Running in the Dark

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Plymouth running festival
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With a few affordable investments and essential training tips, you can illuminate your winter running …

For the past two years, I’ve headed from the urban sprawl of Bristol to the raw backdrop of Dartmoor for the Wild Night Run ( The race takes place at the end of January (30th in 2016) and sees runners set off around 5.30pm under the ceiling of darkness. Then it’s five miles up and five miles down over road, marsh and, in 2015, to the accompaniment of snow. Joint organiser Ceri Rees has won the race in the past, as well as winning a hat-trick of Kielder Marathon titles. There’s little Geordie Rees doesn’t know about night running, so who better to help me in guiding you through the darkness…

‘This sounds an obvious one but purchasing a good-quality headtorch is a must, especially if you’re heading off-road,’ says Rees. There are some cracking brands out there, from Silva to Alpkit, but you can’t go wrong with Petzl. I’ve been using a Tikka + for the past year and, for just £30, it’s brilliant. You can adjust brightness depending on environment and it clamps into place securely without applying tourniquet! The higher the price, the longer the burn time and stronger the beam, but sub-£30 is fine for most.

‘You should also wear reflective clothing,’ advises Rees. This is particularly important when running around country lanes. Now, we know many aren’t fond of resembling a radioactive Bananaman. That’s fine. The majority of winter jackets and leggings will feature reflective streaks that illuminate bright under a beam. ‘If you’re running on country lanes at night, I’d also recommend that you should run toward oncoming traffic,’ explains Rees. ‘It’s easier to manoeuvre around a car if you see its headlights.’ Studies support Rees’ advice, showing that a driver’s more likely to take notice of you if they see your face.

Night running also demands that you take some form of ID, as well as a credit or debit card, a £5 note and, ideally, a mobile phone. All will help in emergencies and can be stored in either the jacket and leggings pockets or via a running bumbag or backpack.

‘If you’re new to night running, it’s also wise to partner up,’ says Rees. ‘Not only is there safety in numbers, it’ll motivate you to head out the door on a cool winter’s night when the call of the fire and sofa will be strong.’

Rees hosts regular Thursday evening runs in the South Hams and on Dartmoor. For the majority who don’t live in Baskerville country, joining your local run club will offer support and motivation through the dark months ahead.

James Witts is a writer & editor specialising in endurance sport, health & fitness, outdoor adventure and sports science.

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