There are very few runners in this world who get to run whenever they feel like it, whether that’s waiting for the warmest part of the day in the winter, or timing each run to hit the perfect sunrise! The rest of us normal humans have only a set time to fit the miles in. As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, we’re increasingly forced to run in the dark. Let’s be real, us runners tend to be super nerdy, so there are plenty of awesome products out there to help you stay safe and visible no matter how dark it gets!
It’s Not Just About Neon
One of the craziest things that I’ve heard from runners regarding reflective gear is that they don’t want to call attention to themselves, and they don’t want to be “too bright” or “too noticeable.” This is CRAZY talk! If you’re running in the early morning or late evening hours when it’s dark, there is no such thing as too noticeable. Light yourself up light a Christmas tree with lights and reflectivity— you WANT drivers to see you so they can avoid you!
Say you’re running in your moderately lit neighborhood at 6:00 am. You’ve got a few streetlights, no sidewalks, and moderate traffic flow driving at 30 mph. You’re wearing a highlighter yellow top, a white hat, and black tights, running against the flow of traffic. At 30 mph, a car will travel 180 feet in about 4 seconds. That’s not a lot of reaction time, and if you add in the fact that it’s early, people are tired, and may be distracted for whatever reason … chances aren’t good that the driver will see you.
Now, if you wear reflective and well-lit clothing, you can extend your visibility up to 500 feet, giving a driver 11 seconds of reaction time. You aren’t wearing reflective gear for yourself— you’re wearing it so that you can be SEEN by others!
Let’s Get Visible!
Olivia Newton-John wants us to GET VISIBLE, VISIBLE. Highly reflective clothing and accessories can really enhance your visibility. When a car’s headlights (or any artificial lights) hit the reflective patches, the light is beamed back from up to 500 feet, drastically improving your chances of being seen. At a minimum, invest in a reflective vest that can provide you with 360 degrees of reflectivity. My favorite no-frills vest is the Amphipod Xinglet— it’s one size fits most, so I can size it up so it fits over a jacket, or slim it down when I’m not wearing so many layers.
If you want to go beyond the reflective vest, there is some seriously cool running apparel on the market right now. Most running gear will have reflective hits, but some jackets and tights boast all-over reflective prints that look cool too! My current fave is the Sugoi ZAP jacket, a super reflective, breathable, water-resistant jacket with plenty of pockets.
Light the Way
With lighting, there are two general ideas: to see, and to be seen. Headlamps and handheld torches will help you light the way, but also enhance your visibility. To choose the right one for you, I highly recommend going to speak to an expert at a specialty shop — the technology these days is pretty incredible but can be daunting to navigate alone.
Blinking lights are more for visibility— they tend to be more noticeable than solid lights (bonus: the blinking or strobe setting tends to have a longer battery life!) and are especially helpful on moving parts. I typically clip a blinking light on my back, either on my vest or hat. I also love the blinking heel spurs that can attach to shoes, as the combination of the strobe function on my moving feet keeps me much more visible. Nathan has a few versatile options that easily clip on to a jacket, hat, leash, or whatever you need, with long-lasting batteries that are easily replaced.
Brighter is Better
Dressing like a ninja is supercool when you’re a kid, but not the best policy for nighttime running. Day-glo colors won’t be the most visible on their own, but when you combine bright colors, reflectivity, and lighting, you’ll be much more difficult to miss on those zero dark thirty runs.
Awareness is Key
Even with the brightest, reflective gear in the world, you still need to pay attention to your surroundings. Make sure you follow the rules of the road and run against traffic, minimize your distractions, and be aware of what’s happening around you. Better yet, assume you’re invisible and be extra cautious. Like your mama always said, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Or, it’s better to be covered in lights and reflective stuff and hyper vigilant, than to be stuck inside on a treadmill!