure your feet are going where they should be going. Your headlamp can only see so far ahead.
  • Make sure you change the batteries in your headlamp at the start of every season. Having a light that is bright works wonders (again, trial and error).

This is by no means a comprehensive set of guidelines nor is the gear above the definitive list of running gear. This is what works for me. You may find something that works better for you. I know that they make reflective vests with speakers built in to them if you cannot imagine running without music. Other manufacturers make there own range of night running gear (Saucony makes a simliar line of reflective clothing in bright orange). Mostly I just want to be safe. You may think I am being overly cautious with all this preparation (yes, it sometimes takes forever to get dressed and out of the door) but I want to make sure that I can be seen out there. You never know who is out on the road and what condition they may be in.

I will admit that the first time I ran outside with a headlamp pretty much freaked me out. It took a few runs until I was probably acclimated to using it. I found that it is fairly limited in fog and that when you look in the direction of trees and bushes the animals eyes reflect back at you and can make you jump. Also, Halloween season freaks me out because you never know when you will come face to face with an unexpected scarecrow (I’ve watched waaaaay too much ‘Doctor Who’ in my life).

So there you have it. You are all dressed up and have places to go. I hope you found this post insightful.

Be safe out there.

The great outdoors

Finally…

This is NOT a treadmill

This is NOT a treadmill

After more than 5 weeks of running inside on a treadmill I finally got to run outside today. I didn’t even mind losing an hour of sleep from changing the clocks last night as I was so pumped just to be finally away from the treadmill. Free from music and podcasts, breathing fresh air and enjoying the sunshine.

With the NJ Marathon only 8 weeks away I am now running longer distances. Today was a 17 miler and I was so glad to be able to do this outside. Not that this did not lead to a little apprehension about what to wear as I had got used to my usual indoor attire of t-shirt and shorts. A quick use of the Runners World ‘What to Wear’ tool showed that I could get by with a long sleeve T, shorts and a hat for sun protection. I added my Brooks Essential vest to keep my core warm and my Brooks Gossamer gloves to keep my hands warm plus my bright blue Zensah’s and I was up and out and ready to run.

Tyler Park has quite a number of hills and after being on a treadmill for a number of weeks I was concerned on how I would fair after running on essentially a flat to slightly elevated platform. I had changed my Galloway Run/Walk ratio to 4:00/0:50 based upon a response from Jeff Galloway to a question I posted on Facebook and set out. I was a little concerned about the new ratio as I had never gone beyond a 0:35 walk before but he’s the expert to so I did what he advised.

I’m pleased to say that it seemed to work well for me. I ran perhaps a little quicker during the run but the recovery time during the walk seemed to help a lot. I covered the first 13 miles in 2 hours which isn’t bad given the terrain and my traditional pace. Here is a link to my Garmin data if you want to see all the charts for today’s run.

As it was really the first really beautiful day of the nearly spring season it seemed like everyone was out in the park and with a smile on their faces. Everyone seemed to be really friendly and gracious. It was lots of ‘hello’s and ‘good morning’s although it seems people can be somewhat taken aback when the oncoming runner (namely me) says good morning sounding like Mr Banks (the father from Mary Poppins). It certainly turned a couple of heads and made me smile. I should just confirm that this was not how I dressed.

Mr Banks (actor David Tomlinson)

Mr Banks (actor David Tomlinson)

It was also good to see a few friends of ours out there. I ran past our friend Mike who lives near the park and can run circles around me. He was no doubt in training for Boston next month. I also saw our friend Lauren who is new to running having recently completed her first 5K. Today was a great day to be out in the sunshine and she was taking her first run in Tyler Park. It is a great park to run in and has many routes and trails. If you are ever in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and want a nice place to run you must check it out. Be aware though it is quite hilly but that’s good right? Here is the link for park information.

Of course, you don’t run 17 miles just for fun do you? You run for the post run treats. Needless to say I parked on the side of the park closest to the Dunkin’ Donuts. Let’s just say I earned my post run treat as shown below. Chocolate milk for the carbs and protein (ahem), a donut and a large black coffee. Yum!

17 miles run treat

My 17 mile run treat

So, there were a few things I learned from today’s run:

  1. It’s better running outside than inside (no brainer).
  2. I missed running downhill.
  3. I am faster outside under my own power than on a treadmill powered by a motor.
  4. Grown ups actually DO play frisbee golf (it’s not just a college student thing).
  5. My ‘Headsweats’ visor is an invaluable piece of equipment in keeping me cool, dry and shaded from the sun.
  6. Running in shorts when the starting temperature is 32 degrees is not such a bad thing.
  7. People are not expecting my accent when I speak to them.
  8. My new Run/Walk ratio seems to be a good piece of advice (thanks Jeff).
  9. Not all dog owners follow the sign to keep their dogs on a leash.
  10. The first spring like day does really bring out the best in people.

Here’s to a great season of outdoor running. 🙂

Road ID – essential items for runners, cyclists and more

Road ID is the type of product you need but never hope to use. It could in all reality be a life saver. Road ID (www.roadid.com) sells a number of safety products for runners and cyclists that provide a form of personal ID in the event that you are ever incapacitated or unable to help yourself for whatever reason.

I have a few of their products; a ‘Wrist ID Sport’ which I wear for running and cycling, a ‘Wrist ID Slim’ which I wear at all other times (I drive over 100 miles every day round trip from home to work) and a ‘Supernova’ high visibility light. They also sell a ‘Shoe ID’ which attaches to your running shoe and you never have to remember to do anything with that until you swap your shoes out.

Sport ID

Sport ID

Slim ID

Slim ID

Shoe ID

Shoe ID

With the IDs there are two types – ‘Original’ and ‘Active’. The ‘Original’ ID is just that. You list your name and any information and phone numbers you think would be helpful. I purchased the ‘Original’ for my father to attach to his golf shoe. He lists his name and birth year (so first responders can tell his age), shows that he has a heart condition and lists his home number, my mother’s cell number and my cell number for when he is in the US.

I purchased the ‘Active ID’ for both myself and my wife (she has the Shoe ID). This lists my name, birth year, the fact that I wear contact lenses and has a call center number 1-8XX and web address for first responders to connect. On the back there is a serial and pin number. The first responder can call this call center number and this is where the ‘Active’ part comes into play. With the ‘Active’ ID you set up your personal information on a secure site which allows you to document significantly more information that one or two lines on the ID. This has a list of emergency contact numbers, my medical insurance information, my family doctor/dentist/ophthalmologist contact information and lists, my medical history and any current medications. The good part of this is the Emergency Responders are now familiar with this type of product and will look for it. There is an annual fee for this service and in my opinion it is worth the cost when you take into account what you pay for race entry fees and other running gear.

The products are designed for areas of the body (wrist, ankle) where typically an EMT will look for a pulse so they should be easily noticed.

The other product I use is the ‘Supernova’ light. It is a really bright light that I attach to the back of my hat when running in the early hours when it is dark. It is so lightweight you will never notice it. They make accessories to go along with the light such as wrist bands and bike attachments. Its pretty inexpensive and worth the cost.

Supernova light

Supernova light

RoadID often sponsors races and the bibs typically include a $1 coupon that you can use to order products. If you look around you will probably see discount coupons around the internet or in mailings.

It is something I hope I never have to rely on but it does give peace of mind knowing that I have a ‘backup’ system out there.

If you visit the site don’t forget to check out the apparel section. I purchased a couple of running hats and a visor. They are made by Headsweats which is a great brand too. I find them to be perfectly comfortable and perform as designed in keeping me cool and dry during my training and races. They have the RoadID logo on them and plenty of reflective material so I use these on my early morning runs. As they are essentially promotional items they are discounted over the regular non branded Headsweats gear and are a great value.

Visor

Visor

Race hat (my go to hat)

Race hat (my go to hat)

You can purchase directly from their site using this link.