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I haven’t always been a 4AM runner.  And when I HAD to start running at 4AM due to after school responsibilities with coaching volleyball/track/cross country, I used to run on the treadmill every single day.  But, after we moved to our new home, the gym was too far for me to drive to in the morning, so we cancelled our gym membership and, well, I want to spend as little time as possible on our garage sale treadmill.  It’s not a terrible treadmill, but it’s definitely not a gym-quality treadmill…

I’ll be honest, 4AM SCARES me.  I already suffer from anxiety, and the thought of running in the pitch black by myself scared me to no end.  But, I knew there was no way I could train well on our dinky little treadmill.  So, I pulled on my big girl panties and faced my fear of running outside in the dark.

However, in order for me to face my fear head on, I absolutely HAD to be prepared to do it.  I needed everything I could to feel safe every day I set foot out the door to go running.  Had I not taken these precautions right from the get-go, there is no way I would still be doing this every day.

Here are my 3 Stay Safe on the Run tips for those of you who need to do your running at zero dark thirty – or late at night when it’s dark…

Be Seen.

One thing I am fortunate enough to have is a safe neighborhood without a lot of cars on the road.  However, there are cars that do drive by at that time of night/morning, and some of the roads I run on don’t have sidewalks.  I also have a fear of getting hit by a car when I’m running, so I want to do everything I can for those cars to see me.

The one thing I MUST have on my runs is my RunLites!  I absolutely LOVE these things!  They are SO bright, even on the lowest setting, and I barely even notice I am wearing them.  They also have them on gloves, but I opted for the RunLites Sling so that I could wear them year round.  Plus, the lights are rechargeable, so I don’t have to spend a bunch of money on batteries when the lights go out!  I absolutely LOVE them and cannot recommend them enough!

In addition, I am always sure I have some sort of reflective gear on, so that a car can see me from behind.  I don’t really use anything in particular, but I do have a light-up velcro reflective band I wear around my calf (I think it’s really supposed to go on your arms, but it slides off and drives me crazy, so it goes on my calf).  It has a few different settings too, but it’s nice and bright so cars can see me when I’m running.

While that’s my recommendation as far as reflective gear, some people prefer reflective vests or just buying reflective running clothes to wear on their runs.  Clothes are much more expensive than a pair of lights + reflective gear, so that’s what I went for!

Be Safe.

Well, duh.  I mean, that’s the whole point of this post, right?!  But, there’s a lot more to being safe than what we made even think about.  And believe me, I am POSITIVE this is not an exhaustive list of ways to stay safe.  But, this is what I do and I actually feel comfortable when I am running outside in the dark.  Like I could actually defend myself or someone would be able to find me should something happen to me.

First of all, you NEED to have some sort of ID on you.  I LOVE the Road ID!  I wear mine on my shoe and it has my name, address, and emergency contact info on it.  My husband is my obvious ICE person, but I always put my backup – my mom – on there as well.  You can never be TOO safe!

Second, CELL PHONE.  But, not for your music.  (Sorry, no music allowed.)  Because, really, there are 2 reasons.  The first one is in case something should happen to you (you fall and can’t get up, you get lost – don’t get lost – or you get stuck in nasty weather), you want to be able to call someone to come get you.  I mean, definitely NOT ideal when you have sleeping kids at home, but you need to be able to call SOMEONE.

The other reason your cell phone is so important is because of a fun little feature called Find my Phone.  Be sure your spouse/roommate/parent/significant other also has your phone set up on theirs, or it defeats the purpose.  This will help track your every move and help someone locate you if they cannot find you.  Pretty cool feature, huh?!

And I ALWAYS carry some sort of protection with me.  (That sounded way dirtier than it was intended…)  I carry mace with me on a pretty pink velcro hand holder.  I keep my thumb on it at all times, just in case.  But, just be aware that they expire after 3 years.  Other ideas would be a taser or brass knuckles/ball, but I feel much safer just by having SOMETHING with me.

One other way I stay safe – and this kind of goes hand in hand with the above items – is I stay close to home.  It’s well-lit, there are sidewalks, and we live in a fairly safe area where there is very little crime.  I’m literally never more than a mile and a half away from home, and most of the time, I can get to our house in less than 3 minutes.  It is definitely important to stay in a well-lit, notoriously safe area, but it always makes me feel so much more comfortable knowing that I can get to a safe place in a matter of minutes.

Be Aware.

Like I said, absolutely NO MUSIC.  You have to be aware of everything that is going on around you, which means no music, headphones, podcasts, radio, etc. to distract your from noises.  We have a lot of deer, foxes, and coyotes around where we live, and while I RARELY see the latter, I still want to be able to hear should something be nearby.  Plus, it allows me to hear cars and other things around.

And the last 2 things I will leave your with:  Be hyperaware of everything happening around you, and if something doesn’t feel right, get to someplace safe IMMEDIATELY.  No one will think you are stupid.  Heck, you don’t even have to tell someone.  I know as runners, we can be extremely stubborn, but I promise you, being safe is MUCH more important than getting those last few miles in.