Dark Running

Somehow, I seem to have turned into a morning runner. And somehow, I seem to have turned into a girl who gets up pretty early to run in the dark and I LOVE it. I’m not quite sure how that happened but as mornings get darker and daylight runs get rarer, I thought I’d write a little ode to the dark runs!

I must confess that my dark runs are not particularly early. I set the alarm for 5.30, have a cup of tea and head out at 6am. It’s very dark at 6am these days but still warm enough to get away with just a vest top/tank top and a skirt.

When I started writing this post, I turned to the Queen Bee of dark running, the lovely Erin who somehow I have still never met. (If you don’t read her blog, you should do!) I knew she had much more wisdom on dark running than I did and I wanted to pick her brains. Erin runs VERY early due to her family schedule, leaving the house at 4am. I’m in awe!

So, in conjunction with Erin…here’s the low-down on Dark Runs.

Night Running Photo Credit: Marjorie
Night Running
Photo Credit: Marjorie


Dark Mornings vs Dark Evenings

For some reason, I generally cannot get on with evening runs. Erin runs evenings/night time occasionally if necessary but I really struggle to be motivated. Once evening comes, especially if it’s dark, I just want to hunker down with my boys, drink some wine and pretend to study whilst I actually surf the web. I am definitely on Team Mornings!

Things we love about dark runs

  • Watching the sunrise. There’s something incredibly magical about starting off in the pitch black and watching the sky slowly start glowing brighter and brighter. I’ve seen so many beautiful sunrises since I started morning running. Magical.
No filter, people
No filter, people
  • Seeing the lit-up places. I love running past the fire-station, brightly lit in the darkness and I also like seeing the lights of the (still locked) bathrooms in parks. I like seeing which houses have lights on as people wake up. I like running past the dog-parks and watching the dogs tearing around at some ungodly hour.
  • Being able to wear shorts or a skirt and not bother shaving your legs. No-one sees stubble in the dark!
  • Pressing the button at the crossing and seeing the newly installed super-bright crossing lights start flashing and sparkling. Makes me oddly happy.
  • Having the town more or less to myself. There are people around – generally old people out for their morning constitutional – but mainly it’s just me and the other morning runners.
  • Having your run done EARLY!
  • The lack of guilt about taking time away from your family!
  • The endorphins definitely make me nicer in the mornings to my family.

Things we like…less

  • Bathrooms are closed. Generally this is fine but I do have to plot routes around the few open bathrooms that I know of at petrol stations, gyms and supermarkets JUST IN CASE. Erin lives somewhere with a bit more nature – I’m jealous!
  • Getting up is never fun. Getting out the door is never fun. Once you’re running, generally it’s fine!
  • I don’t get to listen to podcasts or music so all I hear is my puffing and panting.
  • The risk of tripping and falling on uneven pavement or being hit by a car.
The last time I twisted my ankle
The last time I twisted my ankle



I’m very lucky that my town is super-safe but I’m still aware of the risks of early morning running. Being attacked is unlikely but let’s never be complacent – Erin suggests meeting up with a friend or taking a dog.  My cat Charlie is unwilling to run with me so that’s out for me, but company is by far the best way to keep safe. Some women do carry mace (which is illegal in the UK so makes me feel VERY badass even owning it) but neither of us have done that so far. The time may come…

A bigger threat is falling over or twisting ankles so I have to watch where I put my feet more carefully than usual. Erin uses a head torch – she recommends the Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp which is rechargeable via a USB port (hurrah).  My roads are pretty well lit, so I don’t do that.

The other risk is being hit by a car. Erin summed it up beautifully – ‘don’t be a ninja’. Yes black is universally slimming and doesn’t show the dirt, but it’s NOT a good option for night running. Dark colours are also NOT good ideas. Wear all the neon, wear all the bright colours… and we both  wear some stuff to help us shine out.

Amphipod Vizlet

This little thing attaches to my waist band and flashes on and off and I adore it! If you click on this link (not an affiliate link) there are some awesome shapes at the moment – I rather fancy the pumpkin and the ‘Elsa blue’ snowflake ones. It’s $10 and makes me feel pretty safe.


Last week I invested $18 in two very bright lights for my front and back. I’ve worn them a few times and feel MUCH more visible and safe! Inexpensive and pretty fab.

Reflective wrist bands

Click here and you can get 5 for $9. Super-quick and easy to wear and they could save your life. I wear them on both wrists like wonder woman.

Reflective vest

My reflective vest is a bit clunky so I tend not to wear it. I really want this one for $16 which looks a bit cooler. Kind of.

If I had loads of money, I’d get this New Balance Glow Vest. Santa?

(No affiliate links. Just clunky normal links to stuff I like)

So…summing it up…

  • if you can get out of bed, morning running is the best.
  • sunrises rock.
  • plan for emergency MRPs*.
  • don’t be a ninja.

Thanks to Erin for all her pearls of wisdom!

*mid-run poos

26 Comments Add yours

  1. jess says:

    I just hate getting out of bed in the morning!! I want to push it off until the last possible minute!! Also, I have this vest and love it. http://www.amphipod.com/products/visibility/reflective-vests/xinglet

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks for the vest recommendation – I may buy that, I’m rather liking just using my bright flashing lights but the vest may be a good move too. And yes, getting out of bed is brutal. Luckily the cat jumps on the bed when he hears the alarm go off and that’s me done for the night!

  2. Kate says:

    Now that I live in a safer area, I should really do this. Also, I now know what you mean when you say vest!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Hurrah for things not being lost in translation. Yeah, if it’s safe where you live, it could be a great way to beat the heat!

      SO flipping lovely to see you at the weekend.

  3. Nic J says:

    Weird to note the different ‘populations’ at different times of the morning. When I lived in Salisbury, a 6am run would see people stumbling from bed to work – the day just starting. Go out at 5am (which I did once) and you see the night shifts ending; almost a different world, with a different feel. A bit more intimidating, in a way. Can’t really explain it.
    We’re in gloves and torches territory now. Not cold enough for thermals and hats just yet, but cold enough for the eyes to run and for gloves to hold the torch!
    And no running ninjas for me – luminous vest, torch, and flashing armband. The best bit, for me, is to run in almost darkness so you’re not distracted by the environment, and can just concentrate on briefing and footfall – it boils the essence of run right down to the basics!!

    1. Nic J says:

      breathing…not briefing…!

    2. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, there’s a notable difference between even 5.30 and 6am starts!! I found 5.30 a little creepy even here. Like the sound of how bright and visible you are – good stuff. You’re SO right about running in the dark boiling running right back down to the basics – such a great point. I thought about your words this evening as I ran round the local football field in the pitch black (before being freaked out and heading off). It felt very liberating!

      1. Nic J says:

        Creepy is a good word – it is weirdly unsettling that just 30 mins can make such a difference!

      2. Cathryn says:

        Isn’t it weird????

  4. A bit late to comment on this post, but I just wanted to say I really liked it. In France, the sun rises very late compared to California. For example, this morning it was still dark, outside, at 7.30am. I am a morning person and love to go running first thing in the morning. But, right now, I’m exploring my new neighborhood and it looks like I have no safe roads to run on… I live in the countryside and even if it’s pretty, it’s narrow and with cars, it’s quite unpleasant and I don’t feel that safe. So, no dark running as it’s really not that safe (thinking about the roads but also the fact it’s the countryside so no one around) but I may need to buy reflective things to be sure cars see me from far away. So, I will look at your suggestions.

    1. Nic J says:

      If it helps, I would definitely consider flashing lights. I run in neon tops and reflective vests and had some visibility, but I now have a big flashing red armband, and the difference that makes is amazing! Crowds part, vehicles give you a wide berth – the more space they give you, the better! I’m also not averse to using my flashlight to ‘accidentally’ flash oncoming traffic who don’t dip their headlights, as that knackers my night vision!

      1. Cathryn says:

        Yes to the flashing lights, I have them on front and back and I feel really safe!

      2. Oh, yeah! Thanks for the tip. I didn’t think about it but it will totally be more efficient than just reflective things. When you drive, you will instinctively slow down if you see something flashing. More than just a reflective thing in the distance. THANK YOU!

      3. Cathryn says:

        I feel MUCH safer with them – and also kind of cool 🙂

    2. Cathryn says:

      Yes you HAVE to be safe, that’s the most important thing. SO happy you’ve found somewhere to live though, even if it’s without pavements! Trails???

      1. To be totally honest, I almost cried (well… OK, I cried a little…) the first time I went out for a run. I miss my life in California. It’s already difficult to swallow the fact we won’t be back for at least a year. So, when I realized I will also have to make concessions about my running… let’s just say it was a bit overwhelming in a bad kind of way. BUT, I want to be the kind of person I admire: being positive and turning things the right way, all the time. SO, I will make it work: buying new shoes to be able to run on different types of terrain in the same session + going out on the trails even for my week running sessions… we’ll see.

        There are trails around but it’s really different than the ones we are used to, in California. It’s narrow if there’s elevation. There are lots of rocks so really dangerous (for injuries I mean). If the trail is wide, then, it’s flat. I don’t quite like that kind of trails because I see no point in them. If I run flat, then, I want to run fast and not have to be careful about where I put my feet… Anyway, concessions, adaptation… etc… 😉

      2. Cathryn says:

        Oh Marjolaine I’m so sad for you. This made me nearly cry too. You’re right to have the attitude of making things work for the best but it’s also okay to take some time to have a good cry. I’m so sorry. xxxx

        Running even flat trails is good as it makes your core stronger and your muscles more agile, they have to react to so much more than just pavement, so flat trails will make you stronger all round. And it’s always good to get new running shoes 🙂

  5. Erin says:

    Haha!! You make me laugh out loud. And wild about mace being illegal in the UK. I guess we Americans just want a reason to justifiably hurt someone, haha.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, you guys! Thanks for all the help in pulling this together xxx

  6. Alexandra says:

    Hi! I’m aspiring to be a runner and my goal is to do a half marathon before I get married next summer. This post and your whole blog is great motivation, I love it!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment! I’m full of confidence you can do a half before your wedding, you’ve totally got this. Really glad my blog’s helping motivate you – other bloggers motivate me all the time, so it’s good to be able to pay it forward.

  7. Jen says:

    Mornings seem safer to me, just because all of the people I see up and about are busy getting to work, not out loitering or drinking. Plus, I have a hard time sleeping if I run at night — it takes me a while to wind down. But, I do agree with you about the MRPs. I’m also about 30-60 seconds slower per mile first thing in the morning.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Interesting about being slower in the morning!! I always feel faster because if I run later, I feel the day’s food bouncing around in me. I wonder when the best time to run actually is. Not that we’d be able to run then, I bet you.

  8. Rachel says:

    Hubby now calling me ninja! He has a point, apart from the fab red flashing armbands he bought me, I’m a bit ‘milk tray man’ and the clocks go back here in a week. I love your suggestions and links (light me up like Blackpool illuminations!) I promise I’ll peruse and purchase. I’m definitely more late dark than early dark, up to 1am ish the streets feel safe to me and I do enjoy running past the wafted smells of curry houses and chippys:) But between 1ish and 6am it’s different, the local park’s beautiful but too tricky to enjoy properly, a House of Cards style security detail or a big dog perhaps!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, you do have to shine out a bit. I like being a ninja too but it’s probably not wise. Those flashing lights are brilliant, I really love them, much more than the hiviz vests which get in the way quite a lot. I’m intrigued that you run SO late, that feels very brave to me. But oh the curry smells. We have a lot of indian households near us and I find it SO hard to run past them at dinner time with those amazing smells wafting out.

      Be safe, Ninja Lady xx

  9. Rachel says:

    Ha I might be brave at night but I’m a big wuss early morning! Maybe I could get Andy out early….without his work phone;)

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