running

I like it in the dark: Winter and the joys of night time riding and running

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Photo from Get Out There magazine

Caitlin from the wonderful blog Fit and Feminist posted on Facebook recently about enjoying running in the dark.

I’m also a fan of running in the dark but only the early morning, not night. I’m pretty wired to early morning exercise though I did a fair bit of night time running the year I took a 10 km clinic over the winter.

When I first started running on my own I confess I liked the dark because no one could see me! I didn’t look like a runner and I felt stealthy about it all. In the dark it didn’t matter that I was a much larger than average runner, that I wasn’t going that fast, and that I didn’t have all the right clothes and gear. It gave me the protective nudge I needed to get started though now I’ve left that cocoon behind.

In general I don’t like the reduced daylight hours that come with living nearer the poles than the equator. I thrive on sun and I’m a creature of the day. That sounds much less sexy and exciting than being  a creature of the night, but there it is. I tried going goth in the 80s but it never quite took. I liked punk but I liked bright colours too, usually in my hair. I was a “cotton candy punk” as one friend teasingly called me.

However, there is something very special about the dark. It’s powerful. And there is something that feels mysterious and secretive about it. The dark hours of the morning feel like stolen time, extra hours of dark before the day really begins.

And soon enough, it will all turn round. The worst of the lost daylight happens just about the time real winter begins. Soon, in just a few weeks, the days will be getting longer and the sun will getting stronger again, as they say. December 21st marks the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. If what you fear most about winter is cold and snow, the worst is still ahead. But if it’s light you crave, we’re almost at the low point, that halfway mark on a race to the sun.

I like riding at night too and I have super dooper headlights. They don’t just made me visible. They’re bright enough so that I can use bike paths in the dark. You feel so much faster at night, the world just whooshes by.

There are safety concerns about running in the dark and I wear lots of reflective gear so that I’m visible. I’ve been thinking of getting the dogs flashing collars to add to the disco party effect. I was going to include ‘running in the dark’ safety links but most of them are about personal security. If that’s an issue where you live, have a look. One of my best safety running stories concerns Sweden. I asked the young man at my hotel in Gothenberg if it was safe to go out for a run. I’d been traveling for awhile and staying in large American cities where people worry about that sort of thing. He looked at me quizzically and then said, “Oh, no there are no wild animals in the city.” Different cultures, different concerns.

These days I like running in the dark because I feel like a speedy ninja! And I’m a fan of all things ninja.

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10 thoughts on “I like it in the dark: Winter and the joys of night time riding and running

  1. Great post! I love love love riding at night (I’m a late dark rather than an early dark person). I went on a group full-moon ride where one person pulled a trailer with a grill and s’mores makings during a stop– big fun. For the s’mores stop, we rode into a park (officially closed at night), at the top of a hill. We turned off our front lights as we rode up the paved road to the top. It was pitch-black, and the only lights were everyone’s blinkies– it was like following a trail of red fireflies– really magical. And off-road riding at night is the best– you can ride easy fire roads or singletrack and it feels thrilling and fast. Good lights, some company, and good sense about safety concerns are a must, but one those are taken care of, the fun can begin!

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      1. I have an actual string of mini LED Christmas lights, with a battery pack, that spent most of last winter wrapped around the top tube of my bike. It’s time to dig that out again, come to think of it!

        I also have Tire Sparx motion-activated blinky lights on my tire valve stems, and I am really hoping for one of these for Christmas:

        http://www.monkeylectric.com/

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  2. I’m a huge fan of the predawn run, but do my best to stay all blinky and lit up. I’m always surprised to see the number of cyclists and runners out there so early without any reflective wear or lights though.

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    1. Running, I rely on reflecting, not much blinking going on, but my bike, that’s another matter. Flashing bright red rear lights and a super bright headlight.

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  3. Honest, I’m not totally thrilled to cycle when it is pitch black out and if there aren’t any consistent streetlights. I have never ventured sections of our pathway park system that’s pitch black. Sure, I have front lights, but definitely I end up slowing down which frustrates me and quarter of the time, I can’t judge distance as easily without thinking I’ll crash into a bush by a corner, etc.

    However I will cycle night time if I have to. I love cycling when the sun is about to rise in the morning. There is a lovely stillness and dreamy peacefulness in the heart of the city. And half of the time I am cycling to work through parks path systems…and have done so when I lived in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

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