Fall is here and its one of my favorite seasons for running. I love seeing the colors change along the trail, breathing the crisper air, and hearing the crunch crunch of leaves under my feet.
It also means running in the dark, whether in the early morning or evening. Its second nature to me now, and I really enjoy it. But for those experiencing night trail running for the first time, it can be a bit scary; noises that just have to be vicious wild animals, invisible roots and rocks that trip, loosing your sense of direction.
I asked a few experienced runners for their advice on running in the dark. Here are some tips to help you enjoy what the night has to offer.
Desiree Marek (2014 races: McDonald Forest 50K, Beacon Rock 25K, Smith Rock Ascent 50K, Waldo 100K, Pine to Palm 100M)
I really think it’s important when running at night to embrace the peace of the trail and take in your surroundings, whether they’re moonlit waterfalls or dark, towering mountains. It’s easy to become uncomfortable if you view running in the dark as lonely, but it’s unbelievably peaceful if you let go of that feeling and embrace the serenity, becoming part of your surroundings.
Sarah Duncan (2014 races: Hagg Lake 25K & 50K, Capitol Peak 50M, Portland Trail Series, Smith Rock Ascent 50K, Beacon Rock 25K, Volcanic 50M)
Using two lights helps a lot; one on the head and another around the waist or a handheld can help with depth perception and shadows. I like the Black Diamond Spot as an extra light or for shorter runs but I find the batteries difficult to change on the run. My Petzl Myo is a better light but I also chose it because the batteries are really easy to change. Another tip: pick up your feet. You can’t get away with the same stride as during the daylight.
Marta Fisher (2014 races: Seneca Greenway Trail 50K, McDonald Forest 50K, Beacon Rock 50K Siskiyou Out Back 50M, Cascade Crest 100M)
Running in the dark is fun! I ran Spokane to Sandpoint years ago on a team where none of us had ever run in the dark and we were all worried about it. As it turned out, the night legs were everyone’s favorite! Obviously it helps to try it out a few times before doing a night race, and that is even more important if it is a trail race because you can’t trust a trail to be free of obstacles. It is ideal if you can borrow a few lights to try out before buying one, because everyone likes something different. Even finding out what you don’t like can help guide you to something that works for you. I second Sarah’s idea of two lights, though that becomes less important as you start moving slower. I turn my extra light off or down on uphills during a long race because I’m not moving as fast and want to save on battery life. My lights take AAA batteries, which I like because I can find them in an emergency. I use rechargeable AAAs for regular use so that I can always have good light for a normal length run. For 100 milers, I put in lightweight lithium batteries.
So there you have it… some good advice from runners who’ve logged plenty of miles in the dark. What tips do you have to share about running in the dark? Do you have a favorite light? Or a funny story about running at night?