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It’s winter. It’s cold. And it’s dark. Really dark, for a lot of my prime running time. I’m a morning runner–my husband has a later-than-many work schedule which allows me to run most every morning if I want. But with the sun not rising until 7:45 a.m., it can be really hard to a) muster the motivation to get out of bed and b) stay safe during everyone else’s morning commute.

Confession: I have three great running fears.

1. Not being able to run anymore.

2. Being smushed during a run.

3. Being snatched during a run.

I actually know three runners/walkers who have been hit by cars. I know of two cyclists. One of the cyclists is dead. So, fears of being smushed are not unfounded. And while I don’t know anyone who has been snatched, what female runner out there has not had some well-meaning soul tell them “Well, I don’t mean to scare you but my friend in (insert far-off state name here) heard a story from one of their friends about a woman who was running in (a deserted park, a country road, etc. etc.) and some man came out of the bushes and did (insert unspeakable thing here).” I try to think of all the reasons that wouldn’t be me but, in all honesty…

I get skeered.

Real skeered. I actually do tend to stick to well-traveled streets or roads with lots of houses to which I could presumably run if I were in distress. But of course, that means playing Frogger in parts of my busy suburban neighborhood. And it only gets worse in the dark of wintertime.

Which brings me to this post. Night time running safety.

Here’s what I do to deal with my Fear of Smushiness in the Age of Texting While Driving:

First, the most basic thing. Last summer I made a new rule–only obnoxiously bright tops for me. I like to think of myself as the Rainbow Brite of Running. Or at least the Punky Brewster. And that goes for anytime of day. I just think the more visible you can make yourself, the better. I shudder when I see a runner out in all black. It might make you look thinner, but it might also lead to you being a super-thin pancake on the road. Riiiiiiight?

Also, I invested in a skinny reflective vest from Amphipod. It’s called a Xinglet. It’s thin and lightweight and I hardly feel it when I’m running. It’s adjustable, so my husband can wear it too.

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Attached to that, on the back, is a Firefly light from RoadID. I love it because this thing does NOT fall off like some other lights I’ve had do. They say it can be seen from a mile away and I make mine blink so hopefully it’s extra jarring when someone sees me from behind.

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I have run with a headlamp before, and it was way better than running without one. But even with a lightweight Petzl from my backpacking days, I could still feel it’s weight in my neck. Enter Knuckle Lights. My sister got a pair when she was training for a 200 mile relay last fall and she raved about hers. She and my mom gifted me a pair last month. They are just what they sound like–LED lights you wear on your hands. They are BRIGHT. And they are more versatile than the headlamp, since there are two of them and since they are closer to the ground. The bobbing makes them more noticeable to cars, I think. I can tell that drivers see me from a fur piece (as my Nanny would say) because they get VERY far over, and they do it early.

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Knuckle Lights. Well, Knuckle Light.

That’s about it for my being-seen safety routine. As for being snatched, I do constantly check for houses with lights on, etc., just in case. And I read about another runner’s trick that I plan to use–when you see someone that gives you the skeeves, look ahead as though someone you know is in a window or up the road waiting and give a wave of recognition, like “Oh hey! Yes I’m almost done with my early-morning run. How nice of you to have coffee waiting.” I’ve not done that one yet, but once I did go into a driveway and mess with my stuff like I was finishing up my run. Then I adjusted my route when I realized the man I had just passed going one way was COMING BACK TOWARD ME. Oy.

If you’ve got other safety tips, by all means, share them. I’m clearly open to any ideas that will keep me safe. As Jeannie Bueller says “I’m very cute, I’m very alone, and I’m very protective of my body!”

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