My guide to night running in winter
I love running at night-time and especially in the winter. This is fortunate since in Scotland we have a lot of darkness during the chillier months. I have been posting photos of some of my regular night-time runs and people have been in touch to ask me for my tips.
Dress for the conditions
It is usually colder at night and especially in winter. However, when you run, you soon warm up. So my first tip is to wear lightweight layers so you can add or remove as you need to.
I wear a short-sleeved and long-sleeved base layer (sometimes an extra baselayer, too) and then a lightweight windproof or waterproof jacket on top. My favourite jacket for night running is the OMM Kamleika jacket.
The jacket should be breathable as well as wind and water resistant.
On night runs I wear long tights and I will choose the weight of these according to the weather.
I also wear a buff or beanie hat on my head, running gloves and merino running socks.
Footwear will depend on where I am running but mostly it’s trails so I wear Salomon Speedcross 3 (my fave trail shoes).
I will usually carry an extra layer in a small running rucksack, such as the Salomon ADV Skin3 5 Set backpack.
The essential headtorch
Even if you are fortunate enough to have a moonlit evening, you’ll still need a headtorch. The beam of the torch should be bright enough to allow you to see metres ahead on the trail. I reckon that 400 or 500 lumens is a minimum for seeing well at night while running. (I don’t have great eyesight at night and I prefer to pay more for a brighter headlamp.)
I swear by my Silva headtorch. I have a Silva Trail Speed Elite head torch. It’s quite a few years old now and there are much brighter versions but at 600 lumens on the brightest setting, it’s still a great head torch. If it’s a well-lit moonlight night, I switch the light beam to a lower lumens setting.
This headtorch was not cheap, however, although it is small, lightweight and powered by an excellent battery. I keep the battery in my rucksack when running although you can ad it to the headband if you want.
Read my review:
There are newer Silva head torches:
A mega 2200 lumens in the Silva Exceed 3XT but it costs a mega £382.
With 1200 lumens the Silva Trail Speed 4XT is £200.
Silva Cross Trail 5 offers a maximum lumen rating of 500. It costs £91 but uses AA batteries. (I prefer a rechargeable battery).
My tip is to shop around for Silva products because you can usually find them cheaper than the RRP.
Other heardtorches to consider:
Everyone has their favourite headtorch and when I asked my Facebook friends a few years ago, the breadth and range of headtorch choice was amazing. Many of these headtorches will be out of stock or there will be newer versions but you’ll get the idea.
What is significant is that technology has allowed for smaller lamps, brighter lumens and smaller, longer-lasting batteries.
My running pal Beardy has the Petzl Nao with a maximum beam of 750 lumens. I have spotted it for sale at less than £120.
The right route
You can choose any route you fancy because night running is the same as day-time running except it’s in darkness and usually colder.
If you are new to night running, choose a route that you know well for your first outing. It doesn’t need to be limited by distance but you should take into account that night running is usually slower.
I love our local hills far more than pavement pounding. I find that a run with a summit goal is the perfect type of night-time running but it’s also great to get out on country trails.
I have run Ben Lomond at night-time when I have had more time.
If you plan to run solo (read my post about Running Solo After Dark) you should run a route that you know really well unless you are very confident with navigation. You should also tell someone where you are going and for how long.
It’s a good idea to have an emergency foil blanket in your rucksack, an extra layer, your mobile phone and some snacks or an energy gel, just in case. I have realised that running on a cold night drains me of energy and I need to have snacks available.
Take a map and compass
It is easy to end up lost in the hills at night, especially when is misty. Taking a map and compass, as well as a GPS navigation app on your phone or watch, will help to keep you on the right route.
Best of all: Run with friends
I am fortunate to have many like-minded friends and I greatly enjoy running at night with them.
I love that we rarely bump into other people and at the night-time the conversation seems to flow more easily and the laughter is louder.
There is the added benefit of taking it in turns to suggest new routes and helping each other to navigate. I think you learn a lot more about route-finding at night.
It often feel wonderfully smug (sorry!) to know that while others are hibernating in front of the TV, especially on a school night, I am out and about exploring the hills and keeping fit.
After the run
Make sure you have dry and warm clothes to change into as soon as you stop running. I end up very cold, very quickly after a night run. I usually head home and jump straight into a hot bath or shower.
It’s also important to refuel and rehydrate soon after your run. I try to have a meal already prepared or some handy snacks waiting for me at home.
…Then you can post fabulous photos of your night run on social media and see how many people like the idea of night-running, too!
If you have any other tips, please do share them.