1 EMBRACE THE DARK
You’ve been at work all day and your regular running routes just aren’t as appealing in the cold evenings. Man up. Those familiar surroundings will be completely different in the dark. Your brain will compensate for the lack of visual stimuli and kick into gear. You’ll feel wide awake and your well-trodden paths will become invigorating.
2 INSULATE LATE SHOW
Wrap up smart. Layers, with a waterproof outer. Long sleeves, long legs. Pay special attention to ears, head, hands and feet. Especially the feet; there’s nothing worse than cold, wet toes. Proper outdoor running shoes and Gore-Tex socks are the ideal combo.
3 TIME FOR REFLECTION
Dress like a 1990s rave child crossed with a building site manager. Reflective and highly visible. You cannot have enough reflective kit, or use too many additional reflectors or lights. If people point and look at you – that’s the idea.
4 LIGHT THE WAY
A headlamp works both ways. Even the most well-lit urban runs will have dark nooks and corners it will illuminate. And it is perhaps the most effective signal to others.
6. WISE IN THE WARM-UP
Get loose before you go outside. The cold will affect you less and you’ll be raring to go quicker. But don’t get sweaty: the cold will hit a moist brow extra-hard. If you’re arranging to meet other runners (see point 8), do so indoors. Warm up at the last possible moment and begin your run right away.
7. DON’T LISTEN TO MUSIC
No headphones. Not even the ones that claim to let you hear the essential noise of the streets along with your music. It’s dark and you see less, even in well-lit urban areas. You will need your hearing to help you focus and stay safe. If you are one of those who ‘needs’ tunes to run, this will help wean you off that.
8. HIVE MIND AND BODY
Running as part of a group is great motivation. You will feel less inclined to mope off home if you know you will let others down by doing so. There is also safety in numbers, and always someone who has remembered an extra pair of gloves to replace those you left on the kitchen table.
9. IT’S NOT A RACE
You are not going to break any PBs running at night. Running after sundown is a miles game, not a speed trial. Set a distance and don’t worry about time. Keep a separate set of records if you need to get your stat-isfaction.
10. THE END GAME
You should plan to be in a hot shower ASAP after you finish. If that isn’t possible, have a complete change of dry clothes and shoes in your car boot/under your desk. Towels, plural, for drying off and rubbing warmth into cold limbs. If you wear a hat, have a dry one ready to put over damp hair. A hot drink is a very good idea.
11. EAT TO TREAT
Eat the same as you would after any run: a mix of complex carbohydrates and protein, in a ratio of about 4:1 in terms of weight. The usual chicken pastas and smoothies are fine, but they’re not warming, are they? Try oatmeal or porridge, topped with fruit. Easy and comforting.