If you’re in need of some encouragement to help you step out for that nighttime run, our top tips for running at night will help you not only get out to run at night, but also to get the most out of your nocturnal workouts, while staying comfortable and safe.
These tips also apply if you plan to run in the morning while it’s still dark outside and need some added tips and motivation to avoid hitting the snooze button and get yourself out on those dark early morning runs.
Why run at night? 4 benefits of nighttime runs
Before we get into our nighttime running tips, it’s helpful to have in mind that running at night may be a better option for you than planning to run at other times of day. Yes, there are actually some great benefits of running at night!
1. De-stress with fewer distractions
It’s easier for night runners to gain focus, get that running-related hit of endorphins and enter a state of moving meditation as you decompress at the end of the day, if you’re running with fewer people around and less going on in general.
2. More hours in the day to get your run in
Particularly in winter, it may be difficult to find time to run during daylight hours, especially if you’re following a marathon training plan or other workout schedule that means you will inevitably find it necessary to run in the dark.
Being comfortable and geared up to run in the dark means you can get your training in at any time of day, even if it’s nighttime.
3. More adventure!
There’s something about running in the dark that makes it seem more adventurous.
Partially because places look different in the dark, and fewer people choose to run at night as it is perceived as scarier and more hardcore than running in daylight.
One of my most adventurous runs was an overnight race through the mountains in Italy.
There’s something about focusing on nothing but your breath and the light of your headlamp (especially when running on the edge of a cliff) that makes dark night-runs seem wilder.
4. Cooler temperatures
If you live somewhere that gets uncomfortably hot to run during the day, then night running (or early morning pre-sunrise runs) makes it possible to run without getting too hot or sunburned.
This means you may be able to run faster at night, assuming you have a well-lit place to run!
Tips for running at night
1. Fuel your run: Eat a small meal or snack 1-2 hours before your run
There’s nothing that puts you off doing a nighttime run quite like a big, filling meal that makes you too full (and oftentimes, sleepy) to contemplate lacing up your running shoes.
Second to that, though, is feeling hungry and trying to have a productive run on an empty stomach.
Plan in advance by having a good-sized lunch and eating a small, energy-giving snack, such as a banana, 1-2 hours before you plan to run.
2. Commit to your run: Don’t go home and sit down after work
You know what I’m talking about – you get in the door at home, sit down on the sofa and before you know it you’re snacking and watching TV, or flicking idly through your phone and before you know it, you feel tired and it’s time for dinner.
For those who struggle with the motivation to run at night after a long or busy day, especially if it involves running in cold weather, then this tip is for you.
If you get changed and ready to run as soon as possible after getting home, then you’re committing to yourself that your run will happen. If you never sit on that sofa, you’re more likely to get yourself out the door than not.
You could also consider running straight from work, or driving straight to the path, park or trail where you will start your run so you avoid the temptation to sit down / eat / drink and get too comfortable to go back out (especially when it’s cold and the weather is less than perfect!).
3. Run with shorter strides than you would during a daylight run
The reason for this is to reduce your risk of tripping on uneven ground, due to reduced light and depth-perception that comes with running at night.
Night runs are a great opportunity to work on form rather than speed, as you are more likely to actually be running more mindfully and with good form if you focus on your posture (strong abs and glutes!) and smaller, faster footsteps to ensure a good running cadence.
4. Stay safe: Know your route and target well-lit areas
If you’re running in a town or city, one of our most important safety tips is to stick to popular paths areas that have street lighting and activity even at night, and make sure you are familiar with the route before you head out.
For many safety reasons, it is generally better to not listen to music so you can be more aware of your surroundings than having headphones in and solely relying on your vision.
If your running route is next to a road then another useful safety tip is to know that it’s also safer to run against traffic so you can be more aware of the oncoming vehicles. They’re also more likely to see you if you’re wearing reflective gear and a headlamp.
5. See and be seen: Stock up on essential night running gear
It’s important to make sure you are highly visible when running at night. This is especially true if you run near traffic and on streets with no separate pavement for pedestrians.
It can be VERY hard for drivers to see people in the dark or low urban street-lighting when they don’t have light clothing and/or reflective features on their gear.
The three main ways to stay visible when running are by:
- wearing high-visibility reflective clothing, such as a reflective running vest
- wearing light-colored clothing
- having a good quality running headlamp.
Having a comfortable, reliable and well-designed running headlamp will really help you enjoy running in the dark. Visit our running headlamp buyer’s guide for advice on choosing a suitable one.
6. Stay safe: Share live tracking with loved ones
It’s always a good idea to tell someone at home your route and expected run finish time.
Even better than that, many GPS running watches such as my Garmin watch can be set up to share your location on a live tracking map with designated contacts, which is a great safety feature we use all the time at Trail and Kale HQ.
Some can also send an email when either you need help or your watch detects that an incident has occurred. Most new phones’ and Apple Watch safety features also include similar fall detection functions.
For more on running GPS watches visit our guide to choosing the best running watches.
Premium features on apps such as Strava also offer similar functions.
7. Consider carrying a whistle or alarm
Take a small, but very loud whistle like the Fox 40 Sonic Blast on night runs – I have used mine to scare off coyotes while trail running at dusk – which tend to be the most active at that time of day.
A whistle is also useful if you fall or get lost, to call for help (especially when there’s no phone signal where you are).
A more aggressive option is an attack alarm, and even more extreme (but maybe sensible depending on where you are running) is a small can of bear / pepper spray that can be carried in a pocket or hydration vest.
If you’re looking at getting one of these sprays be sure to check they’re legal to carry and use where you are.
If you love being prepared when running you’ll enjoy reading our Essential Running Gear for Unexpected Emergencies next.