My baby takes the morning [run] train

And now that song is in your head, isn't it? Come to think of it, that will be an excellent addition to my running playlist.

I am a big fan of morning runs.  I am a naturally early riser.  I always have been, and once I had my two kids (who were even earlier risers), that pretty much guaranteed that my natural wake-up time is now around 5-5:30 am.  I am at my most energetic in the early morning hours, and frankly, I love to get my runs in then because they really set up my day.  The only issue: once the Summer is over, it is dark -- really dark -- in the morning.  Rather than sit and wait for the sun to rise around 7 am, I opt to run in the dark.  Obviously safety is a huge issue.  I often see fellow morning runners when I am out there, and some of them are safe but others are not.  The mother hen in me wants to scream at those runners who are just out in their normal running clothes and no reflective or light-up gear that they're being incredibly stupid, but I don't.  Even though they are being incredibly stupid.  So here are my tried and true tips for morning running at o'dark thirty.  But first, here is a shot of what I look like before I head out. Sweet. I'm gonna rock down to Electric Avenue.

1.  Headlamp

The first thing you need is a headlamp.  Yes, it will make you visible to cars (mine has a steady bright light in front and a red blinking light in the back), but it will also light your way.  Dark streets can be super dangerous: twigs, rocks, holes, those big green ball things that fall from the trees ... a headlamp will light your path so you don't step on or into those things.  I don't even notice my headlamp: I wear my visor and rest it on the brim.  I wear a Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp.  I bought it from REI, but you can find them in lots of places.  

2.  Reflective Vest

This is probably even more important than a headlamp: get a reflective vest.  My friend Amy gave me mine for Christmas.  It is a shockingly bright neon green with shockingly bright reflective strips and a blinking red light on the front and the back.  It is safe to say that cars *cannot* miss me.  There are a bunch of styles of these vests - this one is more strap than vest, but I have a vest too.  It is well worth the investment.  It's also wise to wear a neon or bright running shirt so when the sun starts to rise, you are even more visible.   This is my singlet, which is the Amphipod Running Xinglet Vest.  It is adjustable and does not get in the way.  I think it was around $25. 

3.  Check In

If you're running solo, make sure someone knows where you are, how far you are going and when you expect to be back. This is smart running behavior for any kind of run, really.  I always text my coworker who is another early riser and who lives locally with my mileage, my route (e.g., "I'm running to the office and round loop and back") and then text him when I am back home.  

4.  Assume the Worst about Drivers

I am on high alert when I run on streets in the morning.  I always assume that the drivers on the road are half asleep, are distracted and don't really expect to see me.  I don't allow myself to zone out until I am on a trail or path closed off to traffic.  I make sure to run on the correct side of the road (or the side with the biggest shoulder) and to keep my eyes on the cars approaching me.

If a car looks like it is getting too close, I find there are two ways to deal with it, in what I call the "Amy way" or the "Bill way."  Amy and Bill are my friends (who are married. to each other) and my training partners in running, triathlon and now Ironman.  I am their friend/training partner/third wheel/sister wife/annoying 5 am texter who implores them to "wakey wakey who is ready to race today!!!!".  Anyway ... they each taught me ways, very different ways, to handle cars who are getting a little too close.

The Amy way is to make eye contact with the car and extend your arm out to your side, which is to signal to the car that it needs to give you a wider berth.  This is a gentle, yet pretty effective, way to essentially say "Give me some room."

The Bill way is to make eye contact with the car, yell out something really loud like "HEY!!! SOME ROOM HERE!!!" and throw your arms up in the air in disgust.  This is a not-so-gentle, yet very effective, way to say, well, "HEY GIVE ME SOME ROOM HERE!!".  I use both methods, though sometimes a combination of the two works the best.  

5.  Run a Familiar Route

I don't think dark morning runs are the time to explore new routes:  stick to tried and true.  I have a bunch of different mileage options for my morning runs: from 3 to 7 miles and I don't vary from them, primarily because I know those routes like the back of my hand and I know when to anticipate cars, traffic and what the road conditions are.  

6.  Dawn is Scarier than Dark

I spend most of my run hoping for the sun to rise, and then as soon as it does, I realize "GAH.  Drivers are morons at dawn."  While not really true, I think it is far more dangerous to run at dawn than dark.  In the dark, my vest and headlamp make me super easy to spot -- I am lit up like a Christmas tree and all my reflective gear make me impossible to miss.  At dawn, not so much.  I am on very high alert at dawn - simply because drivers don't expect to see me and can't see me as well as in the dark.  This is also where the "familiar route" advice comes into play:  I know the dangerous spots of my run and know when to proceed with caution.  There is this one intersection on my morning runs that I cannot avoid, because it is the only way I get home.  Drivers often don't pay attention at this intersection and do rolling stops through it.  I've had a bunch of scary moments at this intersection (this is the spot where the "Bill way" above gets a ton of play) ... so I proceed with extreme caution.  

So there you go.  Some tips for safe morning running.  One of the hardest parts is to get yourself out the door, especially when it's dark and cold out.  But once you take the first step, it's all good.  Let me know if you are a fan of the morning run too.  :)  And if you are and you're not wearing reflective gear, tell me that too so that I can come find you and beat you down.  

See you swoon,

1 comment:

  1. My method could have just as easily been described as - run in the middle of the road waving your arms like a lunatic and then scream profanties that would make a meth-addicted vagrant blush as they pass you.