…well you shouldn’t be. With the onset of daylight savings and the days getting shorter and shorter as the winter solstice nears, many of us are finding far less daylight by which to run. Some people have the flexibility to run during their lunch hour, to get off work early, or maybe they don’t even work at all but others of us are relegated to the dwindling morning and evening light and will at some point be forced to run in the dark. Fear not, darkness does not signify the death of trail running! As someone who helps organize and lead a year round group night run (Wednesdays at 8:30pm in Boulder, CO), I can promise that while running trails in the dark does provide new challenges, it can also be a unique and rewarding experience.
Below are a few of my personal thoughts and tips on running dirt trails in the dark (because why run pavement when you really don’t have to?).
- Find a buddy: Most likely you are not the only one with limited time and a strong desire to hit the trails before or after work. While there are some increased hazards of running in the dark, running with a friend or group can mitigate a lot of this. Your best candidates are those friends you’ve been training with all year in the day light. Another good source of partners are the local trail running groups. It’s easiest to schedule a specific date and time, then go from there.
- Light up the Dark: The most important piece of gear for a run in the dark is a bright headlamp or flashlight. The brighter your light, the easier it is going to be to run through more technical sections of trail, so don’t go too minimal! I would highly recommend something with AT LEAST 80 lumens, and a handheld or waist mounted light will cast far better shadow than a headlamp for those very technical and rocky trails. I personally recommend lights from Fenix (HL30, LD22) and Petzl (Tikka XP2, Myo RXP, Nao).
- Start with What You Know: We all have our local favorite trails, and these are a great place to start out. Running by headlamp or flashlight takes some getting used to, so don’t immediately head off to hammer the most technical route you know. Start out with something smoother and work up from there.
- Slow it Down: With your field of view limited to your headlamp or flashlight, you will most likely need to slow the pace down in order to absorb all the upcoming obstacles in the trail. It’s not all about the speed, remember that you’re out on the trails because you love to run.
- Enjoy!: While running in the dark does pose some new challenges, it also opens up a new world and a different side of the trails one does not see in the daylight. Solitude is much easier to find on a trail after dark, so for those seeking a little peace and quite, the night time is the right time. It’s also a great way to unwind after a hectic day, as the darkness seems to absorb many of the surrounding distractions; even your local city trail seems much more isolated and peaceful in the dark.
As you’re cruising through the dark forest/woods don’t forget to stop every once and a while and look up at the beautiful night sky or at the city lights below. Both are great reminders of why many of us run trails; to escape the hustle an bustle of an all too hectic life and to allow our soul to commune with nature and to be enveloped by the experience. If you have any additional notes or thoughts feel free to leave a comment, as I’m sure everyone’s experience is unique.
“The Mountains are calling, and I must go…” – John Muir