Ever since I began marathon training back in July (yes, it really has been that long I had to go check for myself) I have had to do many early morning workouts.
I remember living in Pennsylvania and thinking that getting up at 5:00 AM was the end of the world and it was a miracle if I did it once a week.
As marathon training began, I was setting my alarm for 4:00-4:30 AM every morning each week. It isn’t easy, but it had to be done if I wanted to get it done and still have time for everything else each day.
It also put things into perspective of what early is when my husband went on a rotation about 3 hours away and had to be AT the hospital at 5:30 AM. That meant that he was getting up at 2:50 in the morning to get his runs in. That sure didn’t make 4:00 seem as bad!
At first, running at that early in the morning was a bit intimidating. Not because of the time but because it was dark the entire time I was out running.
I started by spending way too much time on the treadmill, and boy that can burn you out pretty quickly. I then slowly started venturing outside. It was a slow progress, but it made all the difference in those early morning runs. As I talked about previously, I knew a majority of my tempo runs needed be done outside so I needed to find a way to feel more comfortable.
My husband has no issues running in the dark, but as a woman I think we automatically feel a little bit more uncomfortable with it.
Here are some of the tips for early morning running safety and to feel more comfortable in the dark early morning hours.
Leave the Music at Home
This is a must. There is no way for you really to be in the moment and aware of your surroundings if you have music on.
An example of this happened to me Monday. I was sticking to my normal course and in the first 1.5 miles I started to hearing something coming up behind me. I looked back and I saw a very unfriendly dog. I would NEVER have heard this had I had my music on.
Thankfully I was able to slow down, come to a stop, calm him down and with the help of some cars turning down the road I was on he went back towards the direction he came from. I was still a bit on edge the entire time. I’ve been approached by dogs in the past, but this one didn’t seem the least bit friendly.
It was a bit more difficult doing long tempo runs without music, but mentally it was a challenge that helped me during the marathon itself.
Stick to Areas You Know
I stick to the same area every single morning I run outside. In fact, I only run on a total of 3 roads. These roads (aside from the one our house is on) are all lit very well by street lights. Not only do I know the roads very well, but my husband always knows where I am running.
This can get frustrating sometimes, because you just want to run a new route but in the end it makes me feel more comfortable.
If you live in a well lit area, then you may have more options. We live on the outskirts of the city so finding lit roads isn’t the simplest task.
Let Someone Know Where You Are
Even though sometimes my husband and I are on opposite schedules, he always knows where I am running and when I leave. Most of the time he also has an idea of the amount of miles I am planning to run.
If he isn’t home (working nights) then I will text him when I am leaving and when I get back. He always knows where to look for me and approximatly the time I am expected to get back. It has always put my mind at ease, even when he was out of town, that he was aware of when I was running.
When he was out of town, I also let someone else know that was local just in case. Ususally it was one of my parents.
Make Sure Others Can See You
Even though I stick to the same roads, it is a pretty heavily traveled road so I have always made it a point to make sure cars can see me.
While I don’t have an abundance of reflective gear, I do always wear a headlamp. At first I tried to run using the light on my phone. It kind of worked for me to see, but it did nothing to allow others to see me.
The headlamp I bought was relatively inexpensive, and it works perfectly. Seriously, if you are going to run early in the morning invest in one of these.
The only tip I have is to wear a hat. For some reason it bothers me every time I try to wear it without a hat of some sort on my head. This may vary based on the type of headlamp you have but it seems to do the trick for me.
Run Towards Traffic
I mentiond previously that the road I run on has a pretty good number of drivers on it, even at 4 in the morning. Even though I hope that with my headlamp most are able to see me, I still make it a point to always run towards traffic.
This way I can see as cars are approaching and I can also move more into the grass as they pass. Even when they are keeping their distance I always try to move towards the side just in case.
Never trust that a car can see you. It is never going to hurt to edge on the side of caution.
Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings
No matter where I am, no matter how many times I have run the same road, I am always looking around and noticing things that are around me.
Sometimes in the early hours of the morning I just want to zone out, but I know that it is important that I keep focused on knowing not only where I am but what is going on around me.
I’ve only been approached by a car one time while running, and in that moment I knew exactly every house around me. While it didn’t end up being anything dangerous, I have always known in my head if someone approached me I would walk towards a house. Even if it’s not your house, it can give the impression that it is.
This post isn’t about scaring you, this post is about realizing that safety is your responsibility. We can’t rely on others to watch out for us, we have to watch out for ourselves.
The items above are things that I do every single morning to give me some peace when out running. Sure, there are some mornings when I feel more relaxed than others but having a game plan always makes me feel better.
How do you feel about running in the dark?
What are you tips for feeling safe?