Night Running?
April 10, 2008 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have advice on running at night?

I live on a suburban college campus and I'm thinking I should take advantage of the relative isolation and start the Couch to 5k Plan. I just feel more apt to exercise at around 11pm than during the day. Is there anything about night running that I should be aware of?

Things I've already considered: wear light colored clothing, stay on the paved loop road.

What else?
posted by youcancallmeal to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Never run across crosswalks/intersections where there are cars. They will never see you, despite your efforts. Walk slowly, and get ready to dash out of the way.

And generally never assume cars will stop for you - sometimes they will even veer closer to you.

Otherwise, running at night is wonderful.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:40 PM on April 10, 2008

Get the arm gizmo with the flashing lights as it will make you a lot more visible.

I don't know if you are female or not but if you are I just wouldn't even consider it - too dangerous unless you have a couple of doberman's to run with you.

Also, don't wear any kind of audio device as you need to have your wits about you constantly.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 6:44 PM on April 10, 2008

Response by poster: I am female, but note the part about "suburban college campus". This is as safe as anything can really get.
posted by youcancallmeal at 6:47 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, it depends on the suburban college campus. I am a male, but were I female I wouldn't run at night on my (fairly suburban) college campus. If you're determined to run at night, find someone to run with?
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 6:50 PM on April 10, 2008

I love running at night. I'm female and in the suburbs.

1) As The Jesse Helms said, assume nobody can see you, and behave accordingly. (Including other pedestrians. Don't assume they'll move over for you, and if you pass them from behind you might surprise them.)

2) I always wear a baseball cap because:

a) Where I run there are sometimes bushes or tree branches that hang over the sidewalk and I can't see them at night, so the bill keeps them out of my eyes.

b) I'm blinded by headlights coming towards me at night, and the bill takes care of that as well if I tilt my head down a little.

Hm. I can't think of anything else particular to night running at the moment. Have fun, soon-to-be ex-couch potato! :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 6:57 PM on April 10, 2008

Interesting, I'd feel much safer running in my busy downtown metropolis at night than on a suburban college campus where there wouldn't be someone nearby to shout out for help when approached by that sexual predator who looks like the normal guy in my history class.

I also wouldn't be able to sleep for hours afterwards. But if you really do have a sense of safety and you can sleep after exercise, I'd get something like this to wear and also run with my cell phone.
posted by meerkatty at 6:59 PM on April 10, 2008

If I were a woman and I ran alone at night I'd carry some kind of mace or pepper spray.
posted by aerotive at 7:43 PM on April 10, 2008

Best answer: Many of the contemporary running shoes have reflective strips woven into the upper of the shoe. It can be effective like strips on a bicycle if headlights are approaching.
posted by netbros at 7:43 PM on April 10, 2008

Does your school have a "foot patrol" or "walk safe" program for students? I used to be a Program Coordinator at a university with one and this question was asked to me a number of times. My advice: contact them and see if you can run with some of their patrollers. As an example, the walk safe program I ran happened from 7:30pm-2:30am 7 nights a week, and they were required to patrol the campus and do safety checks while not actively walking students back to their dorms. Occasionally we'd get a female jogger wanting to have "check in times" with the people on patrol if it was a long run (ie. they would arrange to meet at a place at a certain time, or follow a certain loop). Be creative, we didn't advertise that we did that, but when people approached us, we were happy to oblige.
posted by carabiner at 7:52 PM on April 10, 2008

Please wear the dorky reflective vest and unfortunately, you should leave the iPod at home.
posted by Farleece at 8:03 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if you are female or not but if you are I just wouldn't even consider it -

I am a female and I run at night after dark and have for a long time. Don't let amorphous fears keep you from running when it works for you. Guys don't wait in the bushes for women to come along running after dark. Observe all the normal safety precautions that you would when running in the day or walking alone, but don't freak out.

Wear lots of reflective/light gear - a vest, reflective shoes, flashing lights. Try one of these headlamps (great for spotting potholes).

As said above, never assume a car can see you. Usually they can't. As always, run facing traffic, not with it. That increases your chances of seeing and being seen, and means that the driver of any car is going in the opposite direction you are. That makes it hard for anyone to slow down next to you and 'cruise' you.

Know your route. Walk it in the daytime and note where side streets are, businesses open late, stuff like that. Look out for hazards you won't see at night - sandy spots, potholes, curbs. Don't explore at night - know where you're headed and keep to routes you've scoped before.

Carry a cellphone. A friend of mine actually makes sportsbra for women where you can keep a cell. But you can just put it in a pocket or clutch it if it doesn't bother you.

Don't listen to music while running, or if you do, keep one earbud out or use earphones and set them just above or below your ear sockets. That way you'll still be able to hear what's going around you. Hearing is a lot more important at night, when your vision tells you less.

Carry a whistle. Maybe mace. Not because you'll need it but because you'll feel better, and if you ever did need it, it'd be there.

Have a check-in system - someone you can call, text, or email when you get back. That way, if you're delayed, someone will know to call you or look for you very soon.

Trust your instincts. If anything looks odd or weird, or feels odd or weird, don't worry about being polite or overrreacting. Don't give yourself a hard time if you look down a street one night and say to yourself "eh, feels weird" -- just skip it and do another lap around your home block instead. If there's a person acting funny or trying to stop you or paying too much attention to you, ignore them, cross the street, go the other way, or say "get out of my way" really firmly. Whatever you have to do - it doesn't matter. Don't worry about hurting anybody's feelings - you're a random stranger and they'll get over it. Avoiding weird situations is the best form of self-defense.

Be extra alert for bullshit on Friday and Saturday nights - plus Thursday in a college town - when idiots have been drinking. Maybe just don't run those nights if there is a noticeable drunken vibe.

You might try finding a running buddy on Craigslist or through a local runner's club if you still don't feel comfortable. Meet for coffee first and 'interview' them.

But on the whole, I've been running after dark for 20 years in cities, suburbs, and towns. It's all right. It's not stupid. Just prepare to take care of yourself and you'll be as safe as anyone else at any other time of day. I strongly believe that the world doesn't get safer for women when women stay inside out of fear and shape their behavior in response to a vague sense of threat. Women need to do stuff. They are entitled to.

Non-safety considerations: running at night, or any exercise at night, tends to really rev up the system. You might find it's really hard to sleep for a couple hours after running. If your bedtime is early that might be a problem. OTOH if you are into running at 11, you (like me) are probably more of a night owl and it will probably be OK.

If you don't like sleeping with sweat on your skin, you might want time for a shower after your run, too. Which can help settle you down, after all.

It can change the way you eat. Running right after a big meal is uncomfortable for me. You may want to have a lighter meal or snack in the early evening rather than a full dinner, then do your run, then eat something more filling when you get back.

If you are planning on doing a 5K (which is awesome and you should!), then do make sure to run a few times in the morning before you actually do a race. Your body won't be used to waking up and going right into 5th gear when you run at night all the time. Do at least a few runs at or near race time so you can feel how your body warms up and make a different plan for that.

Congrats on wanting to start running. Have fun!
posted by Miko at 8:15 PM on April 10, 2008 [7 favorites]

That first line? Supposed to be in italics as a quote. But I'm sure the remainder of my comment makes that clear!
posted by Miko at 8:16 PM on April 10, 2008

Best answer: I run at night in an urban environment, and I'm female. I second the advice to not wear headphones. If I were you, I'd also vary my route and the exact time of the run so that nobody with ill intentions stakes out a spot in the bushes. I've never had a problem with feeling threatened, and in fact the only times I've had threatening experiences have been on secluded country roads in the middle of the day. The biggest dangers are tripping on sidewalks and curbs, or staying out of the way of turning cars at intersections.

The baseball hat is a good idea since it not only protects your eyes but allows you some androgyny. I wear longer/baggier shorts at night and a singlet over my running bra. I've never carried mace, and if I were to have to use it it would probably be turned on me instead so it's just as well, but I would advise you to carry a small cell phone if it's comfortable to do so as you are just starting out with the sport and you don't want to find yourself stranded and alone somewhere if you should need to stop and walk for a while. Also, hide a key somewhere (permanently) in case you lose yours on the run. A 5 dollar bill folded into a key pocket is good as well.

Be aware that when you are running at night and tricked out with reflective gear (and especially any sort of flashing or stationary light) drivers may steer toward you because they get distracted and it's a moth to the flame effect. Make sure you run against traffic and only on roads with a very generous shoulder and/or breakdown lane.

Congratulations on starting a running program! There's nothing like the feeling of freedom you get traveling down the road at night strictly by the power of your own two feet.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:20 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's nothing like the feeling of freedom you get traveling down the road at night strictly by the power of your own two feet.

That's so well put. There is this real secret, peaceful, quiet beauty to being out there at night running. Especially in summer when all the smells of flowering trees and growing things are stronger, and crickets are singing, and stuff.
posted by Miko at 8:23 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

One small warning from my running experience.

I love running at night too, but I found that when I do it leaves me so wired that I can't get to sleep until 2am.

The runner's high is real, but it's a bitch when you're trying to sleep.
posted by fonetik at 11:17 PM on April 10, 2008

Another female who runs at about 10 p.m. most nights in an urban neighborhood...

Sounds like you've got great advice already, some of which I think I ought to add to my own routine. I'd argue against wearing a baseball cap while running at night, though — I used to, but found it obstructed my field of vision a lot more than I thought it would. Especially at night, I end up concentrating on the ground in front of me to make sure I don't trip over uneven sidewalks or tree roots. With my head tilted slightly down, the brim of the cap obscured what was coming up ahead of me, and I found myself surprised by cats who didn't have the sense to get out of the way, and occasionally people I didn't know were there until I almost ran into them.
posted by adiabat at 11:24 PM on April 10, 2008

Others have mentioned reflective gear, but you can also get shiny reflective tape to turn ordinary gear that you wouldn't wash often (shoes, caps) into reflective gear. You can get it at electronics, sports and hardware stores. Or just get a roll of it for your running shirts and resign yourself to looking daggy and having to reapply it every few weeks.

IMO the best thing to do to mitigate all risks (rapists, muggers, sundry whackjobs, cars, dogs, slippery grass, gravel, tree stumps, or even just deciding it's all too much trouble and watching TV) is to run with a friend.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:09 AM on April 11, 2008

you can also get shiny reflective tape

Oh yeah! Good point. And I meant to say, make sure there is some reflective material on your back and on the back of your shoes as well as on your front.
posted by Miko at 7:10 AM on April 11, 2008

I'm a guy, but I love running at night. I live in the desert and it gets very hot here; I pretty much have to run at night all summer. The biggest thing I worry about is drivers not seeing me... I pretty much assume they can't and plan accordingly.

It sounds like a lot of people have covered everything I'd say, except to say that a good headlamp will be your best friend if you run somewhere without a lot of light. The new generation of LED's is pretty remarkable.

Just to echo what stagewhisper said, though, I dunno about the flashing lights... there's something to be said for staying low-key and aware of your environment.

Anyway... have fun!
posted by ph00dz at 7:24 AM on April 11, 2008

I used to have a schedule in college that would have me up in the middle of the night so I'd end up running about about 2 in the morning. Never had any problems, but I would never run in any populated areas - downtown, college campuses, etc. I also explored the area by car at night because it's sometimes hard to judge which areas are empty that late. 10PM I think you'd still have people out most places and then you know, you have the possibility of some of them being problems..

Never had a problem, ran on the sidewalk, wore reflective clothing etc. I think as long as you choose the right area, you'll be fine. It was actually a really cool time to go running, everything was dead quiet. Felt like the rest of humanity had disappeared.
posted by concreteforest at 10:36 AM on April 11, 2008

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