Winter is the most dangerous time of year for road runners. Slippery conditions, low visibility, and shorter days can make running on the roads a scary experience. If you’re like me, and your stuck working a day job in the office, you really have two choices: get up early in the morning or head out after work in the early evening. Either way, you should stay safe by making yourself highly visible.
I’ve tried many different methods of improving my visibility in the dark. I’ve tried wearing head lamps, gloves with built-in lights, hats with built-in lights, reflective safety vests, reflective running gear, and even flashing colored lights that would outshine most Christmas trees. I’ve measured driver reaction speed, distance of visual engagement, space provided by oncoming vehicles, and commentary from my amused family members. “Really, Dad? I’m glad it’s dark out and nobody can tell who you are.” Yeah, right. Who else would be out there running in the dark on a windy, rainy Tuesday night?
I’ll break down a few of my favorite safety measures and give you the inside scoop. If you have other ideas, leave them in the comments below. Staying alive is something we all care about.
RunLites makes a product that is easy to wear and provides enough light to run through the forest on the darkest of nights. The gloves have a row of LED lights that can be turned from low to high much like the headlights on your car. A removable battery pack slips into the back of the glove and can be recharged via a USB cable. They are quite comfortable and provided ample light for me to see, and be seen, when running. The fingers are cut-off like cycling gloves, so they breathe pretty well. However, it would be nice to see a winter version available with a full mitten.
Reflective High-Visibility Running Gear
One of the easiest ways to stay safe is to wear reflective gear. This is also the easiest way to stay safe with the least amount of effort. You just buy some comfortable running gear and go! This is a great solution for running on the roads or other public areas that have at least minimal lighting. High-visibility gear will make sure that you’re seen.
Two of my favorites are the Sugoi Zap Training Jacket and the Sugoi Zap Midzero tights. Both are comfortable and turn you into a fireball in the face of oncoming traffic. The windproof layers are excellent for keeping out the cold air. There are three pockets in the Zap training jacket for storing gel packs, gloves, lip balm or anything else you might need to carry with you. The high-visibility tights offer compression benefits while keeping your muscles warm.
Running with a headlamp is another bright idea. Ultra runners and relay runners are very familiar with this approach to nighttime safety. In my experience, the headlamp works well as a warning to oncoming traffic and a way to light up the road. I’m always careful not to turn directly into the oncoming car to avoid blinding the driver. Headlights come in a range of brightness and styles. Some light up a pinpoint, while others light up a path that could land a small plane. My own personal favorite is the Petzl Tikka.
Stay safe out there. Even with the right gear, always run defensively. Drivers are often distracted or use poor judgement when passing cyclists and runners. No matter how swift you are on your feet, you’re no match for a motor vehicle.
All products have been thoroughly tested after being sent for review.